New tradition begins

This year North Dakotans are able to buy fireworks to help ring in the new year.

A bill passed by the North Dakota Legislature permits the sale of fireworks from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, giving residents and nonresidents alike one last chance to see a rocket’s red glare before waiting for July to roll around.

Tricia Vondal, owner of North 83 Fireworks in Minot, right across the highway from Job Service North Dakota, said business hasn’t exactly been booming in the early going.

“It has started out kind of slow, but that’s kind of what we were expecting since it’s the first year and not a lot of people really know that we’re open and doing this,” Vondal said. “I think maybe as more awareness comes that we are open, maybe it will start picking up.”

She said many people are probably still recuperating from Christmas, as well, and aren’t in a shopping mood quite yet.

Mike Yantes, manager of the North Broadway location of Memory Fireworks, which is just north of North 83 Fireworks and across the highway, said things have been much the same in his store.

“It’s only been a couple days and it’s been off to a slow start, but we expected that. People are just finding out that they can do this. Now that our ads are coming out we’re seeing people starting to come in and we’re hearing a lot of people say they didn’t know they could do that,” Yantes said. “But it’s picking up, and I would imagine as we head through the weekend here it’s going to be good.”

From the business Vondal has seen so far, she said many people are gravitating toward the bigger fireworks like artillery shells and the larger 500-gram cakes that create a bigger show.

“We still have seen some of the small items – smoke balls and all those kinds of things, firecrackers – some of that has still been selling, but the bigger things are what people are mostly looking at right now,” Vondal said.

“Less time to have to spend in the cold, probably,” she added with a laugh.

Yantes told much the same story. He said many people have been looking for the big 500-gram grand finales to really put on a show.

“Our Dakota Series (and) Memory Series are just annual favorites and that’s what we’re seeing,” Yantes said. “People are looking for the big lights and the show because I think with the snow it’s nice to see and just enhances the effect of the firework display.”

He said their memory lanterns, which are basically small, hot-air paper balloons powered by a small candle inside, have also been selling well. Another firework that has been popular in the early going for Yantes is the Memory Stick, which is a big multi-shot Roman candle. The Rainbow Series has also been doing well, which might have something to do with all the white snow on the ground.

“With the white ground and when you’re shooting it, I think it gives a different display in the sky and those neon colors really stand out,” he said.

Both stores are selling all the same things now they did in July, although Vondal noted they might not have as much in stock of the smaller items like firecrackers.

“We have them but we didn’t stock up as much on some of that,” she said.

The people who have been coming into both stores have been extremely excited about being able to light some fireworks to ring in the new year. Vondal said there have been a few questions as to where they can be lit, and she always tells people to check what the local laws say.

In Minot, for instance, the Minot Police Department is reminding the public that the possession, manufacture, storage, sale, handling and use of fireworks are prohibited within the City of Minot. Persons in violation of this ordinance can be cited and fined $150. So as with July 4 festivities, if people are going to light fireworks, they’ll have to do so outside of city limits.

Vondal said she’s gotten quite a few out-of-state customers who have been pleasantly surprised at the selection of fireworks they have to choose from. She noted some states prohibit fireworks entirely, while others won’t allow the sale of anything that shoots into the air.

“We’ve had a lot of out-of-state customers that are here maybe working and whatnot and some of them are kind of surprised at what they can get for fireworks in North Dakota versus where they’re from,” Vondal said, noting North Dakota does have a few restrictions of its own, including prohibiting the sale of bottle rockets. “We still have a lot of things that put on a very good show.”

Yantes said fireworks could start to become an especially nice tradition around New Year’s because many families are able to get together for the holidays and they can all enjoy a spectacular display together.

“I think folks are starting a new tradition, that’s what I’m hearing,” he said. “They’re coming in and saying this is the time of year we’re together, it’s something that we can start doing as a family and enjoy it over the holidays.”