It's hard to escape the sound of fireworks on the Fourth of July. Even if you're not attending a fireworks show or lighting the fuse of a black powder-packed explosive in your backyard on July 4, you'll still spot the unmistakable burst of light or hear the occasional cacophony of pops, whistles and booms rip through the night. That's because the rockets' red glare of a good ol' American firework keeps a lot of people busy on the Fourth for very different reasons.
"It will get insane this weekend," says Rex Nelson, owner of the Nelson's Fireworks store chain that has a location in Rockwall. "When everybody gets off Friday, that's when we're gearing up to really get hammered. People get off work at 5 p.m. and start to get out of town and it won't stop until midnight on the Fourth."
One of the biggest fireworks shows of the Fourth of July weekend actually happens on July 3 in Addison at the annual Kaboom Town gathering that's located in Addison Circle but is still big enough to be seen pretty much anywhere in the city, plus some of the neighboring townships. The event's climactic fireworks show not only attracts one of the biggest crowds in the DFW area but it's also received national attention. Last year, the Wall Street Journal called Addison's annual July 4 festival one of the "best Fourth of July fireworks displays across the U.S."
Chad Stanley, the operations manager for Fort Worth's Pyro Shows of Texas, puts together the explosives for Addison's annual tradition and calls it "definitely one of the biggest ones we put on throughout the year." This year's show will have more than 2,800 fireworks that fire 3- to 8-inch mortars into the sky in different patterns including waterfalls, willows and golden brocades.
"It's all a matter of essentially controlling the power of them," Stanley says. "The colors are made by adding metals to the different compositions, and when they burn, they give us specific colors depending on the effect that you want. The chrysanthemum break, for instance, is really hard to get them nice and symmetrical, whereas the waterfalls are very asymmetrical. So they can have a softer breaker."
Stanley says they also use computers to time the launches and explosions to patriotic songs like "The Overture of 1812" and "The Star Spangled Banner," songs that he's heard so many times that he says, "I'll never be able to get those songs out of my head."
The songs do more than just set the theme of the holiday and the festival. "They provide a pretty good background," he says. "[Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless the USA'] allows us to present something in a very slow manner where most of the other songs are pretty upbeat and blowing and just going the whole time. 'Stars and Stripes' is one of those odd ones though, so it's not so good in the show but it's good for the finale because everything's just ripping and roaring." Stanley says he can't spoil any of the surprises his pyrotechnics team have in store for this year's show, but he did hint that they will be "highlighting some of the musical artists who are no longer with us."
If you're not into the artistic presentation of fireworks and just wanna see something get "blowed up real good" like the boys on SCTV's Farm Film Report, all you have to do is head toward the city limits and look for a fireworks store that's sitting just on the legal edge of cities and counties with fireworks bans. Kevin Schuler runs the Pop-a-Lot stand on U.S. 82 between Sherman and Gainesville and he says the Fourth of July is always his biggest season and this year is setting up to be one of his biggest-selling.
"It depends on what day of the week the Fourth falls on," Schuler says. "This year, the Fourth is on a Monday and that's the best we can have because people can buy them on a weekend and go pop them, usually if they're going to bigger parties like a barbecue or a cookout and people want to bring some fireworks."
Nelson says he started preparing back in September for the crowds of customers in the short window when he can sell fireworks from June 24 to midnight on July 4. He not only had to start ordering all sorts of fireworks from the generics to top-selling name brands like Black Cat and Excalibur, but he also had to upgrade the computer systems that run his cash registers and receipt printers.
"We've spent thousands of dollars upgrading our check-out system just to gain two seconds on our transactions," Nelson says. "That's not a joke. We're just that busy." Nelson and Schuler say they expect the big 500-gram kegs and artillery shells to be their top seller because that's the biggest explosive they can sell "without being licensed by the ATF," Schuler says. "It's what you see when you think of a typical firework."
Safety concerns also start to go on the rise before the Fourth. The Dallas County Fire Marshal's Office has a burn ban that will remain in effect on the July 4 weekend. The Dallas Police Department also took to their blog and YouTube channel Wednesday, where Deputy Chief Christina Smith asked that citizens "refrain from discharging fireworks as well as shooting firearms as part of your celebration."
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It's not just people who can feel the effect of fireworks. Dr. Amanda Florsheim, a veterinarian with Veterinary Behavior Solutions in Carrollton, says she often sees pet owners around this time of year whose dogs and cats get spooked by the sudden bang of a firework in their neighborhood. She also says that shelters see some of their highest rates of escaped pets as freaked out animals try to escape the noise.
"As far as studies go, cats and dogs can both be affected but cats tend to run and hide whereas dogs are more likely to jump up and start panting and pacing with the anxiety," Dr. Florsheim says. "So it's much easier to miss a cat hiding under a bed than a 90-pound Labrador hiding under the house."
Dr. Florsheim says the main concern about a pet who's been spooked by fireworks is the harm they can cause to themselves when they try to run away. "I've seen dogs break through windows and out of fences trying to escape the sound," she says. "A lot of these guys injure themselves trying to escape the anxiety. I've seen dogs tear up blinds and shutters and door frames that can be quite costly to the owners."
Dr. Florsheim recommends visiting a vet before the holiday gets underway so they can prescribe certain pheromone medication and supplements to their pets to keep them calm. She also says that pet owners should do their best to make sure their pets stay "a little more insulated to the noises" and "are microchipped so that if someone does escape from their yard that the pets and their owners can be reunited much easier."