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Buying fireworks for Fourth of July? Better bring more Benjamins

Celebrating the red, white and blue will take a lot more green this Fourth of July.

The same inflated costs of that have consumers paying more for, well, pretty much everything these days, could make honoring our nation’s 246th birthday with fireworks a little less Yankee doodle dandy.

“There will be increases due to the escalating cost of freight, fuel, raw materials, and other items that will impact pricing compared to 2021,” said Carson Anderson, president of California market leader TNT Fireworks.

Supplies should be improved from last season, but consumers are urged to shop early for the best selection. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Pyrotechnic-passionate patriots of California are about to learn first-hand that prices of fountains, novelties and smoke items and spinners have gone up, and not just in smoke. While the jump won’t be as dramatic as last season when some items more than doubled in price from the previous year, many returning fireworks, assortments included, will see increases of 15-25%.

RELATED: Drones challenge fireworks for Fourth of July in the fire-prone West

The silver lining of this sulfur-infused cloud is that while consumers had to deal with the double whammy of higher prices and lower inventory in 2021, just the former may be an issue this Independence Day.

“Overall, the industry is in a better inventory situation than 2021, but as always, certain items will sell quickly (and) we encourage customers to purchase early,” Anderson said.

State-approved fireworks can only be sold by nonprofit groups where and when legal in California. (Photo by David Dickstein)
State-approved fireworks can only be sold by nonprofit groups where and when legal in California. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Phantom Fireworks, the state’s second-largest fireworks retailer, also is ready for a bang-up Fourth of July.

“Phantom will have adequate supply of consumer fireworks in all categories and price points for the 2022 season,” said Linda Hass, Phantom Fireworks’ California-based operations manager. “That said, we suggest that consumers shop early for the best selection of fireworks.”

The companies’ shared advice not to procrastinate on pyrotechnic purchases isn’t without merit. A Monday Fourth of July means that the biggest selling days are over a three-day weekend, and with governments less vocal about discouraging socialization due to COVID-19 fears, we should see a return of block parties and family gatherings. Adding in the likelihood that people will stay home for the long holiday due to sky-high gas prices, the industry is predicting a boon for boom.

“We expect 2022 to exceed the previous year’s demand as the nation is ready to fully celebrate the end of this two-year-long pandemic, and there’s no better way to celebrate our freedom on Independence Day than with the lighting of state-approved fireworks,” said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.

Thousands of California nonprofits will again be raising funds through fireworks sales for the Fourth of July. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Thousands of California nonprofits will again be raising funds through fireworks sales for the Fourth of July. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Of course, that’s assuming those legal fireworks are also legally shot off. Sale and use of “safe and sane” fireworks are permitted in 296 California communities;  churches, schools, service clubs, youth sports teams and other types of non-profit organizations will sell fireworks out of temporary stands in these “open” communities.

RELATED: 20+ Bay Area Fourth of July fireworks displays

Anyone selling or lighting state-approved fireworks in a “closed” community is breaking the law and subject to severe fines and arrest. Penalties go way up if we’re talking about the variety that explodes, leaves the ground or moves about the ground uncontrollably, and that holds true in open communities as well. Although federally approved, fireworks with those characteristics are illegal in California and their possession can lead to a fine of up to $50,000 as well as prison time for up to one year.

At least 60 percent of illegal fireworks used in California are linked to 13 stores in Nevada, with the town of Pahrump being the chief supplier to Southern California, according to fireworks industry spokesman Dennis Revell. A push is underway for the state Attorney General’s office to enforce the California Health and Safety Code, something Revell said hasn’t happened since Section 12704, which holds these retailers accountable if they facilitate shipments across the western state line, was added to the policy in 2008.

Spectators watch the annual fireworks show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on July 4. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)
Spectators watch the annual fireworks show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on July 4. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG) 

One way to get a fireworks fix the easy way is to attend a public display. Some of the largest are scheduled on the Monday holiday in cities where consumer fireworks are banned. A sampling: Los Angeles (Hollywood Bowl, Grand Park), Long Beach (Rainbow Harbor), Riverside (Ryan Bonaminio Park), Ontario (Westwind Park) and Pasadena (Rose Bowl).

Also planning to light up the skies are the open communities of Pico Riviera (Pico Rivera Sports Arena), Rosemead (Rosemead Park) and, on July 3, Costa Mesa (Orange County Fairgrounds).

Buyer’s Guide

Directing our attention to readers who want to light their own fireworks where and when legal ….

Considering that 2022 will see record-high prices for state-approved fireworks, getting the most bang for your buck has never been more crucial for the budget-conscious wanting to celebrate Independence Day with their own snap, crackle and pop.

Atomic Salsa, available at TNT fireworks stands, makes for a good finale. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Atomic Salsa, available at TNT fireworks stands, makes for a good finale. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Vital, too, are the funds raised by nonprofits through the efforts of volunteers working inside those toasty, unair-conditioned stands for the days leading up to and including the Fourth of July.

What will they be selling? That question raises six more: What’s new? What’s loud? What’s colorful? How long is it? What’s unique? What’s worth the money?

Our annual fireworks buyer’s guide has the answers. Every new firework planned for California this season has been tested for performance, duration, distinctiveness and comparative value. This also goes for last year’s debuting products that due to unprecedented shipping issues were neither reviewable by press time nor widely available during the selling period. Thus, the 2021 freshman class is being treated as new and not part of our list of the highest-rated returning favorites.

Fireworks are listed by price, highest to lowest. (Buy-one-get-one items, or BOGOs, were judged alone; prices shown as doubled since they require a multiple buy.)

Let the sparks fly!

What’s New:

Priced at $109.99, Candy Paint from TNT Fireworks is the year?'s most expensive new fountain. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Priced at $109.99, Candy Paint from TNT Fireworks is the year’s most expensive new fountain. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Candy Paint (TNT), $109.99 — Love the wide spread of sparks and variety of colors, but at this price the fountain needs to be a finale. Even at over 2 minutes, it’s too meh to be that. TNT has fountains with similar effects at half the price. 146 seconds. 3 stars

Atomic Salsa (TNT), $99.99 — Spicy 500-gram fountain impresses with terrific height and titanium crackle that produces extra flash and clatter. Fountain is a rewrap of Centennial XL, a commemorative fountain sold for TNT’s 100th anniversary in 2020. 75 seconds. 3 stars

Iron Eagle from Phantom Fireworks is a rousing fountain, but too brief for the $99.99 buy-one-get-one price. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Iron Eagle from Phantom Fireworks is a rousing fountain, but too brief for the $99.99 buy-one-get-one price. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Iron Eagle Fountain (Phantom), $99.99 (BOGO) — Love the awesome-looking eagle-shaped packaging. Like the performance that includes a loud whistle, patriotic hues and titanium strobes. Displeased with the duration at the price point. 57 seconds. 3 stars

Winning the “Best New Finale” title in 2022 is Light Symphony from TNT. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Light Symphony (TNT), $79.99 — “Best New Finale” honoree scores with a concerto of effects that builds to a rollicking finale of wide white crackling sparks. Before that is an exposition of palms, fish, titanium crackle, neon green and terrific height. 130 seconds. 5 stars

Ellie (TNT), $70 (BOGO) — Elephant-themed fountain, reincarnated from the newly discontinued Power On fountain (meaning it’s a rewrap), packs a lot of crackling sparks in its trunk. 89 seconds. 4 stars

Large Mouth (TNT), $70 (BOGO) — Five colors erupt within multiple effects, one producing a unique water droplet sound. Cute fishy label and wide-ranging sparks, but too short a duration for the price. 60 seconds. 3 stars

Bella (TNT), $70 (BOGO) — Pretty butterfly-shaped fountain builds in intensity with effects that include crackling sparks and flares. Fleeting, though. 60 seconds. 3 stars

Tentacles (TNT), $70 (BOGO) — A happy, pink octopus squirts not ink, but a fusillade of crackling sparks that grow in diameter and decibels for a thrilling, albeit sub-minute-long performance. 54 seconds. 4 stars

Master Flash Fountain (Phantom), $59.99 — Nice cracking sparks and whizzing colorful fish effect provide a passable performance. 110 seconds. 3 stars

Phantom Fireworks’ Storm Runner fountain is this year’s “Best of Show” runner-up. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Storm Runner Fountain (Phantom), $59.99 — “Best of Show” runner-up wows big time with some of the biggest and brightest crackles and palms seen in a fountain. Climax of a firefly rain shower measured at an unlawful 30 feet in radius is unique and breathtaking. 80 seconds. 5 stars

La Calaca from TNT Fireworks earns “Best of Show” honors for this season’s buyer’s guide. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

La Calaca (TNT), $49.99 — “Best of Show” winner never lets up on the fun and excitement, from instantaneously deafening and mighty crackling sparks to a flashing skull climax. The theme honors Mexico’s Day of the Dead instead of America’s independence, but who cares? 80 seconds. 5 stars

Bottle of Sparks (TNT), $28.99 (BOGO) — Nice, big sparks, but more impressive than the fleeting performance is the fountain’s cool bottle shape. 20 seconds. 2 stars

Majestic Unicorns (TNT), $24.99 (3 pack) — Relatively quiet trio of cones impresses with long-lasting fish and other effects. Majestic indeed. 43-47 seconds. 4 stars

Mighty Sword (TNT), $10.99 — A sword-shaped handheld emits crackling sparks. Not so mighty, but it’s $2 less and 10 seconds longer than Phantom’s version. 47 seconds. 2 stars

Neon Smoke Balls (Phantom), $3.99 (6 pack) — Each ball produces a pretty, near-fluorescent cloud. 20 seconds. 4 stars

Strobe Sticks (Phantom), $3.99 (10 pack) — One of the better strobe fireworks comes in red and green. 20 seconds each. 4 stars

Unicorn Poop (TNT), $2.10 — Yet another scatological theme based on the vintage and ashy black snakes novelty. 20 seconds. 2 stars

TNT assembles a magnificent seven with its new American Dream Team collection priced at $499.99. (Photo by David Dickstein)
TNT assembles a magnificent seven with its new American Dream Team collection priced at $499.99. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Earning the title of “Best Assortment” is TNT’s rookie sensation American Dream Team ($499). If you’re planning at least four finale-class fountains for your show, this is a wise buy even at five Benjamins. All seven pieces are winners. In order from excellent to very good: Opening Show, Wild Side, Delirium, Atomic Salsa, Wizard Alley, Majestic Momma and Jungle Flower.

Best of the rest

Although it might be a budget-buster, TNT's Opening Show delivers plenty of shock and awe. (Photo courtesy of TNT)
Although it might be a budget-buster, TNT’s Opening Show delivers plenty of shock and awe. (Photo courtesy of TNT) 

Opening Show (TNT), $99.99 — Budget permitting, this envy-causing finale is a 500-gram must-have. Count to 100 seconds and back up. Trust us. 130 seconds.

Living the Dream (TNT), $84.99 — Like ordering TNT’s superbly named Wild Side (see above) and saying, “make it a double.” 120 seconds.

Coral Reef (Phantom), $64.99 — Awesome 500-gram fan finale emits radiant colors and clamorous whistles and crackles. Same as TNT’s Delirium ($74.99). 105 seconds.

Pyrotastic by Discount Fireworks Superstore lives up to its name with 12 tubes combining for the maximum-allowed 500 grams. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Pyrotastic by Discount Fireworks Superstore lives up to its name with 12 tubes combining for the maximum-allowed 500 grams. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Pyrotastic (DFS), $60.11 — 12 tubes + 500 grams = 1 memorable performance with diverse effects. 181 seconds.

Fiery Meadow Flower Fountain (Phantom), $59.99 — Combo fountain-wheel features titanium crackles and spinning finale. 68 seconds.

Brew Haha (Phantom), $59.99 — Beer stein-shaped fountain with vibrant colors and a loud opening whistle must be an IPA because it has – get ready – Incredible Pyro Action. Bad joke, great firework. 145 seconds.

Phantom's Illuminati Triangle is one of the best deals among consumer fireworks, with a running time of more than 3 minutes. (Courtesy of Phantom)
Phantom’s Illuminati Triangle is one of the best deals among consumer fireworks, with a running time of more than 3 minutes. (Courtesy of Phantom) 

Illuminati Triangle (Phantom), $59.99 — Long-lasting fountain features multi-color pearls, sprays, flying stars and titanium crackle. 184 seconds.

Psychedelic (DFS), $59.65 — Nonstop crackle, ice-white palms, multi-colored showers – crowd-pleasing fan fountain. 96 seconds.

Wild Side (TNT), $45.99 — Like watching the super-charged final half-minute of TNT’s Opening Show for a full minute. No climax because it’s all climax. 60 seconds.

TNT's Crazy Bug Fountain amazes with a triple swarm effect that produces a unique sound when two of the sequences merge. (Courtesy of TNT)
TNT’s Crazy Bug Fountain amazes with a triple swarm effect that produces a unique sound when two of the sequences merge. (Courtesy of TNT) 

Crazy Bug Fountain (TNT), $45.99 — Amazes with triple swarm effect. Great crackles, reds, greens and palms. 95 seconds.

Moondance Premier (Phantom), $42.99 — Super-sized version of Phantom’s little Moondance Fountain. 100 seconds.

Red White & Blue Jubilee (Phantom), $42.99 — Patriotically pleasing with white chrysanthemums, and red and bluish fish and pearls. 110 seconds.

 TNT Torch (TNT), $39.99 — Shimmering golden stars are reminiscent of cones from the early 1970s. 72 seconds.

The Wicked Wizard fountain by Discount Fireworks Superstore gets points for its height, purple droplets and titanium added for sharper crackles and a brighter white. (Photo by David Dickstein)
The Wicked Wizard fountain by Discount Fireworks Superstore gets points for its height, purple droplets and titanium added for sharper crackles and a brighter white. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Wicked Wizard (DFS), $35.95 — Love the height, purple droplets and titanium added for sharper crackles and brighter white. 74 seconds.

Flower Pot Fountain (Phantom), $32.99 — Low-noise fountain enthralls with multicolored droplets against a near-constant shower of silver glitter. 52 seconds.

War Fountain (Phantom), $32.99 — Colors change with each stage of fiery crackles. 82 seconds.

Retro (DFS), $31.88 — Former “Best in Show” and “Best New Fountain” winner is the state’s most exciting minute-long fountain. 58 seconds.

Serenity (Phantom), $29.99 — Noiseless fountain opens with lovely lava lamp-like lumps and peacefully pleases with seven colors and white chrysanthemums. 59 seconds.

Main Squeeze (TNT), $28.99 — Love the insane sparks at the one-minute mark. 83 seconds.

Whimsy (DFS), $27.23 — Lower-priced twin of TNT’s Ellie. (See above).

Toxic Barrell, with its green sludge effect, is entertaining despite its limited running time. (Courtesy of TNT)
Toxic Barrell, with its green sludge effect, is entertaining despite its limited running time. (Courtesy of TNT) 

Toxic Barrel (TNT), $19.99 — Green toxic sludge blobs and loud crackles make for pretty poison. 45 seconds.

Flaring Stars Fountain (Phantom), $16.99 — Virtually noiseless beauty featuring swarming fish effect in red, gold and green. 54 seconds.

Phantom Dragon Slayer (Phantom), $12.99 — Solid pick with white, blue and lemon chrysanthemums, rowdy crackles and red stars. 66 seconds.

Crickets (DFS), $3.67 — Best of the under-$5 fountains is loud and colorful. 42 seconds.

For stand locations and additional product information, visit the retailers’ websites: TNT, tntfireworks.com; Phantom, fireworks.com; and Discount Fireworks Superstore, dfsfireworks.com. Check local laws and take all safety measures before buying and lighting.

 

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