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Fireworks stands pop up in all areas of county; some face hefty financial costs

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By Alex Wimsatt and Stephen Thomas

 MOUNT WASHINGTON - Like Valley Forge just before Washington crossed the Delaware, Bullitt County is experiencing the emergence of numerous tents in the name of America’s freedom.

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With recent changes to state law, more fireworks are available for purchase in the county, leading to an increase of fireworks stands in temporary tents.

An unofficial count of fireworks stands in Bullitt County listed over two dozen.

There are at least five tents located in the Shepherdsville Highway 44 corridor.

Phantom Fireworks, based in Clarksville, has established a large tent at the far end of the Stout’s parking lot behind Waffle House.

Sub-contractors Steve Frank and Tom Kaelin said the tent would feature most of the items available for purchase at the Clarksville headquarters in their 60x40 tent.

“We’re working under the big top,” Kaelin said. He mentioned that Phantom had eight similar-sized tents throughout the Louisville area.

Kaelin and Frank agreed that the tent was a major convenience to area residents because of gas prices and construction at the I-65 bridge over the Ohio River.

“You can get it here without crossing that bridge,” Kaelin said.

Frank said larger-sized bottle rockets would be a popular sale item because they were made legal in Kentucky this year.

He predicted weekend sales would escalate once everyone got paid on Friday. He added that the tent would remain open until July 4 or until they run out of stock.

The Bardstown/Clermont exit (112) is also one of Bullitt County’s new fireworks hot spots.

Shaboom Fireworks opened a tent in front of the Valero gas station on Highway 245 across from the Bullitt County Fairgrounds.

Shaboom representatives Lauren Boone and Breezy Doughty opened the tent on Thursday, reporting a nice amount of customers on their first day.

“We’ve had a lot of younger customers,” said Boone. “A lot of kids begging their parents.”

Boone added that customers must be 18 years of age to purchase fireworks of any kind.

Doughty said the proximity of the interstate and the neighboring gas station enhanced the tent’s location.

Johnny Reed and Erin Russavage of Clermont were among Shaboom’s younger customers.

“It’s a redneck’s dream out here,” Russavage said of the tent’s south Bullitt location.

Reed said he always had to travel up to Indiana for his firecrackers. He was pleased with a place for purchase closer to home, especially with a ‘buy one, get one free’ sale event.

“The deal knocked my socks off,” he said.

Reed and Russavage were purchasing firecrackers mostly for fun, Russavage said she might return for more items for Independence Day as well as her mother’s birthday on July 3.

Shannon Sheehan of Louisville operates the Krazy Kim’s stand at the Bullitt East Bowling Center parking lot, one of seven stands in Mount Washington. He prides himself in being one of the city’s only local sellers.

Sheehan said selling fireworks was a competitive business driven by impulse buyers. He works hard to accommodate customers and keep prices low, often negotiating with customers.

“I take care of everybody here,” he said, adding that he could put together a decent half-hour fireworks show for around $100.

Sheehan began selling fireworks at a local flea market at age 12. For 13 years he has operated the same Mount Washington location. He said the competition was fierce with several stands only a few hundred feet away, but he wasn’t going anywhere.

The heat and the fact that Independence Day was mid-week could affect business, but Sheehan felt nostalgia kept fireworks popular.

“Everybody has a firework story,” he said.

 

To operate a stand, the city and the Mount Washington Fire Protection District require permits and licenses. City clerk Dawn Fick said operators were required to gain permits from the fire district before the city issued a peddler’s license.

The peddler’s license costs $40 per day, $75 per week or $125 annually, requiring operators and employee background checks. Sheehan said he also paid $250 to the state and $250 to Bullitt County before he could set up shop.

MWFD assistant chief Chuck Minor said firework stand operators must also meet a checklist of 20 requirements and pay $1,000 for a seasonal permit or $3,000 for an annual permit. The permit is not issued until fire officials perform thorough site inspections making sure all regulations are met.

Under the permit firework stands are required to post signs that read “Fireworks,” and “No Smoking.” Each register must include a sign stating customers must be 18 and older to purchase fireworks, as well as posting “No fireworks discharged within 300 feet of the stand” at every exit and register.

Firework stands in Mount Washington must have a minimum of three clear exits. Operators must have a facility evacuation plan with no dead end aisles.

Consumer fireworks cannot be displayed or stored within five feet of a public entrance and easily accessible fire extinguishers are required.

Only permitted consumer fireworks can be sold and must remain 20 feet from retail sales. All fireworks must be secured when the vendor is not open. All retail sellers must be at least 18 and have a photo ID. 

Minor said the district began issuing permits this year because retailers weren’t required to meet regulations or undergo inspections in previous years. He added that city code enforcement will ensure people comply with the permit terms.

According to Minor, the district hadn’t discussed a fireworks ban due to extreme heat and drought conditions, but urged everyone to use extra caution.

“People need to realize the potential danger,” he said. “Fireworks are flammable and should be handled with all precautions to avoid fire.”

Minor said fireworks cause numerous injuries every year, usually from improper use or insufficient supervision. A majority of firework-related accidents resulted in minor burns, though he warned that fireworks could cause serious injury, even death.

“Basically these are explosive devices,” he said. “Used improperly they’re very dangerous. Our main concern is that everybody stays safe and has a good Fourth of July.”

 

Shepherdsville resident Corey Lanham is a seller at Lebanon Junction’s sole fireworks stand, Lewis Enterprises, located by the Pilot Truck stop off I-65. Despite dangers, he felt the Fourth of July wouldn’t be the same without fireworks.

“It’s tradition,” he said.

Lanham’s favorite part of working a stand is the kids’ excitement when they looking at the fireworks. His most popular product by far has been artillery shells.

“The ones that go up in the air and go boom,” he said. “People want the stuff their neighbors will be jealous of.”

Lanham acquires a one-month license each year to sell fireworks in the city. He said business was typically best on weekends leading up to Independence Day, with most buyers waiting until the last minute. He noted that location was key to the success of any fireworks retailer.

“You have to be visible or people aren’t going to stop,” he said.

Phillip Burchfield stopped by the Parker Family Fireworks tent, off the 31E Bypass in Mount Washington, on his way home to Knoxville, Tenn. He was drawn to the tent because it stood out.

Burchfield typically spends around $1,000 on fireworks every year. He typically buys fireworks closer to home but decided to see what the city had to offer. He noticed the fireworks he saw were cheaper than in Tennessee.

For Burchfield, fireworks have always been a special part of the Fourth of July, presenting a show for his family every year. His favorite fireworks are artillery shells.

“I like the big items,” he said. “Lots of color, lots of noise and high in the air.”