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Fireworks shortage shouldn’t hurt big Fourth shows but may limit smaller ones

It must have been a spectacular explosion in China when 20 nearby fireworks factories blew up early this year, lighting up the skies in the port city of Sanshui.

It must have been a spectacular explosion in China when 20 nearby fireworks factories blew up early this year, lighting up the skies in the port city of Sanshui. News reports out of China are unclear about whether anyone was injured in the Valentine’s Day explosion, but the unintended fireworks display lasted for nearly 24 hours.

Now, there are worries that those explosions might cause a shortage of fireworks for some Fourth of July celebrations in the United States.

Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association in Maryland, estimates a shortage of 15 to 20 percent nationally for the holiday because of delays in shipments from China.

But, she said, it shouldn’t affect the big Taste of Minnesota type of fireworks displays.

“The large municipal shows will not be impacted, as most companies never completely deplete their stock,” Heckman said. “However, the last-minute type shows, typically arranged within this brief two- to three-week time period … by the local Jaycees and support clubs are most at risk.  Many display companies had to stop taking orders a couple of months ago because they knew they would not have additional product on hand to take care of last minute shows.”

Big Taste of Minnesota shows should be fine
Taste of Minnesota, traditionally the state’s largest fireworks show, ordered early, and should be in good shape for its nightly fireworks display at Harriet Island in St. Paul during the July 3-6 festival.

Richfield, too, will be lighting up the skies on July 4. The city put in its order for fireworks months ago, and because it celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, the city kicked in a little extra for a larger-than-usual fireworks display at Veterans Park. Instead of the usual $15,000 display, they’ll have $20,000 worth, which won’t mean a longer session, but lots more shells exploding during the 20- to 25-minute display.

And Woodbury ordered in January, and officials there are quite certain that they’ll have an adequate arsenal for its display in Ojibway Park.

In addition to the explosion in China, the nation is having problems in shipping fireworks.

According to the New York Times, only one shipping line, Maersk, will handle pyrotechnics after Hyundai Merchant Marine discontinued service following a blaze aboard one of its vessels carrying fireworks in 2006.

“It’s been a perfect storm,” Harry Chang told the Times. He’s president of marketing for Black Cat fireworks, a division of Shiu Fung Fireworks in Hong Kong. Wholesale prices for fireworks are up 30 percent this year, he said, because of the limited supply, as well as higher shipping costs and increased prices for chemicals, paper and labor.

Wisconsin’s ‘bigger bang’ offerings a bit pricier this year
Minnesotans who cross the river to buy a wider range of fireworks in Wisconsin — where fireworks with a bigger bang are legal — the supply is adequate but a little more expensive, according to Cornellier Fireworks in Hudson.

The company has five other outlets in the state and can transfer products between stores, depending on demand.

The big rush will come in the next two weeks: because many tend to wait until almost the Fourth to stock up, store workers said.

“People know that if they buy them early, they’ll just blow them up before the Fourth,” said one salesperson. “They’re just like little kids: If they’ve got them, they’ll use them. We had one group come in early last week and buy $800 worth, then they came back Friday and had to buy some more.

While most Fourth of July fireworks shows are expected to go off, so to speak,on schedule, it might get tougher to celebrate explosively later in the year. The Times reports:

“Labor Day, Christmas, and New Year’s fireworks displays are even more doubtful, since the Chinese government said on April 14 it would ban the transport of some 256 types of hazardous or potential explosive materials on various dates through October to coincide with planned Olympic events.”