Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay fireworks buyers seek more bang for buck


The Fourth of July is Danny Harris' Christmas.

For years, Harris has been setting off fireworks for family and friends in Mulberry. Big ones, small ones. Things that turn bright colors or shimmer gold and silver. Explosions that whizz and pop and bang.

"I always get something new," Harris said Sunday as he picked through piles of boxes with names such as "Let Freedom Ring" and "Phandemonium" at Phantom Fireworks on E Fowler Avenue "Whatever looks good to me. A lot of shots. A lot of color."

"A lot of smoke," friend Rhonda Thomas added.

Starting in June, the store keeps 30 workers on staff to handle the influx of fireworks enthusiasts prepping for July Fourth, manager Rocky DiRoma said. July 2 and 3 are the busiest days, he said, and this year has already seen higher sales than the past couple of years.

Part of that, he said, can be attributed to an increase in promotions and marketing.

"We looked at how to appeal to lower-income budget families who are suffering from the economy and how to reach the community in general," DiRoma said.

Jason Fields said his family held off from buying fireworks for several years because it couldn't afford them. But he said stores like Galaxy Fireworks on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard run promotions that allow the Brandon family to select some for a decent cost. His wife, Shannan, said they often pick out several assortment packs.

"I prefer the family friendly ones that just pop, but he likes to light them and do the lighting and running, and I just stand by with a bucket of water," she said.

Under a blue-and-white striped tent near a Home Depot on 22nd Avenue N in St. Petersburg, Galaxy sales agent Brian Ruiz waited for a customer. And waited. For nearly an hour Sunday, no one came. Ruiz busied himself with unfurling tent flaps to release sheets of water that collected in Sunday's showers.

"We do 90 percent of our business in the last two days before the Fourth," said Ruiz, 42.

Pinellas County bans fireworks that shoot into the air and explode.

"If it goes up and blows up, it's illegal," said Lt. Joel Granata, spokesman for St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue.

But Ruiz said most of his customers are looking for more family friendly fare: sparkling fountains and smoke bombs.

"They're not going to drive to Tampa unless they're looking for something more specific," he said.

Pat Cook, a Galaxy manager, said customers are required to fill out a form identifying their name and address and verifying that they understand Florida state law concerning fireworks.

The rain the last couple of days will make conditions safer for families setting off fireworks this year, Cook said. The store hands out a safety pamphlet with each purchase. Some of the main tips include never leaning over the fireworks and never relighting a fuse that hasn't gone off.

After searching for a big enough explosion fitting for their finale, Harris and his wife, Vickie, wheeled two full carts to the checkout counter. Everything from sparklers to repeaters that would fill the sky with colors and sounds and explosions.

"It's a tradition," Vickie said. "It seems to get bigger every year."

This year's total: $1,117.91.

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at or (813) 661-2443

Tampa Bay fireworks buyers seek more bang for buck 06/30/13 [Last modified: Sunday, June 30, 2013 10:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. St. Petersburg council sets millage rate in first budget hearing

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council set the millage rate and gave initial approval to Mayor Rick Kriseman's $538 million budget at Thursday night's hearing.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman talks about the state of the city on Tuesday, two days after Hiurricane Irma passed through the state. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  2. How many more people would lack coverage under Cassidy-Graham? We can guess


    WASHINGTON — It's safe to say the new Obamacare rollback measure toward which the Senate is charging would mean fewer Americans have health coverage. Exactly how many is unclear. Some argue it could be more than 22 million people. Others say it could be fewer.

  3. Woman's decomposed body found near St. Petersburg railroad tracks


    ST. PETERSBURG — A woman's body was found near the railway tracks behind an empty building at 3100 38th Ave. N, according to St. Petersburg police.

  4. Warehouse burns on Tampa's east side


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County emergency crews are at the scene of a two-alarm fire at a warehouse near 56th Street and East Hillsborough Avenue.

    Hillsborough County firefighters battle a blaze Thursday night at a warehouse on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  5. 'Dream big' drives Lightning's Conacher brothers

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Two words: Dream big.

    Cory Conacher includes them every time he signs an autograph for a young hockey fan.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher (89) on the ice during Lightning training camp in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17).