The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 7, 2009

It’s Like Christmas, But More Flammable

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 8:00 pm

For years now, the Fourth of July around here has been a pretty humdrum affair.  Aside from the scattered public fireworks displays (and the horrendous crowds associated with them) and the various ad hoc displays that pop up in spite of the longstanding fireworks bans in place on the Eastside, there hasn’t been a whole lot to see or do from here.  Then last year’s Fourth of July came around, which was spent at an uncharacteristically small gathering down at my Aunt Pam and Uncle Mike’s house in Bonney Lake.  With fireworks permitted in Bonney Lake and relatively close proximity to various Indian reservations where all the big stuff was readily available, the cumulative results of all the various displays in the area were nothing short of breathtaking.

For this year’s Fourth of July, the word had gotten out, and practically the whole family was participating.  All who were so inclined were encouraged to bring along fireworks, and given some of the Vanderhoeven family’s latent tendencies toward casual pyromania (fortunately not the anti-social type, just the part that likes to set things on fire for fun) this year’s show promised to be huge.  Of course, since there’s nothing more powerful than so-called “fun” snaps and party poppers available around here, it was time to go pay a visit to the Reservations to go take a look into the highly combustible world of Indian fireworks.  After the jump we’ll check out the stuff (well, some of it anyway) that you can get on the Reservations.

The most well-known (and most notorious) fireworks hotspot around here is the Boom City, a big patch of dirt out behind the Tulalip Casino in Marysville on which nearly 120 different fireworks stands reside for one month out of the year.  Although Boom City has a website it hasn’t been updated in years, and they don’t bother to do much advertising.  Most of their publicity seems to come by word of mouth and the news articles resulting from the miscellaneous busts by the Feds for some of the really illegal stuff that runs afoul of Federal explosives laws.  Other than that, all the fireworks here are legal on the reservation, and there is a designated area provided nearby in which people can set off their purchases without running afoul of the authorities.

Even before you get to Boom City, you’ll see the signs.  When competing against a hundred other sellers people are obviously going to want to stand out as much as they can.

This can result in some rather garish stands, many of which feature instances of assorted petty copyright infringement in airbrushed art for the purposes of attracting attention.  Somehow, I get the sneaking suspicion that Spongebob Squarepants is too busy living in his undersea pineapple to bother selling questionable fireworks to land-dwelling miscreants.

Of course, people aren’t coming here to look at the pretty pictures, they’re here for fireworks, and there’s no shortage of those.  As you might expect, you’ll have no trouble coming up with the big assortment packs you might be used to…

And from there the packages get even bigger…

…and bigger…

…until finally you’re just buying your stuff by the pallet load.  I saw these at several different stands, and although the prices vary from stand to stand, I believe I saw one of these do-it-yourself inferno kits going for somewhere in the neighborhood of $800, minus whatever haggling the purchaser can manage out of the deal.  They even throw in the hand truck for free.  Many of the really big kits (full of big 500-gram cakes, artillery shells and other big stuff) came with similar price tags.

Of course, stuff like that was well outside of my price range (not to mention that getting all of that stuff into my car would be an iffy proposition in the first place, much less getting it through Seattle without attracting undue attention from law enforcement agencies.)  For those of us on a smaller budget, there’s plenty of bang for the buck to be found as well.   And if you need the bang and have the bucks, you just might be able to walk away with this great big roll of 16,000 firecrackers at a typical going price of somewhere in the neighborhood of $100.  I haven’t got a clue what I’d even do with that many firecrackers (aside from possibly blowing up an entire division of little plastic army men) so I decided to stick to more reasonable quantities.  The 24-pack of Roman Candles which was on offer at this stand seems surprisingly reasonable in comparison.

Other exercises in pyrotechnic excess on display at Boom City included this 1,000 shot battery of Saturn Missiles.  You can light the fuse on this thing, and the cops will show up at your door before the thing’s even finished going off (and the 16,000 firecrackers would probably give them enough time to mobilize the SWAT team.)

Elsewhere at Boom City we have this big pack of mortars known as the Instigator.  66 shots, 156 breaks, and probably not a great thing to set off in front of the police station (or much of anywhere, for that matter) unless you’re looking for trouble.

And the name of this assortment says it all, really.  Among the selections in this particular Party Pack of Doom  is the ever popular pi- er, I mean, Annoyed Eagle.  I suspect I’d be annoyed too if I was about to get incinerated for people’s amusement.  Another popular one in the various Armageddon-in-a-box packs (not shown here)  was another big 500-gram cake known simply as “Good Luck”  Presumably this is wishing its users good luck in the sense of “you better hope the fuse is long enough for you to get out the way before this sucker starts going off.”

Anyway, after wandering around for a while and finding that pretty much everyone here has basically the same merchandise, we made a few selections from one of the less pushy stands (yeah, some of the people here can be a bit pushy) and headed out.  Later in the day, I also made a trip down to the Muckleshoot reservation down in Auburn, where another significant accumulation of fireworks stands lies next door to their casino.  There are a lot less fireworks stands in this location than there are up at Boom City, but the ones here tend to be much larger, with bigger selections (although in the end it’s all basically the same products regardless of where you get it.  There’s still occasional signs of casual copyright infringement to be found here and there, but in general, most of the stands here have their own identities.

One of the largest stands in the area is Pyros-R-Us, which even has its own website complete with online shopping (just don’t bother trying to get any of that stuff shipped though, you’re still going to have to pick it up.)  Based on some unfortunate after-the-fact comparison shopping, it looks like they’ve got pretty good prices too.

Judging by the names of some of the other stands, it doesn’t exactly sound like Safe and Sane is the order of the day around here though.  All I can say is that you better hope that the “goes up” part happens before the “blows up” part does or there’s gonna’ be trouble.

As for this particular place, I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a warning label, a threat or a slogan.  And no, I really don’t want to know what they’ve got in their “kiddie packs” either.

The next day, when the family got together down in Bonney Lake, we put together the cumulative results of everyone’s fireworks shopping, and the resulting pile looked like this.  Apparently my concerns that there weren’t going to be enough fireworks to go around might have been a bit unfounded. 

It soon became apparent that a refresher course on proper fireworks safety procedures might be in order before we started lighting this stuff off.

For a bit of perspective, here’s what all that stuff looked like in the bed of the truck parked in the driveway.

Following the usual Vanderhoeven family get together (and a fair bit of impatience for some people) the time finally arrived to light off all the stuff.  Unfortunately, I don’t really have any pictures from the actual lighting since I was too busy lighting things and my camera doesn’t do too well with this stuff, but once again, the show from the culdesac didn’t disappoint.  The neighbors across the street appear to have also made some rather significant investments in combustible assets, and provided some thrills of their own.  Combine this with all the other displays going on in the area, and you ended up with an overall display of exploding stuff in the sky rivaling some of the professional displays, and I didn’t even need to spend two hours in traffic to get home either.   As you can see from the leftovers at the end of the evening, there were plenty of fireworks to go around.

You know it was a good fireworks display when you have to clean it all up with a shovel.  Anyway, when all was said and done we actually managed to light off practically all the stuff in the back of the truck, nobody lost any eyes or any fingers, and in fact the only burn I got that day was from the overly loose slipper cluch on my RC truck when I was running  it in the backyard earlier in the day.   I suppose any Fourth of July celebration you can walk away from is a good one, right?

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