Facebook Twitter

FIREWORKS STANDS DO BOOMING BUSINESS

SHARE FIREWORKS STANDS DO BOOMING BUSINESS

U.S. 95 snakes onto the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, passing lush green farms, lumberyards, smoke shops, and from June 1 until July 8, dozens of fireworks stands.

The highway's shoulders are dotted with signs like "Ill-Eagle Fireworks," "TNT," "Bottle Rockets," "Sno-cones" and "Elephant Rides."Pardon the pun, but fireworks are a booming business this time of year on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation. Competition is fierce among the Native American proprietors of patriotically painted stands that handle such devices as M-70s, firecrackers and flying, bursting rockets.

Such fireworks are available only on Indian reservations.

"We have the best elephant rides in town, and the cheapest," proclaims Chuck Walters, whose 8-year-old African pachyderm named Laura has become quite a roadside attraction at Pete Mahoney's fireworks stand just outside Plummer.

Mahoney's stand may have an elephant, but the Indian Country stand north of Worley has a caged cougar, a buffalo-burger stand and four separate fireworks stands, fully enclosed.

Animals, eats and things that go boom. The reservation's fireworks business is eye-catching free-enterprise at its best. Quintessentially American, and appropriate for Independence Day.

"We try to attract entire families," said Mahoney, who's been in the summer fireworks business for 16 years.

"We deal in volume, high volume," Indian Country manager Marlene Justice explained as workers hammered nails into a 40-foot extension of the stand. "A lot of communities will come from different areas and buy $500 worth of fireworks for their community displays. We get people in from Oregon, California, Washington . . . all over."

Justice would not reveal the source of her inventory, which is vast, but most fireworks are made in China. One aerial device, called "Fightin' Creek," was created exclusively for the Indian Country stand, she says. It sells for $5 and shoots 19 flaming, colored balls into the sky, each ending in a loud bang.

Ten percent of the total revenue from fireworks sales goes into a Coeur d'Alene Reservation general fund. The people who operate and work at the fireworks stands must be Coeur d'Alene Tribe members or relatives.

"Economically, it (the fireworks business) hires quite a few summer workers, and they've got to be Coeur d'Alenes," Mahoney explained. "Then they (the tribe) get 10 percent of total sales. It benefits them. It benefits us."

The tribe also regulates the fireworks business. Each year, before the season begins, all proprietors must license their stands and listen to a lecture about the newest local ordinances and state laws about this volatile empire.

Mahoney and Justice are adamant about illegal fireworks. They don't deal them, and they don't know where they are available. Mahoney says the business climate is rich enough without illegal M-80s and M-100 explosives.