By Ryan Richardson
Before so much as even a single firecracker could be sold in Joplin, many residents got a jump on stocking up for the Fourth of July by traveling outside the city limits for their fireworks.
Fireworks sales inside the city limits are restricted to July 1-4, but some communities allow earlier sales. Airport Drive permits sales starting on June 20. Over the past decade, permanent warehouses have popped up in the village in addition to temporary tents to help meet the rush of buyers.
Grandpa’s Black Market Fireworks, 5557 N. Main St., also has locations that are open for business inside Joplin. Owner Dean Collins, who has sold fireworks in the area for more than 20 years, said the permanent warehouse outside the city attracts more than just Joplin customers.
“We get a lot of repeat customers from Kansas and Oklahoma in addition to locals who want to avoid the rush for the Fourth,” Collins said. “For a lot of people, this holiday is like Christmas. They want to get their shopping done early.”
Collins, a retired schoolteacher, said he and his family started the business as a way to make extra income during the summer. Between tents and a store inside the Joplin city limits and the Airport Drive location, his business now takes up most of his summer.
“We start stocking at the first of June, and it kicks into drive the minute we open up,” Collins said. “Business usually goes off starting the weekend before the Fourth, and it gets a little crazy. It still is fun because you see families come through here planning a good time together.”
Some vendors brave the heat and set up tents to cut down on overhead.
Steven Clines, of Neosho, is in his 10th year running a fireworks tent in Airport Drive. He lives out of a mobile trailer behind his tent for two weeks during the sale period.
While he doesn’t have the same selection as some of the bigger warehouse stores, Clines said many tent vendors try to go the extra mile to attract customers.
“We’re built on repeat business and good service,” he said. “We keep videos of our bigger displays to show what things are going to look like. People want to know what their money is buying, and if they are going to drop 50 bucks on a big display, we want them to make sure they are going to walk away happy.”
THE JOPLIN FIRE DEPARTMENT urges residents to take precautions on their property when discharging fireworks. Trash, debris and other flammable materials should be cleared ahead of time to limit the chance of fire. People should keep a garden hose, fire extinguisher or bucket of water on hand in case of a fire.
BOTTLE ROCKET USE AND POSSESSION are prohibited inside the city and are subject to fines and confiscation. The department also advises that the use of fireworks is prohibited during the city’s celebration at Landreth Park. The celebration will start at 3 p.m. Thursday, and the fireworks display will start at 9:45 p.m.