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Wichita-area fireworks vendors expect sales to soon start picking up

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, June 29, 2014, at 8:29 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, June 29, 2014, at 9:17 p.m.

Photos

The fireworks tent near Kellogg and the Butler County line stretches nearly 100 yards, almost big enough for a football game.

It opened Friday and was still pretty empty on Sunday – but that likely will change quickly this week.

Jacob Marietta, who oversees a fireworks empire as the manager of Wholesale Fireworks, estimates that 80 percent of all fireworks sales for the entire year happen on just two days: July 3 and 4.

Not all tents are owned by Wholesale Fireworks, but it dominates the market. Marietta estimated that the Wichita market shoots off more than 1 million pounds of fireworks a year.

He’s cautious about making pronouncements about how good sales will be in any particular year, but he is happy about the rain because it eliminates bans on fireworks caused by dry conditions, and it usually lowers temperatures.

“We’re fishermen,” he said. “Sometimes conditions are good, sometimes not so good.”

Last year, a wind storm blew over some of their tents.

The tent at Kellogg and 159th, which isn’t owned by Wholesale Fireworks, is one of scores of tents and buildings in the area that sell fireworks. Most are manned by volunteers for churches or social groups who get a cut of the sales as a fundraiser.

Guy Clarkson, a member of Peace Lutheran, 21st and Andover Road, helps run the tent. He and Glen Rolf of Grace Lutheran, Pawnee and Hillside, were discussing why turnout was so light Sunday.

“I think the rain may be holding people back,” Clarkson said.

“And it’s early,” Rolf said, noting it was not even July yet.

“But if you’re bored, come out on the 3rd,” Clarkson said.

He estimated that one July 4, about 13,000 people flowed through the tent. When things are busy, the parking lot is packed, and the checkout line can be 40 or 50 deep.

That won’t be a problem for Jan Harper, who was out shopping with her son Matthew Fowler, 9. He was pulling a cart that they were just starting to fill.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” he declared, jumping up and down.

In the cart were the usual assortment of fountains and small pieces, but there were also artillery shells.

“Yeah, I’m shooting them,” Matthew said.

“We’ll see how that goes,” his mother added quickly.

Those out Sunday said they were hunting for family fun.

Chris Evans was with his sisters and their families. They were making their way through the aisles, shopping for a July 2 party, when he picked up an imposing 3-foot-tall Roman candle.

“Hey, Julie, check out this big Roman candle,” he said to sister Julie Powers.

“Oh, yeah, where are we pointing that?” she said, her voice dripping with skepticism.

“Up?” he said, jokingly uncertain.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

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