Professional fireworks recover from a pandemic; retail sales remain strong | A&E
Lonnie Shumate knows how to stage fireworks in her backyard that turns neighbors and strangers alike. Sometimes people stop in the cul-de-sac and walk on its lawn to admire the exhibit every July 4th.
On Thursday, the Greenfield resident had to confess to his wife, Jillian, that he spent more at Atlas Fireworks on Highway 101A in Amherst than he expected.
He expected to spend $ 120, Shumate said.
While many fireworks shops across the country have reported a shortage of some products, Atlas announced a full inventory on social media ahead of Independence Day.
Large fireworks are also back on a more regular schedule, including weekly shows at Hampton Beach on Wednesday nights for the first time in over a year. (The first Wednesday beach show since 2019, which had already been canceled twice to protect nesting birds, had to be postponed again last Wednesday due to bad weather.)
Steve Pelkey, CEO and artistic director of Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group in Jaffrey, said his team usually has at least 10 months to prepare for the big July 4 fireworks across New England. This year, with early uncertainty over COVID-19 restrictions, they had to scramble to get things in place in 45 days.
“We expected Massachusetts and the rest of New England to open up as aggressively as New Hampshire, and when they weren’t, many communities took a break,” he said. declared.
Many shows that were originally canceled are now back.
“Red, white and boom”
As most of the professional shows were canceled last year, many people decided to start the fireworks on their own. Some have done it legally; others don’t. Consumer fireworks are illegal in neighboring Massachusetts and Vermont.
In New Hampshire, police have filed complaints about fireworks being fired on public property. Manchester Police reported more than four times as many fireworks complaints last year than in 2019.
Phantom Fireworks, which has branches in Hinsdale, Londonderry and Seabrook, saw sales double in 2020. This year they are at a similar pace, said Megan Kearns, regional director of the national chain.
“2020 has set the bar for us,” she said. “We are trying to follow in his footsteps. “
Kearns expected a nationwide shortage of some items to be a problem, but the trucks arrived in time to restock. The most popular items in the store are the 500 gram repeaters, including a product called “Red, White & Boom!” “
With record sales last year, many companies have run out of stocks. Product shipments have also been delayed in China, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Atlas was not affected as it imports its own products, Pelkey said. In addition to Amherst, the company operates stores in Belmont, Newport and Rindge.
Almost 40% of Atlas customers last year had never purchased fireworks before. About half have decided to try again this year.
With all the fun comes the concern for safety.
In 2019, 15 people in New Hampshire received treatment for fireworks-related injuries, according to the Department of Security.
The best way to avoid calamities is to use the fireworks as intended and follow the manufacturers’ instructions, according to state officials.
“Treat fireworks like you would any other consumer product,” Kearns said. “Use them safely, and there’s no reason for something to go wrong or no reason to worry. They are safe as long as you use them the right way.
Nationally, about 70% of July 4 celebrations are expected to return, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Atlas has faced challenges like labor shortages and last-minute calls from cities trying to save their shows.
The company has booked about 75% of its roughly 500 annual shows. Hotel reservations and truck rentals were difficult to secure. And the seasonal workforce is down about 20%, Pelkey said.
“The rest of our summer is shaping up to be pretty good,” he said. “We get calls every day to come back on board for these festivals and events from late summer through Labor Day and into the fall.”
The company was able to secure two rounds of paycheck protection program loans, which allowed it to keep its 28 full-time employees. The increase in retail sales helped stabilize activity.
“We were quite worried about the survival of our business and our family business,” Pelkey said.
The Hampton Beach Village district has been hosting fireworks in the summer regularly since the mid-1930s, according to Chuck Rage, chairman of the Hampton Beach Village district.
“People were watching them with their parents and grandparents, and now they’re bringing their kids,” he said. “It’s a night out, whether you go for dinner at one of the fine restaurants or have a slice of pizza at one of the take-out stalls. It’s just something that people love to do.
The district attempted to stage fireworks last year, but pandemic precautions and social distancing guidelines have derailed those plans.
This year, Rage said, “We’re good to go.”
The fireworks are scheduled for tonight [Sunday] and the following eight Wednesday evenings and Labor Day. The shows take place around 9:30 p.m.
Atlas has seen an increase in calls for smaller private exhibitions at private events such as weddings.
“We probably had a half-dozen planning something in 2020. They postponed it, and now they’re getting married in 2021, and that’s a big deal,” Pelkey said.
Many families are now making the backyard a tradition.
“Fireworks are a fun and happy buy,” Kearns said. “It’s not a compulsory purchase that we need to survive, so when people walk in the door they’re happy to spend the money they have in their pockets because they know it’s going to make people laugh and smile. and create memories. “
For its display in the backyard, Shumate said it was about bringing people together.
“We are all sitting on the bridge,” he said. “We have the barbecue going and everyone is waiting for the show.”
Jake Shaw of Milford sticks to his long-standing tradition. As far back as he can remember, he has fired fireworks on July 4th. He bought about $ 100 worth of products from Atlas last week.
“It’s the only place you go out and smile after spending money,” he said.