NORTH SIOUX CITY | With an extra day to shoot off fireworks in South Dakota, retailers along Interstate 29 are expecting a burst of sales as the July Fourth weekend approaches.
And although the signature inflatable purple gorilla sign -- known as the "Grape Ape" -- is temporarily out of commission at the Bellino Fireworks tent at 2501 Cornhusker Drive in South Sioux City, site manager Brenda Olerich said business should be brisk there as well.
The sale, possession and use of consumer-grade fireworks remains illegal in Iowa after the Senate failed to debate a House-passed bill to legalize them this year.
In South Dakota, the legal sale of fireworks for the Independence Day holiday started Saturday. A 2013 change in state law allows fireworks to be discharged through the Sunday after July Fourth each year. Since the holiday is on a Saturday this year, retailers will see only one added day of sales.
However, Lantis Fireworks owner Don Lantis pointed out 2016 is a leap year, so July Fourth will be on a Monday -- meaning six more days of sales next year.
Lantis, whose store is at 5 Northshore Drive, said the company is celebrating 70 years in business this season.
“I’ve been around the whole time of it, too,” Lantis, 74, said. “We’re already up in sales this year compared to last, and last year was a good season.”
Looking back, Lantis reflected on the changes he's seen in the industry. For one thing, fireworks have gotten smaller over the years, he said.
“Things were bigger. We had 2-pound rockets, now you get 8 ounces,” he said.
South of Lantis’ shop, Zort’s Fireworks, at 201 S. Derby Lane, was readying for an anticipated wave of customers in the coming days. Zort’s also has a tent stand at 1901 Cornhusker Drive in South Sioux City.
Andy Barber, the shop’s manager, wiped sweat from his brow after unloading boxes of firecrackers Saturday.
“So far, so good this season,” he said, adding that the extended time for pyrotechnics is good for business.
He said 500-gram multi-shot "cakes" are a big seller.
Shelves at Zort's and Lantis are loaded with row upon row of packages sporting outrageous art with equally extravagant names: “Hicktown Heaven,” “Pay Up, Sucka,” “Bad News,” and “King of Pain," just to name a few.
Barber said selling fireworks has been his life since his parents, John and Sally Barber, started the business 30 years ago.
“We get all kinds of customers in here, from families to the more hardcore,” he said. “We’re excited for this season, though it is a lot of work.”
Meanwhile, Blake Perryman and his co-workers were helping out customers at Gunderson’s Fireworks, at 308 S. Derby Lane. The store is hard to miss, courtesy of a 25-foot-tall inflatable roadside dinosaur.
Perryman, 19, is assistant manager at the shop. For six years he’s been working and enjoying each fireworks season there. The job comes with perks, including shooting off tons of fireworks when work is done, he said.
“I love working here. Especially the people I work with,” Perryman said, inspiring a chorus of jeers from the cashiers and a jokingly bewildered, “What, what did I say?”
Nebraska allows the sale of fireworks at stands inside city limits between June 24 and July 5. South Sioux City has six fireworks stands.
Working under the shade of the tent Saturday at Bellino, which incorporated two sales sites into one this year, Olerich said customers had been comparing prices.
"That'll change as July Fourth gets closer," she said. The store expects children's fireworks, such as turtle-shaped sparklers, to be a big hit this year.
Olerich said parents have been big on safety so far in the season, getting punks -- bamboo sticks for lighting fireworks -- for their children to use instead of lighters.
"Parents are being safe this year, which is the most important thing," Olerich said.