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Sioux City fireworks sellers report strong demand in 2020
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Sioux City fireworks sellers report strong demand in 2020

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SIOUX CITY -- Fireworks dealers in the Sioux City metro reported solid sales and demand as the Fourth of July approached. 

Months of pandemic-induced boredom has been cited as a driving factor in consumers' interest in fireworks this summer. It also doesn't hurt that the Fourth falls on a Saturday this year. 

"This year, sales are on fire -- they're doing really well," said Jerry Peterson, proprietor of King Kong Fireworks on the eastern outskirts of Sioux City. 

"You might have a lot of neighborhoods coming together to do a show on their own, or families buying together," said Vince Bellino, whose Papillion, Nebraska-based company, Bellino Fireworks, operates seven tents in Sioux City and one in South Sioux City. 

If fireworks complaints in the city can be taken as an indicator of fireworks sales, the numbers are high -- complaints jumped 80 percent for the month of June compared to last year, according to Sioux City Police Department data. 

This will be the fourth Fourth of July in which fireworks can be legally discharged by private residents in Iowa (subject to some restrictions). Most fireworks were banned in the state from 1938 until the summer of 2017; the ban was the result of highly destructive fires in 1931 and 1936 that were blamed on fireworks. 

Peterson suggested that the novelty of legal fireworks still hasn't worn off. 

"It's actually growing. We're seeing sales increase over the years," Peterson said. 

Interest in fireworks has not waned for Brent and Amy Mahrt, who make an annual Fourth of July trip from their home in Texas to visit relatives in Anthon, Iowa. On Thursday, their fireworks purchases at King Kong filled the bed of their pickup. 

"The kids especially love (fireworks)," Amy Mahrt said. 

There was no guarantee this summer would go well for fireworks retailers, as the industry was haunted by supply-side problems in China in the months leading up to the season.

In early December, an explosion at a fireworks factory in Hunan Province killed seven and injured more than a dozen. Very soon thereafter, a new virus emerged in the city of Wuhan, and it quickly crippled Chinese manufacturing as strict lockdowns and quarantines took hold. 

Those in the fireworks business in the Sioux City area offered different opinions about which of these catastrophes was worse for the fireworks industry. (None of them suffered any apparent product shortages.) 

"There was an explosion, yes, but that's not the reason why we couldn't get (fireworks). It's because of the virus, that's the reason why. It wasn't because of an explosion. There was an explosion, yes, but they have an explosion every once in a while," said Don Lantis, the longtime proprietor of Lantis Fireworks in North Sioux City. 

"They wouldn't let any factories open up, and nobody wanted to go to work, because they didn't want to die," he added. 

Bellino, meanwhile, said the explosion was a bigger cause for concern over possible fireworks shortages. 

"(The explosion) happened in late November, so that's kind of peak production season, and that just kind of put it to a halt," he said. 

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