SIOUX CITY – During the summer, as the sun grows high and the temperatures rise, the nation’s birthday celebration looms on the horizon of July. With it come cookouts, late nights and fireworks. But for Iowa, the latter has only been true for the past three years.
For the third straight year, Iowans will be able to celebrate the Fourth of July with as many sparklers, bottle rockets, and red, white, and blue fountains as they like. Before 2017, most fireworks had been banned in the state after the patriotic festivities scorched Spencer's downtown in 1938.
Permanent retail structures have been allowed to sell fireworks since June 1, while last Thursday was the first day for sales in tents and other temporary structures.
However, Sioux City Fire Marshal Mark Aesoph said that compared to the first two years, he thinks the temporary retailers are waiting until closer to the start of July to start sales.
Eleven permanent retailers in Sioux City are selling consumer fireworks this year -- a list that includes Menards, Bomgaars, Walmart and Dollar General, according to data from the State Fire Marshal. Seven retailers also have obtained permits to sell pyrotechnics under tents or other temporary structures.
Sioux City has seen a modest growth of fireworks stands, tents and stores, climbing from 11 locations in 2017 to 18 this season.
There also are multiple fireworks stations across the border in North Sioux City, South Dakota, and South Sioux City, Nebraska.
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Permanent stands along Interstate 29 in North Sioux City have been drawing out-of-state residents for decades.
Jaden Groves, sales manager for Zort’s Fireworks in North Sioux City, said Iowa's legalization of fireworks hasn't stopped that trend.
"They say they’ve always come here," Groves said. "They just continue every year, kind of like a tradition.”
Sioux City’s growth of fireworks distributors stands in contrast to the state of Iowa. Due to the heavy rain and flooding in previous weeks, the total number of locations selling fireworks has dropped by more than 200 vendors this year, compared to 2018, according to the State Fire Marshal's office.
Iowa law declares that individuals can legally light off fireworks between June 1 and July 8, as well as Dec. 10 to Jan. 1 each year. However, each city and county has the ability to institute their own ordinances in regards to citizens setting off fireworks. In Sioux City, residents are only allowed four days of the year to detonate fireworks: July 3 and 4, and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
For Independence Day celebrations, fireworks will be legal between 1 p.m. and 11 p.m. on both July 3 and 4, Aesoph said.
Fireworks will only be allowed to be set off on private property, Aesoph said. Detonation is banned on sidewalks, streets or other public property such as city parks.
“We walk a fine line on this,” Aesoph said, mentioning how he and the department truly want the citizens of the city to think before they light the match if they are going to use fireworks. “Be safe.”