Volunteers at fireworks stands restocked on Friday in preparation for a busy weekend, during which they expect to make more than half of their sales.
At the same time, Lodi’s police and fire departments are gearing up to crack down on illegal fireworks. The departments will be doing additional enforcement for the first time in years, thanks to money raised during the sale of state-approved fireworks.
When residents buy fireworks, they pay the state sales tax and a 7 percent tax the city of Lodi added to all sales for enforcement.
One police officer and one firefighter will be assigned to a car. They will respond to complaints of illegal fireworks and do additional patrols around town, Lodi Police Sgt. David Griffin said. There will be one team on patrol Friday, today and Sunday and four teams out on Monday citing residents who are not obeying the law.
Years ago, the city did similar patrols during the holiday weekend, Griffin said, but there hasn’t been funding in recent years.
It is rare for officers to arrest citizens for fireworks, but it could happen if someone has large fireworks with black powder that are like dynamite, Griffin said. Illegal fireworks also shoot into the air, and include firecrackers, sky rockets, bottle rockets, Roman candles, mortars and cherry bombs.
Handheld items like sparklers, cone fountains, base fountains, box or tube fountains; spinners; novelties; and smoke items are all legal.
The six stands in Lodi will be open from noon to 9 p.m. today through Monday.
TNT Fireworks is stocking all of the stands, and the fireworks wholesalers told the nonprofits that they will make 75 percent of their sales on Sunday and Monday, said Jamie Watts, executive director of the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership.
So far, she said, people have stopped by to look at the combo packs and said they plan to pool money together with other families to buy one. While browsing, they often pick up some of the smaller items.
Watts has enjoyed seeing Lodi residents excited about being able to buy fireworks locally.
“It is fun talking to some of the seniors who are referring back to when they were a kid. Because they haven’t bought fireworks in so long, they are asking what is comparable to a cherry bomb or other things that aren’t legal anymore,” she said.
Because the booths are often set back from the street, Lodi/Tokay Rotary president Mark Hamilton said it is a unique challenge to let drivers know where they are.
The organization plans to have its members dress in Uncle Sam outfits and wave a sign on the street near the Walmart parking lot.
He said it is obvious that people were still using fireworks even when they were illegal.
“People are very excited to buy locally. They know exactly what they want, which means they have used them before,” he said.
As of Friday afternoon, SHARE Homes Adoption Agency had raised $6,400 through the firework sales, said Doug Clark, founder and executive director.
“It is nice to see the excitement in the kids’ eyes as they look through the screen at the fireworks,” he said.
During the past few days, the News-Sentinel has run a poll on its website and Facebook page asking if people plan to buy fireworks this year. Sixty-three people said yes, while 55 said no.
Through Twitter, Randy Knutson said he will not be participating.
“I enjoyed them as a kid, but believe noise and danger in town is too much. Plan not to buy or use any. Hope we get no house fires,” he said.
But Lodi resident Theresa White said through Facebook that she plans on buying some fireworks this year.
“I plan on buying them to have fun with my kids. One of my fondest memories as a child was setting off fireworks in the back yard,” White said.