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My autistic 5-year-old's first fireworks experience.

Thanks to Kelly McElligot for sharing this story. 

The sound of peepers fills my ears. They make it difficult to hear much else, except for the tap of my feet on the planks of the porch. With each push, trying to lull and rock my sleeping daughter, whose sweaty body is in my lap, into a continued rest. I wonder though, if I’m rocking for her comfort or for mine. It’s hot and it’s humid, but my cheeks are flush and aflame for a different reason, entirely. You see, we’ve been waiting for this night for the five years she’s been alive.  I’m nervous and full of anxious uncertainty, much like Addy would be if she were awake.  You can hear it in the pace of my rocking that I’m not talented in the careful art that is waiting, even if I’ve had more practice than most parents. Practice that has been forced upon me.  I try to be in the moment; take a mental picture of her nestled up onto my chest and savor every second while she still fits there. The little moments are often our biggest victories.  Always waiting for them, with their delayed arrivals, with usually only I to bare witness and relish in them for her… But the way the sky’s brooding shade continues to subtly deepen, I try to cast my fears aside and decide we ought to go now. Carrying her weighty, inactive body to the car reminds me what a big victory this could be for us.

She’s asleep almost all the way on the venture into town, until I repeat her name enough times and she wakes.  She’d been waiting the entirety of the day with as much patience as comes naturally to her, and I knew we only had a little time to do some preparing. Not only did we have to reiterate some phrases, I had to assemble the pieces of a half thought of backup plan in case we didn’t get through the night successfully. With Addy’s autism, so much planning and prep work goes into every undertaking, and every new experience. The littlest of details can throw her off and derail the whole train in an instant. It’s why nights like tonight are few and far inbetween for us.  Will it be too loud? Too bright? What if she has a meltdown? Unfortunately, Addy has missed out on a plethora of ‘typical’ childhood experiences that shape most people’s lives.  This summer, I just wanted so badly for her to have *one* memorable experience she would be able to look back on fondly, much like my childhood home and the peeper’s that inhabit the tall grasses there. Since Addy has been reading since age three, she has read about these idyllic experiences a thousand times over. The reality of family filled barbecues, bike rides, and beaches are often a starkly different picture than the one painted for us by the pages within a little golden spine. ‘The sand is too hot! The sun is too bright! I can’t do it!’  You name it and it might overwhelm her senses to the point where she doesn’t have enough coping skills to deal. The world is oftentimes just too much for her. But not tonight. I needed this for her.  And maybe, I needed it for me, too.

My motherly guilty intensifies as we pull up onto the grassy bank alongside countless other vehicles, with families outstretched in the grass. Kids who won’t bat a lash tonight. Us, on the other hand, parking as close to the road we can in case we have to leave before it begins. I’m sitting on an anticipatory set of pins and needles in the driver’s seat, cracking our windows down so we can test the waters. I remind Addy that it’s okay if she doesn’t like it and wants to go. And then we wait.

The first boom translates into a big surprise for Addy’s ears. She instinctively covers them with her hands until that first pop of sparkling color drips into the night sky. Her little finger points out of the car window, and into the dark. “FIREWORKS!” she shouts, her eyes glittering with an excited curiosity.  After a few more pops and cracks, my tension is lifted. My daughter’s unsure expression has been completely replaced by genuine joy and amazement. I suggest we sit in the grass on our blanket, just like the other families. She stays seated through some more fizzing and dazzling flashes of color until the show is enough to bring her to her feet. I don’t think I’ve honestly ever seen her eyes twinkle with wonder more in my life, than right now. Finally there is a loud and long succession of booms, flashes and dramatic pops of color that shimmer into the blackness. “The Grand Finale”­ a term Addy has known, only in our preperations, until now.  After the last twinkling display fades to dark, there is celebratory whistling, clapping, and our end, happy dances, high fives, and warmed hearts.

After we pack ourselves away and back into the car, I’m suddenly aware of the long trip home.  And although there are certainly miles ahead of us, I think about how far we’ve come; how far we’ve traveled­ literally for years­ to get to this point. And as our tires rumble off the bank and over the gravel, I realize how truly ingrained in my heart this night would be… this moment… these fireworks.

 

PA fireworks laws explained.

So what’s the deal with the PA fireworks laws? Well, to be frank, it can be a little confusing to wrap your mind around. Not only are there PA regulations that affect your ability to buy fireworks, but within those regulations are references to titles and provisions in federal code and to definitions set forth by the American Pyrotechnics Association. I looked extensively through these codes and bills and came out with a headache.

To spare you the unneeded migraine of reading through those pesky PA fireworks laws, I’ll try to simplify the process. Let us first define what fireworks are. You have three types of pyrotechnic devices that most people refer to as fireworks. Ground based items, labeled “safe and sane,” consumer fireworks, and display fireworks.

How are Fireworks defined?

Let’s eliminate display fireworks from the conversation. These are huge, dangerous, and heavily regulated. You need a federal permit to get these, and fireworks retail outlets won’t carry these anyway.

Safe and Sane “fireworks” aren’t even considered fireworks by the state. There is no regulation on these, and anyone can walk into a store and purchase them.

Consumer grade fireworks are where it gets tricky. These are the ones that go up and blow up: mortars, cakes, firecrackers, roman candles, etc.

How to get consumer grade items according to PA fireworks laws

To purchase these, as a PA resident, you need to get a permit. These are simple forms that you fill out and have signed by a township official. Its not as hard as you think to get these. Download the form, head to your local fire station, precinct, or town hall and inquire within. We have plenty of customers who have had success. Remember, please be respectful, they are under no obligation to sign anything for you.

Out of state? No problem.

If you aren’t a PA resident, the protocol is a little more straightforward: bring your out-of-state photo ID, we will have you sign a waiver of liability stating you will take them out of state, and you’ll be on your way.

We don’t have any control over the laws, but we do abide by them. So if there’s ever occasion where we are unable to sell the aerial stuff to you due to the PA fireworks laws, please forgive us! We aren’t going anywhere, and as soon as you get your documents in order, we will be happy to serve you.

Zach is Media and Marketing coordinator at NOTBFireworks as well as a graphic designer and writer. He has been involved with fireworks retail and operations since 1993 when he was 9. Zach isn't sure he's too happy about that.

Best fireworks ignition and setup tips

It’s finally arrived, that moment you’ve all been waiting for: my annual pyro.space blog post. Last year, we talked about best buying practices, this year, I’m going to talk a little bit about best lighting practices, setup, and safety. If you’ve got a few cakes and some sparklers, a little common sense can go a long way, but if you’ve got boxes and boxes of cakes, mortars, rockets, and other explosives, setup and safety practices are crucial.

Don’t drink and ignite:

Obviously there’s going be drinks at your barbecue. It is highly recommended that you don’t drink and ignite fireworks simultaneously just as you should not drink while operating machinery of any kind. Fireworks, while safe when used properly, can be dangerous when not handled in a careful and appropriate manner. So try to keep the drinking to a minimum if you’re the one lighting them.

Don’t hold your roman candles:

I know you are going to ignore this one, but we highly recommend you don’t hold your devices. If you do ignore me and decide to hold your roman candles, hold them off to the side, because every once in a while, the last on can fire out the wrong side. Tying them to a flimsy stick isn’t a good idea either.

Never, ever, put your face (or anything else) over a tube:

It doesn’t matter if you never lit it or think it’s a dud. It rarely happens that a fireworks can be ignited accidentally by other fireworks, but it can happen. If a firework that you have already attempted to light is determined to be a dud (this also rarely happens with our product) there are times when firing from the tube can be delayed. To reiterate, keep your face out of the way of the tube.

Always make sure that your fireworks are lying flat on a stable surface:

These are powerful mortars and shells. If they are leaning, there’s a small chance for tipping. Minimize this risk by using plywood or setting the fireworks on asphalt or concrete. It also doesn’t hurt to set the fireworks behind something, so that if it were to tip towards the viewers, the object would deflect the shells.

If you can, keep a water hose or fire extinguisher around:

Again, small chance of needing either. Wouldn’t you rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it? Dousing fireworks after they’ve discharged would also fall under the umbrella of good practices.

Finally, ignite your pyrotechnics with something that will easily light your fuses.

Punks are a no go, they wibble-wobble whilst you try to hold the tiny end against a fuse (punks are great for keeping the bugs away). Matches work, but they are only one use, and can blow out. Cigarette lighters are slightly improved, but you’re definitely going to burn your thumb. Grill lighters turn out to be great for lighting your fireworks. They keep your body away from the opening and allow comfortable and easy lighting. The ultimate, best thing to use when lighting is a propane torch that you can purchase at any hardware store. These will instantly light the fuse and keep you from guessing whether you were successful or not.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Please use your brains and common sense, and good times will be had by all. Oh, and one more thing, load your mortars right side up, or this will happen.

VIP Program helps you get Free Fireworks

Free Fireworks? Sign me up!

Have you ever just been sitting around thinking to yourself, “Man, I want some fireworks but I really don’t want to pay for them?” Well, maybe not in those exact terms, but we here at North of the Border have done just that!

No, you can’t just walk in and grab some loot at no cost, but there is a great way to get some free stuff: Merely buying fireworks will do it, also, Sign up for our VIP Program. Its not hard at all.

Free Fireworks with Every Purchase

So yeah, you get free stuff with every single purchase that you make. Yes, even on a $1 purchase you will get something extra thrown in your bag. Spend more and you’ll get more free fireworks. It is as simple as that.

Free fireworks as a VIP member

It isn’t nearly as much of a pain as you think. You buy fireworks, and you get points that go towards more fireworks. As a matter of fact you can sign up right here, and have your $5 instantly credited to your account! All we need is your name and email address, and you are suddenly a Very Important Pyromaniac.

 

Sign up today, there is really no downside!

 

Fireworks Buying Guide for Shows in the Poconos

Fireworks Buying Guide: Tips and Advice

Independence day is looming upon us, and as a fireworks retailer, you can imagine that the holiday is much different for us than for your average retail space. The employees are in a frenzy, the owners are frazzled, and I’m somewhere in between. Despite the craziness we experience, we know that you are here to have a great time, and we want to help with that. Of course, our staff will be available for any questions and help you require, but here is a fireworks buying guide to build on that already excellent buying experience:

Your budget should influence what types of fireworks you buy.

How much you are planning on spending is important. If you have few dollars to spend, you should look for the best value. Some fireworks cost  a lot because the quality of the breaks are more circular and they launch to a higher altitude. If you have $80 to spend, your best bet is to buy multiple repeaters and mortars than to buy one, huge $80 cake. If you have a large budget, it’s ok to splurge on the big stuff.

No matter what budget you’re on, our pyro-specialists and this fireworks buying guide can direct you to a good selection of items.

Know which fireworks do what.

A little bit of research can go a long way in making your show the best it can be. Knowing what the functional difference between a mortar and a repeater is, what the benefits of a rocket are, and how a missile battery fires can really increase your chances of doing a great show.

The wonderful folks over at PyroUniverse.com have put together a pretty good explanation of the different types of fireworks available. Take a quick look, it can help out.

Realize that any type of firework can add to your show.

Do you think that only aerial repeaters and mortars can contribute to a great show? It’s not the case at all. Consider that professionals use dynamite and whistles to increase the sensory effect. You can do the same, just on a smaller scale. Nothing kills a display quicker than inactivity. The dying echo of that last shell fading off into the distance is the sound of your audience losing their interest.

Buying fire crackers, whistling ground-based fireworks, and other noise makers can help you avoid those gaps. A 1,000 firecracker bandolier will last for 1.5 minutes. If you have an aerial show and you plan on it lasting 5 minutes (which in fireworks minutes is like a 2 hour movie), grab a 4,000 piece bandolier and light at the beginning of your show. Problem solved.

Break your pyro-loot into fused stages for a better timed ignition.

Yes, you could run around frantically and light your pieces one by one, or you could work smarter and group your items into stages. North of the Border has handy dandy timing sheets for most of our items. Use this to your advantage, set up multiple groupings of fireworks, have them timed so that they are running back to back and sometimes simultaneously, and use fuse to do it.

You’ll find that a little bit of setup while the sun is out can save you a lot of work. Buy some 0:30/ft and some 0:05/ft fuse to get your ignitions accurately timed.

Choose with a variety of pyrotechnic effects in mind.

Yes, you may have a favorite type of break and effect, but buy with variety in mind. If you don’t, you might get sick of seeing the same thing over and over. So might your audience. There are many different effects that you can purchase, and they are all beautiful in their own way. The big huge breaks are stunning for sure, but watching a cascade of golden willow fall feather-like to the ground is inspiring as well.

An audience, like any audience, has differing likes and dislikes. Pick a large variety of effects and no one will be sad. Hit them over the head with the huge, sky-splitting breaks over and over, and they might want to return the favor.

In any event, enjoy your purchasing experience, I hope this fireworks buying guide has helped. Finding the right items for your show can be as rewarding as igniting them. Have an excellent Independence Day evening.