Fireworks season in Norfolk officially began Thursday, and area fireworks stands are preparing for emptier shelves in 2020 than in previous years.
Most of the area fireworks stands are planning on similar routines as years past, but the cancellation of various summer activities and events has fireworks stands anticipating heavier traffic this Fourth of July season.
“We definitely see a good possibility of there being more activity this year,” said Cole Blom, the owner of Dam Fireworks. “I think everybody’s just excited to have a reason to be able to get together and do something fun with everything that’s been going on.”
Located at 1221 W. Omaha Ave., Dam Fireworks has sanitizer available for buyers, and staff is cleaning more than usual, as well as being cognizant of social distancing guidelines, Blom said. COVID-19, however, hasn’t stopped customers from showing up in groups.
“We’re getting a lot of kids coming in on bikes, but we’re also getting a good share of adults and families coming in,” Blom said. “Buying fireworks and shooting them off is such a family activity, and I think people have always enjoyed doing that stuff together.”
Blom said Dam Fireworks has a variety of large and small fireworks available, including a plethora of new 500-gram cakes — a customer favorite.
Fly By Night, which has four locally owned stands across Norfolk, has been busy, especially on opening day, said Sylvia Kasper. Kasper said Fly By Night hopes to surpass its 2019 sales, and she believes that’s likely because of the anticipated increase in customer traffic.
“(Thursday) was just awesome. I really think we’re going to keep seeing a lot of people every day,” Kasper said. “The only people who I don’t think will be going to fireworks stands are ones who are afraid of COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped people so far. I know there are a lot of people who have been looking for something to do, and we’re hoping to help them out.”
Kasper travels from the Omaha area to Norfolk each year to help run Fly By Night stands, which are owned by Eric Sanders and Kevin Kortje.
“I used to live in Norfolk, and I like coming back to help out,” Kasper said. “It’s great to support these locally owned stands, and I enjoy the people that continuously come in and support.”
Fly By Night is celebrating 20 years of business by giving away $100 of fireworks to two people every day through July 4. Customers may register at any of Fly By Night’s locations (Old Mill at River Front, King Lanes, El Mezcal and KFC) to become eligible for the prize. The giveaways are a way of paying it forward to customers, as well as a potential feel-good moment during the pandemic, Kasper said.
Among the 13 locations, the lone not-for-profit stand in Norfolk is Ka-Boomers Enterprises at Norfolk High School. Money raised at the stand goes to the Norfolk High Music Boosters Club. Funds will be used by students to pay for traveling costs for competitions, as well as show choir outfits and honor band concerts, said Kim Rusk.
“We had a good start this year,” Rusk said. “I think our stand offers a really good opportunity to support our students, and we’re guessing the current situation will draw some good numbers. We hope to sell everything so we don’t have to pack it back up and haul it away.”
Rusk said students are highly encouraged to help run the stand, and more than 100 students will help out at Ka-Boomers this year.
Each stand mentioned safety as a top priority for citizens, noting that every person holds a responsibility in keeping themselves and others safe during fireworks season.
“Safety should always be kept in mind. My kids are always required to wear safety glasses when they light off fireworks,” Blom said. “It’s good to make sure you’re not lighting off under any low-hanging trees or power lines, and always have a hose or bucket of water nearby in case something goes wrong. People should also brace their fireworks, especially those multi-shot items.”