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Sparklers and smoke bombs, firecrackers and fountains. The TNT Fireworks tent on Forest Hills Road has it all and is open every day, including fulfilling those last-minute pyrotechnic needs on Independence Day.
The first customers of the season trickled into the tent Friday, including Scott Cates and Dakota Shepard with Nevaeh, who turns 3 on Wednesday. Cates said he opts to spend about $600 on fireworks rather than attending one of the professional shows in the area.
“As long as she is having fun and enjoying it, that is all that matters,” said Dakota Shepard.
While some customers choose a custom selection of products based on noise, height and color preference, vendor Rhonda Mitchell recommends the variety packages.
“We sell all kinds of fountains, but our biggest seller would be the packages because you get such a variety for all ages,” she said. “And when you buy those, you can get free merchandise as well.”
While Mitchell lives in South Carolina, running the tent from Friday through the holiday is a family affair and a fundraiser for her church. For the past five years, she’s endured sweltering temperatures for the cut of profits from sponsor TNT, and those funds support a mission trip for children at her church. Last year, the work helped send 50 kids on the retreat, but this year she is hoping to raise more.
“TNT picked Wilson for us, and we like coming here because the people really respect us and are very friendly,” she said. “We want to keep coming back where we feel safe and welcome.”
Last year, a second fireworks stand was set up off Ward Boulevard, but this year, Mitchell is the only show in town. An average customer reportedly spends between $60 and $100, including Cafiner Powell, who stocked up for a family get-together.
“I like to mix and match and spice it up a little bit,” she said. “I went for different kinds of designs and different booms.”
As she was checking out, she ran back to stock up on sparklers for the kids.
Fire officials urge adults to use caution when mixing children and fireworks as 35% of those injured by fireworks between June 20 and July 20, 2014, were under 15 years old. Sparklers alone accounted for 28% of the emergency room fireworks injuries, and more than 54% of the injuries were burns, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Shepard and Powell said they keep a hose nearby and use punks that Mitchell offers to customers for free. The punks are long incense-like sticks that allow users to light firework fuses without an open flame.
“It is also safer because there is more distance between you and the fuse, so if it is a bad fuse and just explodes right away, it isn’t right next to your hand,” Mitchell said.
Powell said she’s looking forward to relaxing with her loved ones and eating some food on Thursday, then lighting up the night once the sun sets.
“My favorite part is the fireworks,” she said. “I love the tradition of just getting together. The kids love it too, and I like to see the smiles on their faces.”
TNT Fireworks is open from 9 a.m. until after dark through Thursday. And for those interested in purchasing fountain fireworks, Mitchell recommended the Show Me the Action or the Mind of the Maniac, which has a spinning base that allows it to turn once lit.
“I’m going to tell everyone on my shift, ‘Y’all, go out to Walmart to that big tent and get those fireworks,’” Powell said.