PONDER — Cakes, artillery tubes, fountains and more are making their seasonal migration across the state from warehouses to roadside stands.
Becky Newton and her family were among the masses of Independence Day munitions merchants preparing their shacks for the impending holiday season.
Monday marks the first day that stands across the state are able to begin selling the capstone to any Fourth of July party, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. Merchants will have until midnight on the Fourth to unload their product on one and all, whether they’re feeling patriotic or mischievous — or if they just like to burn their money in style.
Newton was busy Sunday afternoon stocking shelves alongside her family at Ron’s Fireworks in Ponder. The chain has 13 locations in Texas and two in Florida. While she spends much of the year as a fifth-grade math and science teacher in Era ISD, Newton has spent the past three summers selling fireworks.
She also works as a manager in the company warehouse outside Decatur and operates the Ponder stand for a few days in late December in the lead-up to New Year’s.
With a narrow sales window, the Newtons plan on working long hours to empty out their stock. Newton said the stand will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days, with extended hours running from 8 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
She’ll also plan on staying open right up to midnight on the Fourth. Even then, this summer job keeps her busy for less than two weeks each season.
“You make more doing that than you’re going to make in any part-time job you have during the summer,” she said Sunday afternoon.
Beyond that, she simply likes the work. Surrounded by stacks of cardboard boxes half-filled with colorful packs of fireworks, Newton’s face lit up reminiscing about the best explosions and strangest customer interactions.
“It’s pretty interesting; you meet some interesting people,” she said laughing.
In particular, she and her daughter mentioned a man who showed up late on July 3 one year with a flatbed trailer. He told them he was running late and just asked them to tell him what was good. Shortly afterward, he drove off the lot with about $1,000 of fireworks.
She also recalled a man trying to camp out near the stand around Christmas. He talked with the family about fireworks for roughly 30 minutes and told them he was trying to hitchhike to Colorado so he could legally sell weed.
“I was like, ‘Well, at least you want to do it legally,’” she laughed.
While past summers have been dry enough to hurt sales, Newton said there’s been enough rain this year to keep burn bans out of the area.
That means she can sell anything that’s legal in Texas.
Newton said she and her husband operate the stand mostly by themselves. Since their children — 13-year-old Whitney and 14-year-old Caleb — aren’t yet 16, state law keeps them from selling fireworks, but the pair are able to help customers load their cars.
While she conceded that the appeal of fireworks isn’t universal, Newton said there’s something in them for most people.
“Some of them are loud and some people don’t like that,” she said. The real appeal for her: “The colors, and how they spread across the sky, and listening to kids and adults say ‘oooh,’ ‘ahhh.’”
“I think it’s a cool way to celebrate our country,” she said.