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Stand operators say state's two selling seasons vary slightly

By ALLISON MILES
June 29, 2013 at 1:29 a.m.
Updated June 30, 2013 at 1:30 a.m.

Tommy Burger, 37, of Victoria, at his fireworks stand off of North Navarro Street in Victoria.

Did you know ... ?

A closer look at national fireworks revenue:

2008:

Display fireworks: $313 millionConsumer fireworks: $627 million2009:

Display fireworks: $315 millionConsumer fireworks: $630 million2010:

Display fireworks: $316 millionConsumer fireworks: $636 million2011:

Display fireworks: $318 millionConsumer fireworks: $649 million2012:

Display fireworks: $320 millionConsumer fireworks: $645 millionSource: American Pyrotechnics Association website

The workload that came early this week - waiting on shipments, unloading supplies and getting the family situated inside a nearby travel trailer - was nothing new for Tommy Burger. As a fireworks stand operator on his fourth year of sales, it has become commonplace.

This time around, however, temperatures rose a bit higher as he organized shelves inside his yellow Big Tex stand.

You see, it's Burger's first time selling for the Fourth of July season.

"The owners say we usually do well on July Fourth, so we thought we'd give it a try," he said inside the wooden building as traffic whizzed by on U.S. Highway 77 North. "I guess we'll see."

Although it is legal to shoot fireworks off year-round throughout the Lone Star State - within permissible areas - operators in most of the state can only sell them two times a year.

The state's summer season spans June 24 through July 4, according to the American Fireworks website, while the winter season lasts Dec. 20 through Jan. 1. And those in the business say it's difficult to say which season reigns supreme.

John Svoboda, a longtime stand operator who runs the Alamo Fireworks Megastore at 29 Beck Road East, said the two seasons are relatively similar. Still, there are slight differences.

The winter season tends to remain active all the way through, for instance, but it picks up even more in the days leading up to New Year's Eve. Around the Fourth of July - which he said stand operators still dub the "spring season" - things remain fairly quiet until those final days.

Quiet or not, the preparation time is the same. Svoboda said plenty of work goes into getting displays just right, keying prices into registers and making sure he's ready for customers.

"It's like trying to get a Wal-Mart set up, but you'll only be open for two weeks," he said inside the air-conditioned building.

Jessica Aebly, who runs multiple Big Tex stands in Victoria County, said it's difficult to tell which season will be stronger. While Independence Day lends itself to fireworks, oftentimes winter's cooler weather draws more people outdoors for the activity.

Some people even purchase fireworks as Christmas presents.

Still, Aebly noted, the selling season's strict calendar restrictions can bring a bit of strain to those behind the counter.

"I'd rather be in church at Christmas," she said. "But they don't give you the day off just because you want to go to church."

For Erica Garcia, a DaCosta mother of two whose family enjoys the pyrotechnic pastime, the Fourth of July is the all-around winner. Not only is it Independence Day, she said, but it's her father's birthday, also.

Garcia, a McDonald's manager, said the family's fireworks haul typically costs between $150 and $200 and includes a range of items. While the children get to shoot off the smaller fireworks, the family also buys bigger things for their own outdoor show.

"We tend to do it a little bigger, so we can celebrate both things," she said of the birthday/holiday mix. "It's mainly for the kids, but we look forward to it every year."

As for Burger, who also holds down full-time work at an area plant, he, too, looks forward to the days ahead, he said.

The heat of the South Texas summer might add something new to the mix as he runs his stand, he said, but the business itself remains unchanged.

"Most of the merchandise is still the same," he said. "But I expect it to be busier than we've seen before. I think it'll be good."

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