It’s like a pilgrimage. Families in states where fireworks are strictly regulated make the long trek to giant stores on the other side of state lines in order to buy products where they don’t ask questions.
“We do this every year,” Crystal Leatherbury, who lives in Atlanta, told ABC News. “We make a family trip up.”
The “trip up” is to Lake Hartwell, S.C., just north of the Georgia line.
Apparently, it’s not the Fourth of July without fireworks and it’s not the Fourth of July without accidents.
Every year, fireworks cause 18,000 fires, resulting in $32 million worth of property damage and 8,000 visits to the emergency room, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
That’s why four states — Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — ban them altogether. But there are still more than a dozen states that allow the biggest aerial fireworks to be sold.
“I believe there should be a designated shooter just like you have a designated driver on Saturday night,” said William Weimer of Phantom Fireworks, the Youngstown, Ohio, company that has 1,200 outlets around the country.
This year, one of the hottest items is The Excalibur, a firework with a blast radius the size of a basketball court. It’s the kind of firework people will drive for hours to obtain, knowing full well they’ll be breaking the law once they return home with their newly acquired explosive.
“It’s not the Fourth of July without fireworks,” Sabir Mohammad said.
But authorities disagree, and this year they are cracking down.
“We are going to confiscate them and you can get up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine,” Fire Chief J.D. Rice of Valdosta, Ga., said.
But it’s a hard thing to enforce and authorities in most parts of Georgia often turn a blind eye to fireworks on holidays.
“It’s almost an addiction,” Jason Boudlin of Atlanta, Ga., said. “The good news is they kind of turn a blind eye on the Fourth of July and January 1. They let us know if you shoot them off on July 3 or July 5…don’t do that, we’re going to write you a ticket.”
This was Boudlin’s fourth trip to buy fireworks in Lake Hartwell, S.C.
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