There’s nothing better than summer in the Susquehanna Valley. With only a couple days of June left to play out it can only mean one thing. The celebration of America known as the 4th of July is right around the corner.
Family reunions, picnics, barbecues serving the best summer cuisine will be found everywhere. Of course, we have to have some games to enjoy that cold beverage by, horseshoes, quoits, jarts, that family-friendly softball game that everybody wants to win, volleyball, you name it and it goes great with the 4th of July. I forgot the new games of today KanJam and cornhole, they have become instant American favorites. They both also go well with that all American beverage of your choice. Maybe that’s why they became instant favorites.
The celebration of the 4th also brings the use of pools, creeks, lakes, and rivers — the water body of your choice and Pennsylvanians get the most use out of them. This is probably because we only get such a short time of year to enjoy all these water activities. One thing’s for sure, you won’t find a game of Marco Polo come January in the Keystone State.
For generations, the Webb family has enjoyed the 4th of July holiday along Loyalsock Creek. A nice campfire accompanied with mountain pies, s’mores and anything you wanted to cook over the open flame. Of course, there was fishing, swimming with the current at your back, catching crayfish and skipping rocks. Anything you can think of that would fit into the lyrics of a country song — most importantly shared with family.
Another Webb Fourth of July tradition has always been fireworks. My Dad would know a guy and be able to get the good stuff that maybe wasn’t entirely legal in our state. This tradition was passed down to me, and I would always make sure the boys had those special bags of fireworks to celebrate the fourth with.
I like to think I took it up a notch. My wife would get upset because the windows of the house would be shaking and she had concerns it might interfere with the flight path of a passing aircraft. I knew this was impossible but trying to convince her was difficult. Jimmy along with his friends Wesley Lapointe and Alex Heafner are often my pyrotechnicians. Of course, I waited till they were 18. Haf’s Dad Chris is also a lover of illuminating the night sky and can put a show on to match any municipality. Tip of the Webb Weekly cap to him!
With my love and tradition of fireworks, this is where I’m going to change direction on you a little bit. Last October House Bill 542 changed the bangs, booms, and illuminations that are legal in our great state. PA residents during my lifetime have only ever been able to use what are classified as “safe and sane items”. You know them as sparklers, smoke bombs, poppers and grounded items that shower sparks. The new law legalizes aerial or what is deemed Class C fireworks. The good stuff, firecrackers of a wide variety, bottle rockets, Roman candles, 24 shot mortars, basically anything that could have been used to win the Wild West. Before the decision, you needed a Class C fireworks permit to obtain and set off these items. Why was this done? To create more revenue blowing into the state coffers.
Although I love my fireworks, I don’t know if it was the best decision in the interest of public safety. Harrisburg will earn the 6% sales tax plus an additional tax on all fireworks. Obviously, in days gone by with many fireworks being sold on the QT, no tax revenue was collected.
If you’re familiar with fireworks, almost everything is available for sale in Pennsylvania. In the past PA residents could not buy it, only out-of-staters could. The change in the law will allow residents the same buying options as tourists passing through our state.
Pennsylvania residents would often buy fireworks out of state where it was legal. I’m sure you or somebody you know often made that stop at South of the Border in South Carolina while traveling. It was legal to buy the fireworks; however, it was illegal to transport them back into the state of Pennsylvania. Although I never thought of anyone doing this as smuggling contraband.
This is where I can’t believe I’m going to write this; I don’t know if this change is for the good. The fact that the state is going to use the extra tax revenue produced for first responders may tell us all we need to know.
Simply put, this stuff is dangerous, not only for the individual setting it off but for all around. Now that anyone can buy the large Class C fireworks — for aerial displays such as mortars fired from a tube the area affected by these fireworks becomes much larger.
Just imagine being in your backyard enjoying a nice evening and it feels like the neighbors are shelling you followed by the fallout debris that accompanies the lighting up of the night sky. Not to mention that oversized bottle rocket that might land in the leaves in your spouting while still hot.
This isn’t even getting to the loud noise guaranteed to keep the soundest sleeper awake. At least the extra calls made by the First Responders will be paid for by the additional tax revenue. Did I mention a lot of the mortars travel about 200 feet in the air or whichever way they end up being fired?
On the good side of things, it does make the fireworks I enjoy setting off much easier to come by. And I have no worries about setting them off. At the end of the day, I guess it comes back to what the 4th of July is about, a celebration of American freedom. It is up to Pennsylvania residents to prove they are responsible enough to enjoy this new freedom.
Please if you choose to light off some of the newly legalized fireworks be extra, extra careful. Read and understand what each product does. Many places have video demonstrations to show you exactly what each product does.
Most importantly, make sure you have space to set off the firework safely. These new items require much more space than most can imagine. The last thing you want to do is burn down your neighbor’s house.
Class C fireworks are not for children. Please also make sure someone 18 years or older is designated to light the fuse and this individual makes sure everyone is back safely from the launch point. I guess a lot of this just falls into pure common sense; don’t do stupid things such as having a battle with Roman candles. Yes, people actually do that. This also goes for holding that firecracker a little extra too long. The fuse is never as long as you think it is!
Let’s enjoy the 4th of July and our newly found fireworks freedom, folks. As always, let’s be careful out there — a lot is going on in the upcoming week.
God Bless America.