It's time once again for the red glare of backyard rockets to light up cul-de-sac skies across the country, heralding 240 years of American freedom and marking the 13 colonies' split from Great Britain.
And Samuel Easley, who lives in Chatsworth, Ga., will be doing his part tonight, if everything goes as planned, not waiting until July 4 to send fireworks flying.
Easley walked the bright aisles at Dixieland Fireworks in East Ridge earlier this week, perusing hundreds of cartoonish-colored cartons of mortars, rockets, firecrackers, candles and sparklers.
"I usually come up here every Fourth of July and get some fireworks," he said. "It's just fun, and it's good to get out with friends and family and have a good time."
For more information on local firework shows pick up the June 29 copy of Chattanooga Now.
Easley said he shops at Dixieland because "just altogether, they're cheaper up here," versus shops in his native Georgia, where "they're so high you can't buy them."
Georgia legalized the sale of fireworks beginning July 1, 2015. But in Georgia, the state levies an additional 5 percent tax on consumer fireworks, on top of normal taxes.
Dixieland Fireworks, where Easley shopped this week, marked its fifth Independence Day in business this year.
Keesha Woodard, manager of the shop and daughter of its owners, said it's normal to have customers come from all over — including Georgia — to buy fireworks.
"We have regular customers from Illinois, Michigan, Florida, and they come back to us every year because our prices are so low," she said.
Firework stores in East Ridge benefit from the convergence of Interstates 75 and 24, where hundreds of thousands of vehicles travel daily, especially on and around the summer travel holiday. Woodard said a lot of Fourth of July travelers stop and buy fireworks on the way to wherever they're going, whether it's a beach vacation or off to see and celebrate with family.
"They get off the interstate and they come right here to us," said Woodard, whose shop sits right off Exit 1.
And this is when things will get absolutely crazy, in the final days leading up to July 4.
"We expect it to be wide open," said Woodard.
Nationally, the sale of consumer-grade fireworks like you find at Interstate-side shops are up, and continually trending that way.
Last year, consumer firework revenues hit $755 million, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. Only 11 years ago, in 2005, consumer firework sales generated $587 million.
Woodard said in the last few days leading up to July 4, Dixieland will open at 9 a.m. and remain open until 10, 11 p.m., or whenever the last customer has come and gone.
"We typically try to close about 1 a.m." on July 2 and July 3, she said. "But it just depends."
Being safe and legal
One year ago, standout New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a mangled hand to a firework, risking his multimillion-dollar NFL career and his life.
Bruce Garner, Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman, said that accident shows that firework accidents can, and do, happen to anybody.
Garner said the fire department encourages folks to go watch a firework show, and forgo shooting consumer-grade fireworks altogether.
Matt Lea, spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, said if you're going to shoot fireworks at home, at least follow a few basic guidelines.
"Be responsible, keep fireworks out of the hands of children who are not an appropriate age and always make sure you have a way to extinguish any flames that could get out of control," he said.
Lea also said it's important to check local laws and ordinances about fireworks before lighting any fuses.
And though the city has seen very little rain in recent weeks, Tennessee State Forestry Department officials said this week conditions are OK for fireworks.
High humidity and green, leafy trees lower the risk of fire.
For more information on firework safety tips, visit www.burnsafetn.org.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at email@example.com or 423-757-6480.