SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Selling fireworks is Dan Winterfeld’s side job. The Sioux Center man is farmer/cattle feeder in his main career but Winterfeld and his wife have carved out a niche in the fireworks world in Iowa.
The state Legislature approved the sale and use of fireworks in 2017.
“It’s met our expectations but it’s exceeded our expectations for the amount of work it takes…,” Winterfeld said. “It’s a unique business. People don’t see the work behind the scenes.”
The Winterfelds operate about 14 permanent and temporary sites across northwestern Iowa as It’s Lit Fireworks.
Iowa law allows fireworks sales from permanent buildings between June 1 and July 8 and again from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. Fireworks sales in temporary structures are only allowed between June 13 and July 8.
Dan Raderschadt operates a retail and wholesale fireworks business in Watertown and Aberdeen as Lew’s Fireworks and Hot Shots in Sioux Falls.
The addition of Iowa to the fireworks landscape, “has been a positive thing for the industry,” Raderschadt said.
Raderschadt’s family company does business in 16 states. “We do a fair amount with retailers in Iowa,” he said.
The change in 2017 brought a “whole new state of possible legal buyers” to the fireworks market, Raderschadt said.
In 2022, Iowa ranked ranked 22 in the value of all fireworks imported to the state. The value was estimated at about $2.8 million or 88 cents per person, according to Value Penguin. Value Penguin uses trade data from the U.S. Census. South Dakota ranked 10th with an estimated value of $3.7 million or $4.18 per person.
Where can you discharge the fireworks?
South Dakota has much longer history of fireworks sales than many other states but the period to sell them is shorter than, Iowa, for example. The sale of fireworks in South Dakota is restricted to June 27 through July 5. Fireworks can be sold again from Dec. 28 to Jan. 1.
Iowa state law also allows for a longer period of fireworks use than in South Dakota.
According to the Iowa League of Cities, fireworks can be used from June 1 through July 8 and from Dec. 10 through Jan. 3.
In permitted locations, South Dakota state law allows the discharge of fireworks from June 27 to the first Sunday after July 4 and from Dec. 28 to Jan. 1. Cities, counties and other public bodies can restrict use. For example, in the city of Sioux Falls, the use of fireworks in the city limits is illegal. The city prohibits the use of fireworks within the city limits with the exception of sparklers, snakes, and other fireworks that do not have an audible report, projectile, or launching component. Another example is that fireworks are not allowed in the Black Hills Fire Protection District.
Cities in Iowa can use the state law or it can prohibit the use of display or consumer fireworks throughout the year or it can restrict dates, time and areas for the legal use of fireworks.
Sioux Center, Iowa, follows the state law which allows for fireworks to be discharged from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. from June 13 to July 8 and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on July 4 and the Saturday and Sunday immediately prior to July 4, said city manager Scott Wynia.
“We haven’t changed our process since the state first allowed fireworks. It’s been managed pretty well…,” Wynja said.
The city does receive some complaints and those are mostly about the discharged after hours, he said. “Somebody is shooting off fireworks at 10:30 or 11 p.m. on weeknight,” Wynja said.
The city of Rock Rapids,Iowa, allows fireworks to be discharged from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. from June 29 to July 7, according to an ordinance approved in June of 2018. The only exception is on July 4 when fireworks can be discharged until 11 p.m.
Sioux Center does require a temporary fireworks vendor to apply for a permit that reviews if the retail area has enough parking and similar items, Wynja said.
Finding a niche in the market
Winterfeld said there have been changes in the Iowa market since It’s Lit Fireworks opened in 2017.
“We’ve seen some (retailers) come and go,” Winterfeld said. “It feels like (retailers) now have found what works well for them.”
The business bought a building in Storm Lake last year, he said, and doesn’t plan to buy a building this year.
It may be more difficult for a vendor to start selling fireworks in a community now than it was several years ago, Wynja said.
“There was a lot of excitement,” Raderschadt said of the early days of legal fireworks in Iowa. There is still excitement but there are likely fewer vendors now, he said.
Firework sales hit some record, or near record, highs during the peak COVID-19 years.
“We all know the COVID years were the best years ever,” Winterfeld said. Still, the normal is pretty good, he said.
Retailers stress safety with legal fireworks
Raderschadt said one of the biggest danger is using illegal fireworks. If there is an injury it is usually because of an illegal explosive that gets classified as fireworks, Raderschadt said.
Legal fireworks sold in the U.S. are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Raderschadt said.
The CPSC said that in 2021 there were 1,500 fireworks injuries in the U.S. involved firecrackers. Another 1,100 fireworks injuries involved sparklers. Fireworks injuries increased by 25% from 2006 to 2021, the CPSC said. The COVID-19 year of 2021 set a record for fireworks sales in the U.S.
Raderschadt’s company buys most of its fireworks from China which are tested and tested again by a third party, he said.
“We want people to have fun when we provide them with fireworks and we want people to be safe,” Winterfeld said.
Fireworks users need to read the label instructions, they need to be careful and be smart, Winterfeld said.
His staff can also give customers advice about fireworks use, he said.