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From the Publisher’s Desk – America has some money to blow

By Keith Whitson

Excitement was building and adrenaline rushed through my entire body. The rocket sat perched on its pad, aiming for the heavens.  I had waited until just the right moment and stillness of air. How far would it go? It was time to find out.

I reached down, struck a match to the rocket’s single booster and ran. I ran as if I was fleeing the enemy. From a safe distance, I looked back just in time to see the rocket take flight. The Coca-Cola launching pad was knocked down from the tremendous force which lifted the rocket into the atmosphere.

A loud bang and a flash of color lit up the night sky. The sparks spread wide and trickled back down to the ground.

I didn’t get to attend many fireworks displays in my youth, but I think it was more fun to actually be in control of the show from my backyard. At that age, fireworks came from my uncle and I mostly watched. Later I was able to buy some for myself. It also seemed I could usually find a few loose firecrackers lying around that my uncle had left here and there.

One time, my cousin Karen and I were trying to light a firecracker in the driveway. I couldn’t get the match to light and she turned to go get more. I looked around to say something to her and didn’t realize the firecracker in my hand was already lit. I was lucky. Stinging fingers and ringing ears seemed to be the sum of my injuries.

I know most of us are fascinated with fireworks shows. I love watching them myself. But I don’t  know that any of us appreciate it as much as China, who gets the bulk of our money.

You’re welcome, China.

The United States spends over $600 million on fireworks for the Fourth of July and the bulk of those come from China. It adds new meaning to the phrase our freedom comes with a price when we pay so much just to celebrate it.

Pyrotechnics Association reports that firework spending has exploded in the last decade, doubling from the $425 million spent in 1998 to the $967 million spent in 2011.

Fireworks were invented in ancient China in the 12th century to scare away evil spirits. Now they just seem to scare small babies, dogs and other animals.

The range in price for putting on a fireworks display for the public, according to Ace Pyro, a Michigan-based company, is $5,000 to $30,000. The ballpark number of pyrotechnic shells used in the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza in New York City is around 40,000, which is 55 times more fireworks than the average show in the U.S. The total cost of the show is not made public, but Boston’s display, which is smaller, runs about $2.5 million.

The average consumer spends less than $100. A 15 minute show for family and friends, which will include some fountains and cakes and artillery shells, costs approximately $500 to $1,000.

Macy’s firework display attracts around 2 million people and lasts around 26 minutes, using approximately 75,000 pounds of fireworks. Atlantic City’s firework spectacular has approximately 200,000 attendees. It is two parts, one 22 minutes and the other 24 minutes. When asked the number of fireworks used for  his show, Phillip Butler, producer of Atlantic City’s show said, “You wouldn’t ask Michelangelo how many buckets of paint he used on the Sistine Chapel, would you?”.

The fireworks considered most dangerous are:

• Bottle rockets, which can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour and are susceptible to ricochet.

• Sparklers, which get very hot. A typical sparkler can burn at temperatures up to 1,800 degrees.

• Cherry bombs, which are illegal in many states. Using 16 M80s or eight M100s detonated together can be the equivalent of a stick of dynamite.

The average injuries from fireworks are mostly related to the hand. The head and leg come next.

We also look to China for the majority of our American flags. Of the $3.8 million worth of stars and stripes imported last year to the U.S., $3.6 million worth came from China, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are trying to stop the government from buying and flying flags made outside of the U.S.

Going down the holiday shopping list, those disposable dishes, utensils, cups, napkins and tablecloths are also largely outsourced to China, squaring with the U.S. trade deficit totaling $62 billion in paper, plastic and wood products to the country.

I am not sure who is celebrating our freedom more, us or China. It makes me wonder, are we really free and free from what?

I do appreciate our freedom in the America and those who fought and are fighting to attain it and keep it. Let’s just work to keep things safe within our country. Massive tragedies are becoming more common. Maybe if Donald Trump is president, maybe he will build a wall all the way around the U.S. Hey, China has a Great Wall, maybe we should, too. Please know I am kidding.