They're big. They're bad. And since they won federal approval for consumer use in 1998, they've transformed the fireworks industry.
They're 500-gram "cakes," also known as multi-shot repeaters. These mega-fireworks are two-and-a-half times more powerful than the old 200-gram explosives they upstaged. These guys let backyard enthusiasts put on a Fourth of July display to rival Fair Saint Louis'.
And they're big business here in Missouri — one of nineteen states that (God love our legislators!) allows the sale of these (barely) legal pyrotechnics.
Since the advent of 500-gram cakes thirteen years ago, revenue for the domestic fireworks industry has more than doubled to about $950 million a year. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, 500-gram cakes now account for 25 percent of all fireworks sales nationwide. And with price tags of $50, $100 and $150 a pop, it's no wonder that they command such a market share.
So where can you plop down a Benjamin (or two, or three) to honor, um, B. Franklin and our nation's other founding founders with a 500-gram display of patriotism?
You're in luck. The RFT just spent the last few weeks scouting out the area's best fireworks stands and asking employees about their personal favorites. Here's what we found.St. Charles County
Steven Kell's family has owned Molly Brown's Fireworks (1501 Thornton Street, Pacific; 636-271-2500 or patriotsales.us) since the 1950s. Also located in Pacific, Molly Brown's sets itself apart from competitors in that it also sells Amish-made furnishings. And what, we ask, could be more patriotic than picking up Amish crafts and fireworks this July Fourth? Kell won't commit to any one favorite 500-gram cake, but he acknowledges that the sixteen-shot Cardinals-themed "Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy" repeater (retailing for around $75) is pretty popular around these parts.
Chantal Baker, manager of Fireworks Supermarket (3602 Osage Street, Pacific; 636-451-0855 or fireworkssupermarket.com) boasts that there's not a 500-gram cake for sale in her box-shaped outlet that she hasn't seen lit. Her personal favorite is the 24-shot, $60 "Time Bomb," which begins with big balls of red, green and blue and finishes with a series of golden willows. "There's something about the bursts," she says. "They're just so nice and big and colorful, and they end with all these great crackling sounds."
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