Woo Hoo, a Sparkler!


The Portland Press Herald reports that the Maine Fire Marshal's Office prepared for Independence Day by staking out fireworks stores in neighboring New Hampshire:

Mainers suspected of buying fireworks may be stopped and arrested as they cross the border. Penalties range from a $50 fine for having less than $100 worth of fireworks to 10 years in prison for having more than $5,000 worth of fireworks.

While Mainers who want to explosively express their excitement on the Fourth are limited to sparklers and caps, New Hampshirites can legally purchase and use some pretty cool stuff (PDF), including not just multistage fountains but flying and exploding products such as the Aerial Super Seven Shell, the Wolfpack Missile Base, and the nine-shot 4th of July Spectacular. No wonder Mainers are tempted to smuggle.

Although New Hampshire does not allow "firecrackers, bottle rockets and reloadable type shells," its "permissible fireworks list" runs to 57 pages of tiny print. And unlike Pennsylvania, New Hampshire lets people not only buy mortars but use them. When I lived in Northern Virginia, I knew people who would go up to Gettysburg every year to get fireworks that were legal to sell in Pennsylvania, but only for use in other states. They were illegal to use in Virginia too, but police tended to look the other way on Independence Day and New Year's Eve.

I've been disappointed by the fireworks regime in Texas, which I imagined would be wide open. Although the state law is fairly permissive, there are many local restrictions. And Dallas, where I live, bans all unlicensed use of fireworks. If you happen to live in New Hampshire or some other firework-friendly place, please set off some mortars and rockets for me.

Greg Beato and Robert Stacy McCain defend real fireworks.

[Thanks to Michael Graham for the tip.]

NEXT: Hooray for Uribe

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  1. hah! the utah cops used to do the same thing to beer buyers who would drive across the wyo border to evanston. they’d cruise through, take license numbers, then wait on the utah side.

    i suppose federalism is a good thing…

  2. Mainers who want to explosively express their excitement on the Fourth are limited to sparklers and caps

  3. Mainers suspected of buying fireworks may be stopped and arrested as they cross the border.

    Maybe it would be safer to cross the border to the North of New Hampshire and celebrate Independence Day there.

  4. Here in Albuquerque anything that flies above, I believe, 6ft is illegal. However, they can sell just about anything on the surrounding reservations. I’ve never seen M-80’s or quarter sticks, etc… but you can definitely get morters, and just about any size bottle-rocket you can imagine. My yard will invariably be littered wit the remnants of bottle-rockets tommorow. My dogs hate it, but “a la ve'” it’s only once a year.

  5. the utah cops used to do the same thing to beer buyers who would drive across the wyo border to evanston.

    Must have been a long, long time ago. I lived in Utah forty years ago and beer purchases (in grocery stores stores, I might add, unlike New Jersey and Canada at the time) were perfectly legal. Has something changed since then?

    I haven’t been back for years, so I concede, you may be right.

  6. Jeez. In my parent’s little home county (in Texas) the fireworks stand was across from the courthouse.

    Well, for those of you unable to light your own, a little Youtube:

    en masse Bottle rockets (wait till it loads and go to the last minute):

    Happy 4th!

  7. Don’t click on any of the products pictured, just wait and see what happens. And be sure you have your sound on.

  8. A wall on the southern border would put a stop to that.

  9. PA cops do the same thing with the fireworks shops across the Ohio border in the months leading up to Independence Day. Bastards.

  10. On the other hand, sparklers make very good fuses for homemade thermite mixtures…

  11. the Fourth of July “…ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”

  12. My poor dog supports a total fireworks ban.

  13. My poor dog supports a total fireworks ban.

    My dogs are pretty pissed about the gunfire. 🙂

  14. isaac, this was late ’70s-early ’80s. 3.2 beer was legal at groceries, but “real” beer wasn’t. and the state-run liquor stores didn’t carry beer.

    evanston’s entire economy depended on utah’s liquor laws.

    patrick, want m-80s? it’s a short drive to las vegas, nm.

  15. Missouri, like any other red blooded American state, allows fireworks. Entire town exist for the very purpose of selling fireworks to the denizens of Iowa and Illinois. fireworks, cheaper gas, cheaper cigarettes, cheaper beer and alcohol.

    Much wonderful fire and smoke was observed over my domicile this evening. Much.

  16. I live in a weird little twist of unincorporated county between two actual towns near Seattle. Fireworks are legal, not being outlawed by the county; all the neighboring cities have outlawed them.

    What this means is that for the past four hours or so, my neighbors have been setting off thousands of dollars of professional-level fireworks. Massive lightshow type fireworks. Right over our heads. At least four different displays within a block of me; everywhere we looked, there were fireworks.

    Now, it being after midnight, the pops and bangs have tapered off. It still sounds a bit like there’s a war being fought in my neighborhood, but no longer like the war is being fought in my front yard. Past experience suggests they won’t actually stop until at least tomorrow morning, and possibly not for the rest of the weekend.

    My 11-month-old thought the fireworks were fantastic. So I guess that makes me objectively pro-fireworks.

  17. Chicago bans everything, including sparklers. That said, they 100% look the other way on the 4th and the cops blow off all the fireworks they’ve confiscated throughout the year. Bridgeport is like a war zone (and is a tad scary when the house you’re renting is 108 years old and frame, not brick). Beverly is better, but still awfully loud.

  18. What a joke. Dont these stupid cops have wenough REAL crime to contend with? Apparently not.


  19. We kicked it for you poor oppressed non-granite staters last night. It was crazy.

    Also, the fire comes out of the end of the roman candle that you light, not the other end. I could have used this information.

  20. Every year here, in soon to be former rural LA, the battle to out-shoot the neighbors escalates. Keeping up with the Jones’ set me back $165.00 last night, quite a carbon footprint! New Years will be more expensive still.

  21. Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it!

  22. Isnt the purpose of fireworks to celebrate the start of the Kentucky Derby Festival?

    People shoot them off at other times?

    Two doors up from me had some nice illegal stuff going off last night.

  23. I live in San Francisco county CA. I don’t know the specific laws around here. However I do know that most of the neighboring counties are covered in dry grass. We’ve already had to battle massive fires in So. Cal. and in nearby Santa Cruz county this year. So if Sonoma or Marin counties want to ban the private use of fireworks i’m not going to complain.

    Granted my city does a pretty spectacular display that runs simultaneously and in unison on three different barges in choices spots in the bay. It’s a sight to see when the fog doesn’t cover the show.


  24. How do they define sparklers in Maine?

    In Connecticut only “sparklers” are legal, but they mean more than just the little sticks you hold. Basically any of those fireworks that stay on the ground and shoot sparks into the air are OK and are sold in all the stores around here.

    And the police look the other way in most towns too. We go out to one of the more rural towns and pretty much everyone is shooting off rockets and mortars in their back yards. Some professional grade too…

  25. Live free or die, eh?

    From the bottom of the PDF:
    Permissible fireworks may ONLY be sold by licensed dealers at approved locations and may not be sold to, used by, or possessed by any person under the age of 21.

  26. As a native Texan I can attest that the state’s reputation for independent and free-wheeling attitudes is alive and well and being crushed by the organs of the state.

    In the last 20-30 years (since my public school days) all of the incorporated (i.e. property taxing) cities have passed “saftey” restrictions on fireworks usage, mostly in the form of absolute bans on sales & usage. At the same time, the police cannot be everywhere, so the use of fireworks is still quite popular. The biggest hassle in major metropolitan areas (like Dallas/Fort Worth where I live in Tarrant County), you have to drive to areas not incorporated as cities, where only County & State law apply, to find fireworks stands selling at retail.

    The illiberal nannies and the conservo-fascists have failed to completely stamp out our fun, but they keep trying.

  27. hah! the utah cops used to do the same thing to beer buyers who would drive across the wyo border to evanston. they’d cruise through, take license numbers, then wait on the utah side.

    Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents used to do the same thing, staking out Dixie and Eagle liquor in Georgetown, where Virginians used to come to buy in quantity because the booze was so much cheaper than in Virginia (because of Virginia’s exorbitant taxes). The agents would take down the license plates of Virginians who looked like they were importanting more than the legal limit (one gallon, IIRC) into the Commonwealth, then radio the numbers to cops waiting on the Virginia side of Key Bridge.

    This got stopped in a real hurry when D.C. passed a law (around 1978, again, IIRC) making what the agents were doing a felony. I don’t know how constitutional that is, but I think New Hampshire ought to try it.

  28. Despite the severe fire danger, several of my neighbors fired off some impressive displays of illegal and not safe nor sane fireworks.

    We can see a dozen fireworks displays from our place but they are very far away (even with binoculars) and the sound is more like distant thunder than war games, so it was kind of cool to have something close by.

    Held my breath for a moment, but no fires.

  29. Congrats to all you fireworks fanatics and law breakers for celebrating America’s independence by sending a big wad of cash over to a communist led country.

    Let freedom ring baby!

  30. Happy Independence Day, everyone!

    Here is the true meaning of the holiday:

    It’s one of my faves on my YouTube page:

    Feel free to subscribe so that you’ll be notified whenever I add a vid.

  31. We used to have a relatively free-market in fireworks here in Colorado, and pretty lax enforcement on what was proscribed-no more. So now we have to drive up to Wyoming to buy em.

  32. It’s wide open in Oklahoma City! I’ve never seen so many fireworks in all my life. Just south of here in Mustang,OK everyone goes to the local park and sets them off. There were at LEAST 50 fireworks going off at any one time for several hours. Big ones too.

  33. On the other hand, sparklers make very good fuses for homemade thermite mixtures…

    So I’m not the only one. That’s good to know.

  34. So I’m not the only one. That’s good to know.

    You’d be shocked just how much you’re not. I certainly was. A straight-laced Republican son-of-a-colonel friend of mine from college, whose about the last person you’d envision doing anything outside the box regaled me of a tale of him melting things down with some thermite he cooked up. As other people heard the tale, they chimed in with their own experiences with the wonders of powdered aluminium. And there I was thinking I was the only deviant pyromaniac in my group of friends; how foolish I was.

    The Internet is a wonderful thing, it seems.

  35. I prefer gunpowder, myself. Things that I make that go BOOM are great. Fuses are a pain in the ass, so sparklers are good, but somewhat dangerous as they throw sparks. You don’t want 2 tablespoons of gunpowder going off before you want it to.

  36. the Fourth of July “…ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”

    It will be… and the state will have the exclusive rights to celebrate it for us. Please stand behind the yellow line… this is public property, you can’t be here.

  37. New Orleans before the storm was a war zone on th 4th- People shooting mortors on the street in the inner city. After Katrinia the cops clamped down- I understand becuase of the increased fire risk. A simple libertarian rule for fireworks would be that if your fire work leaves your property that is a problem.

  38. With a little imagination and duck tape you can modify pathetic legal explosives into serious business.

    Me and my buddy (in his hick hometown) wired up a bunch of those lame piccolos into a huge bomb and made a nice crater in his yard.

  39. If you haven’t been in Dublin (Ireland) on Halloween, you ain’t seen nothing in the way of private fireworks! My wife and I went to a friend’s house on a council estate a few years ago for Halloween. The local kids build bonfire piles that are easily 20′ tall with pallets, tires, furniture, you name it. They collect the stuff for weeks before the night. All the locals drive up to the north and buy silly amounts of fireworks for the night. Yeah, they sell fireworks in the north where the troubles are but not in the ROI, go figure. Much alcohol is consumed, a few people get burned, good fun is had by most.

  40. I think there’s a pretty compelling public interest in regulating fireworks in arid, easily combustible parts of the country. Maine, not so much maybe.

    I once had the distinct pleasure of dodging, then stomping out an errant firework in Tucson. I nearly fell off the roof in the process. Which really put a dent in my buzz.

    Be safe, kids…

  41. So, when you say “caps,” are you talking about the “in yo ass” variety?

  42. Plenty of fireworks on Cape Cod this year. As usual.

    Contrary to the stereotype, the birthplace of the Revolution takes July 4th very seriously. It’s tough not to, since we’re constantly surrounded by Revolutionary War history and imagery.

  43. “Caps” should refer to the little paper satches filled with two substances. When they meet with enough force, usually by throwing the satche on the ground, the produce a sound not much louder than your typical cap-gun. (Of course, you can also set them off by snapping them between your fingers.)

    I’ve been out of MA for about 10 years but I remember the staties there doing the same thing along our border with NH when I was growing up. Especially up by Hampton Beach where there was a fireworks shop right on the state line.

  44. We spent the weekend at the sister’s house on Galveston island – she waited till we were on the island before calling me and asking if we were bringing fireworks – I say no, I told the (firework fanatic) husband that they’re illegal on Galveston Island and you wouldn’t appreciate him bringing any. Oh no! she says. We want to set them off on the beach with the kids!

    So we drive over the San Luis pass to the mainland and spend about 7 times what you normally spend to get good fireworks, and it cost four dollars in tolls to do it.

    And there were no cops anywhere in sight. Just a long stream of cars coming from Galveston, going over the pass, parking (the fireworks stand was like 500 feet from the toll booth), loading up on some serious bigass fireworks, and then turning right around.

    Wonderful multiple displays of fireworks up and down the beach that night. Children played with sparklers, no digits or extremities lost. No sign of cops anywhere.

    Husband bitched all weekend about the loads of fireworks we left behind in Houston, where the cops do most certainly do show up if they get reports of fireworks going off (ask me how I know).

  45. Anyone who tries to prevent people from using fireworks on the 4th of July is a flaming asshole (and probably hates America and wants the terrorists to win.)

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