Making a bang is the reason for the season.
The Founding Fathers did that back in 1776 when they spilled the tea, so to speak, on their desire to break off from the Brits and declare their independence. Today, we symbolize that seismic shockwave across the geopolitical landscape with firecrackers and artillery shells.
Every year around this time, fireworks stands pop up all over Pulaski County. U.S. 27 is lined with tents full of colorful packages containing entertaining explosives. City of Somerset Clerk Nick Bradley said that in the city alone, there are eight such fireworks stands set up ready to help Pulaskians have a blast this Independence Day.
For many of them, it's almost like having a permanent brick-and-mortar business -- except one that closes up shop and disappears for most of the year. Leroy Owens has a tent set up in front of the Briar Bowl Lanes on South U.S. 27. He said he's "been here about 15 years," always coming back to the same spot, and sees good business.
"I've got customers who come back every year," he said, "They know where to find me."
Owens is largely retired and sells fireworks as a seasonal side business, partly because it's a good way to make money, and partly because fireworks are just fun, a sentiment shared by many in this area, he noted.
"They're real popular around here," said Owens. "You get to talk to people."
And, "every now and then," set something off as well, he added with a laugh.
Parker Family Fireworks has one of the larger tents in the area set up at the Somerset Plaza on North U.S. 27, near Big Lots. This operation has stands in numerous Kentucky communities, like Danville, Corbin, Glasgow, and Shelbyville, and is in its ninth year in Somerset, underneath a 40-foot-by-80-foot tent.
"We've got a little bit of everything," said operator Nicole Royal.
Though it's got one of the prime locations on the north end of town, said business comes in from "both sides" each year, with regular customers. The stand used to be across the highway on the east side of U.S. 27 for eight years, but recently moved over to the wide expanse of the the plaza parking lot.
"We love the people here, that's for sure," she said. "It's the same faces, and we get a lot of new people as well, but definitely a lot of return customers."
The demand for fireworks starts well before July 4. Parker Family came in around June 21, and stay set up for about two weeks before the holiday, then shut down a couple of days after it. A lot of people come and get their fireworks well in advance of Independence Day, so it pays to be an early bird (an early bald eagle?).
"They'll come in a couple times a week, and they stock up," said Royal. "They stock it up in the corner of the house, and keep coming in and buying stuff until they've got enough stuff for their show."
But not everybody waits -- some people set their fireworks off even in June, then come back for more, she noted. That's not necessarily the norm, though.
"The vast majority of people like to get their fireworks and have a big show on the fourth," she said.
As for what people like the best, both fireworks vendors agreed -- things that go up in the air.
"The artillery shells and stuff," said Owens. "Things that make pretty colors."
Added Royal, "I'm thinking the 500-gram heavyweights, and definitely the artillery shells, the big ones like the Exterminators and Excaliburs that go up about 250 feet in the air, and about 250 feet wide. They're absolutely beautiful."
Younger fans enjoy simpler, safer fare like firecrackers and sparklers, meanwhile.
In the same spirit of liberty that the signers of the Declaration of Independence championed, doing away with restrictive laws has allowed business to boom. In 2011, Kentucky passed House Bill 333, making it legal to sell aerial devices like Roman candles and bottle rockets in the state. Now that fireworks fans don't have to drive across state lines to get the good stuff, suddenly the roadways are a lot more full of tents.
"When they made it legal, there's more competition now than there used to be," said Owens. "We went from about five fireworks stands to 20."