Casey Junkins

Twenty-two hours.

That’s how long those who choose to shoot fireworks in Pierre on Friday or Saturday evening will have to clean up their mess, according to city leaders.

For what is believed to be the first time in several decades, officials with the city of Pierre will allow fireworks on their side of the Missouri River. They will be permitted from 10 a.m. to midnight on both July 3 and July 4, on private property.

“Have some kind of fire protection — a fire extinguisher, garden hoses, a couple buckets of water, so any issue can be dealt with quickly,” Pierre City Commissioner Jim Mehlhaff advised those planning to participate during last week’s meeting.

For decades on Fourth of July, Pierre residents have needed to cross the river to participate in fireworks. Many have gathered at the river’s edge to watch the Independence Day fireworks take place in Fort Pierre. Now, those in Pierre will get to do their own shows.

For me, some of my best childhood memories are of Fourth of July fireworks. We lived in a relatively rural area of eastern Ohio where a lot of people did their own fireworks.

Early on, Mom and Dad would only let me have the small things that didn’t do a whole lot. These consisted of sparklers, party poppers and “snakes,” which were little black pellets that would start to grow in a snake-like fashion upon being lit.

While that was fun and all, I couldn’t wait to advance to the “real” fireworks.

One year, I remember either Mom or Dad getting some bottle rockets. Mom and I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to shoot them over the creek that ran near our house without getting hurt. I remember it being quite fun, but it seemed like we ran out of them rather quickly.

Another year, as I was getting a little older, I decided to get creative. Against the advice on the package which states something to the effect of, “use this only in your hand,” I took two packages of sparklers and stuck the wire end of each of them into the ground.

“It’s gonna be great,” or something to that degree, I’m sure I told my befuddled parents.

Try as we might, with both matches and a cigarette lighter, these darned sparklers just did not want to light.

Never fear with Dad around.

“I’ll light them with a blow torch,” he declared.

Sure enough, Dad went into our basement and came back out with said blow torch. After setting it up, he turned on each sparkler with the glowing flame of that torch.

What an awesome sight!

Then one year, I got these little tanks. Upon lighting the fuse at the rear of the tank (while being sure to place it on a smooth and level surface), it would move forward for a certain distance before discharging its cannon with both sparks and a loud “pop.”

Once I got to my teenage years, the summer of 1992 saw me spend the Fourth with some friends. All I remember is having a great time depleting package after package of firecrackers and “Jumping Jacks,” while watching those a few years older than me shoot “Roman Candles” into the sky.

Upon turning 21 in 1999, a few adult beverages became part of my Fourth of July celebration. Fortunately, I allowed others to be in charge of the fireworks that year.

Since then, I’ve primarily watched professionals perform the fireworks. For several years, I worked in Wheeling, West Virginia, which is right along the Ohio River. There, one can be in three different states (Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania) in about 15 minutes by speeding through on Interstate 70.

Every year, the city would shoot fireworks from a boat in the river. Thousands would come from miles around to enjoy the show.

Fireworks can be awesome … as long as you maintain a safe distance and observe basic precautions. I encourage those planning to celebrate by doing their own fireworks to do so respectfully and safely.

Happy birthday, America!

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