Fireworks: From sparklers to Wyoming contraband

Elizabeth Severy
For a bang-up Fourth of July, stock up in Wyoming.

Forget hiking, biking, kayaking and all other adrenaline-filled sports this Fourth of July. All the excitement you’ll need is a good dose of fireworks. To get you prepped for the party, here’s a rundown on the gear you’ll need for a bang-up holiday.

First and foremost is the city of Aspen’s annual Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza. Lighting up the sky over Aspen Mountain, this monstrous display is always a hit. But if the kids (both big and little) don’t get enough from the big show, there are a variety of smaller, more reasonable choices for your back yard barbecue.Although anything that explodes or leaves the ground is illegal in Colorado, what you’re allowed to have are poppers, smoke bombs, caps for cap guns, and sparklers. But you might have a hard time finding them in Aspen – City Market and the fire marshal have a mutual agreement not to sell them. Hey, even sparklers burn at 1,200 to 1,500 degrees, the fire marshal says.But for those in search of a bigger, better blast, legal or not, fireworks dealers in Wyoming carry it all, from conservative pop-bottle rockets to miniature versions of the fireworks blasted over Aspen Mountain. The choice is yours – if you’re caught using any of these, you’ll be ticketed and fined by local authorities, and you can kiss your pyrotechnic stash goodbye.

But if you’re willing to head north for the bigger boomers, or even if you’re just curious, here’s the scoop: A standard Whistling Moon Traveler ($8 a gross) and its larger relative, the Dixie Whistler, are great, basic pop-bottle rockets. They take off with a strong whistle and complete their flight with a satisfying report.Special occasions require more than one explosion, however, and the Black Cat Missiles Base 100 Shots delivers by firing flaming balls 50 feet into the air. It costs about $9 and has earned the nickname the “Hundred Gun Salute” by fireworks fan and children’s ski instructor Rich Severy.

Because the Hundred Gun Salute’s is mostly for the ears, it is equally spectacular day or night. It takes several minutes for the firecracker to complete its rounds, and the 100 consecutive explosions are loud enough to warrant earplugs. The larger, more visual fireworks are expensive ($70 for one mini-firework cannon) and large (up to 4 feet tall). A smaller option is the Kaleidoscope Kandle, a handheld firecracker that shoots colored fireballs some 200 feet. It’s most impressive in the dark, providing plenty of fanfare for most fireworks freaks.If the Kandle’s too hot to handle, then let the experts do the work and watch the big show on Ajax.