Approaching the Wholesale Fireworks outlet near the Wyoming-Colorado state line south of Laramie just past sunset Sunday, one could get the impression that the Fourth of July had arrived early.
Colorful bursts from mortar shells and Roman candles lit the sky while fountains of sparks illuminated the ground. The smoke from spent fireworks helped keep the mosquitos at bay amid a beautiful cacophony of booms and whistles.
Down in a field south of the main fireworks stand, Joshua Riffee watched with a huge grin as his teenage sons and some of their friends set off various pyrotechnics.
It was good family fun and “controlled chaos,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
Let The People Have Their Fun
Wholesale Fireworks is one of the largest outlets in the region, general manager Skyler Krehbiel told Cowboy State Daily. The location south of Laramie is particularly popular with folks from Colorado, where fireworks are severely restricted.
However, the company’s owner and managers noticed a problem. Loyal customers on both sides of the state line were spending their hard-earned money on products they might not get to fully enjoy.
Along with the restrictions in Colorado, many communities in Wyoming also have restrictions on setting off private fireworks in town, Krehbiel said.
So, Wholesale Fireworks came up with a simple, yet brilliant, idea. Why not just let the public go onto several acres of private land surrounding the stand and get a full bang for their buck setting off the fireworks they just bought?
The “shoot-off” started a few years ago, and has been a huge hit, he said.
“We believe you should be able to shoot off everything you buy, and many of the products we offer aren’t offered in Colorado anymore,” he said.
It’s turned into a full-blown party atmosphere, Krehbiel said, as word spread and more people started showing up. The shoot-off usually runs for a few days prior to the Fourth, then hits its zenith on the big day. Customers are allowed to fire off fireworks to their hearts’ content from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m.
Local firefighters and emergency first responders are on scene.
“We want people to have fun, but we want to make sure everybody stays safe,” Krehbiel said.
Local food trucks also show up so revelers can get some grub, he added.
A Taste Of The Days Of Yore
Out in the field, Riffee said his family is grateful that Wholesale Fireworks provides space for some good old-fashioned noisy, flashy American fun. They’ve been coming for the past few years, and plan to keep up the tradition.
He recalled the days of his youth and such shenanigans as launching firecrackers with wrist rockets and bottle rockets whizzing all over the neighborhood.
The shoot-offs are much safer and better controlled than that was, but still get plenty wild, he said.
“It gets really busy and loud on the Fourth,” he said. “It gets a little Wyoming out here.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.