By Terry McCormick

Portland Leader

As July 4 approaches, a hot item that literally explodes to the forefront of the celebration is fireworks.

And in Portland, the fireworks business continues to grow with a number of fireworks tents selling everything from bottle rockets to sparklers.

Fireworks are legal to shoot inside the city limits of Portland from June 20 through July 5. The fees collected by the city from those who set up fireworks tents inside the city goes to fund the annual fireworks show at the Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival in May.

And with the Fourth of July falling on Thursday, in essence, making for a long weekend, there figures to be plenty of fireworks activities well beyond just Thursday night.

"The Fourth of July falls on a Thursday, and it's so close to the weekend, I think you'll find a lot of folks doing their stuff that weekend. But there is no day like the Fourth of July. It's always the busiest day, no matter what day of the week it falls on," said Jody McDowell, who along with Joey Rush has operated Bad Boy Fireworks beside Captain Video for years in Portland.

McDowell and Rush, both police officers, have been in the fireworks business for quite a while - 32 years in McDowell's case as he began at the age of 14.

He said that with the weekend following the Fourth that he expects a lot of sales to take place on the July 5, but that it is a risk, because sometimes the fireworks supply runs dry.

"I have a feeling we'll have a big fifth of July this year, because people will be buying for the weekend, but you never know," McDowell said. "The thing I always tell people is that's a gamble you take. When you think, 'I'm going to wait and buy on the fifth or whatever,' and last year was a good example of it, on the Fourth of July all of these tents were so busy and sold out that they had nothing left to sell on the fifth. That happens sometimes. A lot of people think they'll wait until the fifth and get a discount

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on it, but we had nothing left to sell on it. It was so busy on the Fourth, that (after that) they get gotten down to buying junk, just the stuff that was left."

While Bad Boy Fireworks is the old hand in the business, right down the street on Highway 109, a couple of newcomers have jumped into the fireworks business this summer at Surefire Fireworks.

"This is our first year, and we're doing pretty well so far. It's pretty much here and there," said Scotty Edmondson, who is in business with his cousin Harry Swift at Surefire.

Their site is rented from Portland Auto, which is right next-door on the property, and Edmondson said sales have been pretty good, especially for the first time.

"This is our first year of actually doing it. It was actually my cousin's decision. He said, 'Let's try something new.' We're trying to get our feet wet in it. We've made quite a bit. I didn't think we'd make as much as we have," Edmondson said.

The recent run of wet weather has not put a damper on fireworks sales. In fact, it is just the opposite.

"Ironically whenever it rains, it seems like more customers come in," Edmondson said.

McDowell said that the wet weather usually doesn't harm sales nearly as much as extremely dry conditions.

"The wet weather definitely will not hurt it like the dry weather will. When it's dry, you can forget it. People will not buy. They are scared to death of setting something on fire," he said.

And while fireworks sales will be wrapping up after this week, those who run the stands enjoy getting to meet and greet and make a little money in the process.

"We enjoy it. It is amazing the amount of people we get to see from year to year," McDowell said. "There will be thousands of people, it seems like that we see come through here. Some people we see we never see until his time of year, and then we won't see them until this time again next year."

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