The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, July 03, 1997, Summer Edition, Page 4, Image 4

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Fireworks laws lure many Nebraskans to Miss(
By Jeff Randall
Senior Editor
For Tim Kessler, Independence Day
means more than the birth of a nation, bar
becues and parades.
It means blowing things up.
Like many Americans, Kessler has
lived for years with the belief that the
Fourth of July just isn’t the Fourth of July
without fireworks. And while many
Americans are content to sit back and
watch others’ launch pyrotechnic displays,
Kessler, a junior English major, would
rather celebrate America’s birthday with
his own show of explosives.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve just loved
the whole tradition of fireworks,” he said.
“It’s hard to imagine the Fourth of July
without them.”
But for Kessler and the many other
Nebraskans who share his viewpoint, this
state’s fireworks laws are too restrictive.
And so, like many other Nebraskans,
Kessler has added a trip across the border
to Missouri - a state with less stringent
fireworks laws — to his list of
Independence Day traditions.
“Every year, it’s like you have to have a
parade, a picnic and a trip to Rock Port,” he
said. “I’ve been going for the last five
years, and I don’t plan to stop anytime
Rock Port, Mo., is considered by many
to be a fireworks Mecca of sorts. Home to
over a dozen fireworks stores - some in
buildings, others in tents that would rival
circuses, Rock Port is a small town that
gets far more visitors than usual at this
time every year.
“We’re always busy,” said Richard
Fentiman, a salesman at the Fireworks
Emporium in Rock Port. “We’re only open
for a month or so each year, though, so
that’s the way we like it.”
Fentiman, who has worked for one year
at the Fireworks Emporium, but has
worked at other fireworks stores “for too
many years to count,” said the annual emi
gration of Nebraskans and Iowans to
Missouri accounts for most of Rock Port’s
“Nearly everybody is from out-state,”
he said. “There’s no way of knowing for
sure, but I’d say at least 80 percent - maybe
90 percent — are from outside Missouri.
“I think yesterday we had one woman
who came from St. Joseph. I guess she was
one of the rare locals who stop by.”
Fentiman said he understood his cus
tomers’ desire to go fireworks hunting,
even if their home states prohibit it.
“It gives adults a chance to become
kids again,” he said. “I can’t tell you how
many people I’ve heard say that their two
favorite holidays are Christmas and the
Fourth of July.
“It’s a tradition that’s been passed from
one generation to the next, and there are a
lot of people who think more of that than
some fireworks restrictions.”
Laws that prohibit fireworks are most
ly the result of people who have used the
products irresponsibly in the past,
Fentiman said, and that shouldn’t keep
everyone from using them.
“There are people who drive too fast,
but we don’t ban cars,” he said. “I think we
should give people a little more credit,
maybe believe that they have common
“If you use common sense, fireworks
are no more dangerous than anything else.”
But no matter what Fentiman and other
fireworks supporters think, Nebraska’s
laws still prohibit large firecrackers and -
the most popular across-the-border pur
chase - bottle rockets. And the Nebraska
State Patrol is enforcing those laws with
road blocks at the state borders.
“We’re supposed to stop Nebraska res
idents from bringing anything they should
n’t have into the state - that includes fire
works,” said Lt. Mike Streeter, a state
patrol officer.
Streeter said people who do attempt to
bring illegal fireworks into Nebraska
would have any illegal products confiscat
ed and would also receive a fine. The
amount of the fine is left up to the county
courts, Streeter said.
Despite road blocks and fines, though,
several Nebraskans do manage to make
their way back home with full cargo - bot
tle rockets and all.
And after that, enforcement of fire
works laws are left to local police.
In Lincoln, the list of permissible fire
works includes sparklers, fountains and
aerial shells with charges meant to be seen
but not heard. Lincoln’s city ordinances
also set specific times
can be used - between
on July 3 and 8 a.m. anc
- and allow for the use
works only on private p
Violation of these
confiscation of the f
some cases - a citation.
“Ultimately, the of
use their judgment ii
stop,” Lincoln Police 5
“If an officer sees s
lady fingers into the
something has to be do
But even with th«
because of it - Kessh
Nebraskans will contii
fireworks and their
“I guess it’s my on
to be an outlaw,” Kessl
kind of a ‘Beavis and B
“I think I’m a pro
mature guy, but I stil
lighting the wick and
don’t find out - even if