How 2020 Became the Summer of Fireworks

Cities across the country are seeing (and hearing) an increase in fireworks

If you're hearing a lot of fireworks these days, you're not alone.
Kabir Bakie/Creative Commons

If you live in a city, particularly New York, you might think you’re hearing a lot more fireworks these days than usual. While the concept of, shall we say, unofficial July 4th fireworks displays is nothing new, this year feels different — and the explosions have kicked off far earlier than usual. So, what’s going on? Are the fireworks really more numerous than previous years, or are city dwellers engaged in a shared auditory delusion?

Spoiler alert: you’re not hearing things. A new article by Jeff Friedrich at Slate notes that complaints about unsanctioned fireworks displays are up across the country. Friedrich cites reports from around the country of increased noise complaints related to fireworks, as well as a sharp increase in the sales of fireworks. What’s the reason behind this? You could probably figure that one out: the pandemic.

It’s the way that the pandemic connects with the uptick in fireworks sales that proves most interesting, however. Friedrich writes that the pandemic’s effects on the fireworks industry has led to some interesting shifts in what’s available to consumers:

Professional fireworks display companies, the kind that produce the shows you see at ballparks, festivals, and Disney World, make at least 75 percent of their annual revenue from July 4 shows, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. This year, that display business has been devastated. Some of the display companies also operate retail stores, so by pivoting their focus and resources to retail sales, they can try to mitigate their losses.

All of which means that people visiting fireworks stores might well see things on sale there that they’ve never seen before. And if you’re curious about a firework, that’s inevitably going to lead to one place — and it’s a noisy one.

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