Firework stands: More than just sparks and puffs of smoke

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Firework stands have popped up over the weekend in Manhattan and can sell fireworks until midnight on Thursday. Seventeen different businesses and organizations sold fireworks this year in the hopes of big sales for their year-round expenses. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Manhattan has no shortage of pyrotechnics this week. Currently, Manhattan is home to 17 firework stands, each filled with mountains of fireworks ranging from smoke bombs to artillery shells in advance of Independence Day.

Some of those stands are for-profit, some are for school fundraisers and some are for charities for the betterment of the community — all have their reasons for selling fireworks during the holiday season.

Brandon Ratzloff and his mother Sandy Ratzloff started their family business, Celebration Fireworks, 12 years ago. Brandon became interested in fireworks when he took on the job of manning a firework stand for the first time after returning to Kansas from a Disney internship in Florida.

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Owner of Celebration Fireworks Brandon Ratzloff and associate Diana Guercio stand in their main tent. Ratzloff and his mother personally run the stand. Seventeen different businesses and organizations sold fireworks this year in the hopes of big sales for their year-round expenses. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

“I love fireworks, and the whole idea was near and dear to my heart, [so] I found an ad in a newspaper to run a local tent,” Brandon said. “After a couple of years of trying that I asked myself, ‘Why don’t we take this on?'”

Over time, Brandon and his mother expanded their business and now have multiple locations in and outside of Manhattan, but they started right in the Little Apple.

This year, the Celebration Fireworks stand on the corner of Kimball Avenues and Tuttle Creek Boulevard is run by a local family. Joe Heckman said it began as a fundraiser four years ago, but now it is a good way for his kids to make some pocket change.

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Christina Heckman, daughter to Joe Heckman, helps by running the cash register for their stand. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

His family started working firework stands for fundraising in their church community, but since a friend of Heckman stopped working the Celebration Fireworks stand on the same corner, he took it over this year with the help from his children.

Heckman’s daughter, Christina Heckman, works the cash register while his other children would help out around the stand during the week of Fourth of July.

Another firework stand in Manhattan is the Bikers Against Child Abuse fundraiser stand on Third Street, where Manhattan’s Native Stone chapter use the pyro-filled holiday to fund their chapter activities year-round.

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Members of the Bikers Against Child Abuse Manhattan Native Stone Chapter (from left to right) Mo, Mikey P., Scooter, Snuffy, Skully and Freebird stand in front of the display situated next to the cash register at their fireworks stand. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

BACA chapter president Snuffy and chapter security Mikey P. have helped run the stand with the rest of the 33-member chapter for the last four years.

Snuffy and Mikey P. talked about the mission behind BACA and how it helps the local community by providing a safe space for children experiencing violence and or abuse.

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Bikers Against Child Abuse Manhattan Native Stone Chapter president, Snuffy (left), and chapter security Mikey P. (right) stand with their bikes outside of their yearly firework stand. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Snuffy said was previously enlisted to the military, and once he returned to civilian life, he wanted an organization to ride with. He then saw a picture of one of his friends in a leather vest, or a “cut,” and asked him what organization he was involved in. His friend then told him about BACA.

“[He asked] who do you ride with?” Snuffy said. “And he said, ‘I ride with BACA,’ and I said, ‘Who’s BACA?’ And he told me to watch this 14-minute video. I did, and as soon as I did, I knew this is exactly what I wanted to do and who I wanted to ride with.”

The fireworks stand operated by the Native Stone chapter generates funds for chapter operations and the funds necessary for the children involved in the Manhattan chapter.

“We have a lot of returning customers and a lot of folks that are here to support the cause, and they’re coming back [because] they know what 100 percent of their money goes to,” Snuffy said. “It all goes back to the kids.”

No matter if buying fireworks is for fun or for a cause, there is no shortage of them in Manhattan this year. Fireworks began selling in Manhattan on Monday and will conclude at midnight on the Fourth of July, but elsewhere Riley County, sales are permitted to continue until midnight next Tuesday.

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