Everything old is new again for Jim and Lorrie Byerly, who have returned to a family tradition: selling fireworks in Boise.
"I sold fireworks 24 years ago for a decade and just came back this year," said Jim.
The Byerlys sat in lawn chairs and ate sandwiches and chips on paper plates next to their Fat City Fireworks tent as nearby State Street traffic whizzed by. The Dalmatian belonging to their grandson, Austin, tried to steal a bite of sandwich. Austin himself disappeared into the Byerly’s trailer next to the tent and came out with a chocolate treat (for dessert).
“When the kids were young, it helped pay for school,” said Lorrie. “We had a kid with special disabilities. Most people who run the stands have kids and they need to pick up the extra money.”
Jim grew up in Indiana where fireworks were banned, but Lorrie grew up in fireworks-friendly California.
“People can go down to Mexico and get whatever they want,” said Lorrie, adding that you can’t stop people from using fireworks; you can only teach them how to be safe with them. She told Boise Weekly that training has proved helpful.
“It sure stayed with me,” she said. “I enjoy fireworks but I’m pretty safety conscious about it. You always have to worry. If it goes off the ground, it could be dangerous.”
When her kids were little, she made sure they stayed a safe distance from the fireworks and didn’t approach them right after they detonated.
Lorrie said she has noticed that kids often have more to do with the danger surrounding fireworks than the fireworks themselves.
“Kids modify what is legal to what is illegal,” she said, saying that sometimes traditional fireworks are taken apart and rigged for bigger explosions.
Inside the Byerly’s fireworks tent, it looked like a miniature carnival with shiny red fabric hanging off the tables like theater curtains. Jim explained the art of displaying fireworks.
“I set it up and my wife comes in and makes it look good,” Jim said, chuckling.
The most popular fireworks in the Byerly’s tent are the big value packs of fountain fireworks. They have names like Family First, Star Fantasy and Pyro Station. Beyond that, Jim said boys are usually partial to the "tanks" while girls are drawn to reusable backpacks full of colorful fireworks goodies. Sparklers are a universal favorite, but Lorrie pointed out their dark side.
“Everyone thinks they’re safe but kids are most likely to be burned by them,” Lorrie said.
Meanwhile, grandson Austin is an aspiring fireworks salesman himself.
“He’s 8 going on 16,” said Jim. “He wants to help sell the fireworks, but you have to be 18 to do it.”
Fourth of July fireworks may drive firemen crazy, but as long as they’re legal, Lorrie thinks the issue remains a matter of choice.
“Some people don’t like them and some people do,” she said.
- Kelsey Crow
- Jim and Lorrie Byerly are joined by grandson Austin and "Spot"