Austinites share their favorite fireworks, past and present

3:07 p.m Thursday, June 29, 2017 Things to Do

July 4 doth approach and to lightly paraphrase the words of the Val-U Mart owner on the “Summer of 4’2”” episode of the Simpsons, we the people to love to celebrate the independence of our nation by blowing up a small part of it.

I asked friends and colleagues to tell me what fireworks they currently loved and to share some fond memories of blowing things up. This is what they told me.

As we all know, Austin law forbids the use of most fireworks without a permit with the exception of snakes, glowWorms, smoke devices, wire sparklers and trick noisemakers. Check here for the full list.

But Texas is very large indeed.

There was a hearty endorsement for the city-legal ones, such as multicolored sparklerssnakes and colored smoke bombs. “They’re a nice non-threatening, several beers in entertainment that looks nice on Instagram,” one woman said. 

(Then again, this person also added “One year (as a kid in Houston) we had what were essentially roman candles with a paratrooper doll inside that would shoot up when you set it off. It was incredibly poor planning that nearly set a tree on fire.”)

Many folks were fond of Ground Bloom Flowers, which are not even close to legal in the city. As a pal noted, “they are pretty, and crazy dangerous when you think about what’s happening.”

Everyone loves tanks.

Also, the Poopy Puppy is apparently a thing.

Many Austinites had excellent stories of a time when the world was younger and a little more lawless. Of course, most of them are musicians.

Bill Anderson of the bands ChurchwoodPoison 13, and Meat Purveyors, among others: “When Poison 13 was on a trip to California once in the mid-80s, someone gave us a bag of M-80s and high-quality bottle rockets, which we brought to Woodshock '85, out at the Hurlbut Ranch, which has a sinkhole almost exactly like a Hamilton Pool but you approach from the top, by the waterfall. Later that moonless night, Chris Gates and I went back with a few other people and started lighting M-80s and throwing them over the side. They proved to be VERY powerful. The first one I threw too soon and it went underwater and blew up like a depth charge. Then I started holding them a little longer and got them to explode right over the water, blinding us with the flash and practically deafening us as the blast echoed in the giant stone bowl. We had about thirty of them, so that kept us vastly entertained for at least an hour.”

Cherbus guitarist Kevin Whitley: “We had to have m-80s, bottle rockets, and Roman candles. We would use the tubes from vacuum cleaners as guns to shoot the bottle rockets and Roman candles at each other. And tape the M-80s to model planes, tanks, ships, and plastic army men. One time we set the backyard on fire and we're so scared of getting in trouble that we threw our bodies on the fire and rolled around to put it out. Didn't get in trouble, ruined some clothes, got mildly burned, and most importantly - kept playing.”

Texas native journalist Bret McCabe: “I feel my attitude toward/use of fireworks was entirely formed by my native Texas, which, at least among my kin and immediate circle of friends, kinda thought of fireworks as firearms with training wheels. I was a bit more into the projectiles—bottle rockets, Roman candles—because, of course, those could be pointed and fired at each other. Didn't care too much for the cones and fountains that launched explodey colors into the air. Come high school, the mid 1980s, you quickly learn to stash the fireworks in the trunk before heading back to town, because somebody's inevitably gonna use the cigarette lighter to light a small pack of firecrackers and toss it on the floorboard at your feet.”

Musician/booker Ish Archbold of Coma in Algiers, many more bands: “When I was a kid I used to make ‘improved’ fireworks by mixing chemicals, making fuses, rigging batteries to explode. I have always been a fan of the homemade firework though i fully acknowledge how stupid and insane such an enterprise is.”

What are some of YOUR favorites? Leave them in the comments below.

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