More Bang for Your Buck: The Best Fireworks to Buy This 4th of July
Growing up in Winner, South Dakota, the 4th of July was the one day I looked forward to every single year. My sister, Heather, and I would set out all the fireworks we bought in our garage, like a giant buffet of American pride. This usually took us about two to three hours to do because of the large number of colorful explosives we would buy for the holiday. By the time we would have our few-hundred-dollar display ready, it was almost sunset. We would turn on our water hydrant and have the hose ready to go (safety first, ya know) and the show would start. Heather and I would each take turns setting our fireworks out on the road and my dad would light them for us.
When we were younger, we never knew which fireworks were going to be the best, we only liked the art on the side of the box. That was the only requirement for finding the best. Funny enough, Heather and I steered clear of ANY FIREWORKS involving the color pink because we hated that color. Now that I’m older and have to learn how to budget, I started to wonder what the best fireworks are for show and price. I made a phone call to one of our family friends who I believe is an expert in fireworks. He has extensive knowledge about fireworks, not only as a fireman but also working with them for several years. I asked if he could tell me everything he knows about fireworks. After an informative phone call, these are my picks for the best fireworks! These choices are based on the type of firework and the pyrotechnic that is the best bang for your buck.
Types of Fireworks: What’s the Best One?
There are several different types of fireworks, from the Roman Candles to Heavy Cakes, but what’s the difference between each type of firework, and what makes a firework unique compared to the rest? Here’s what you need to know:
Sparklers are handheld fireworks on a metal stick that emits sparks when lit. They can change colors from red to blue, from blue to green, or they can stay a constant color. This makes sparklers a huge hit with any age group, especially with kids! They can be part of the fun and not feel left out.
Hanna's Pick: Classic Electric Sparklers
This pick was a no-brainer for me. These sparklers were our childhood and they were one of the few things we bought every year. From what I could find, these aren't made anymore but they were the best sparkler ever! These would be in the price range of $5 to $10, depending on if you bought the giant variety pack like we did. Overall a great choice!
Rockets are tubes made out of paper that are attached to a guiding stick. This stick is usually stuck into the ground before you light it. Once lit, a rocket can travel up to 75 feet in the air! A rocket can produce certain effects, such as a loud bang (report), color, or a whistle. The most common kinds of rockets are skyrockets, bottle rockets, and missiles.
Hanna's Pick: Black Cat No. 4 Rocket
If I had to go with a rocket, I would choose the Black Cat No. 4 Rocket. These to me are so cool! There are six different rockets, each with a unique color and effect! This rocket was one of the first fireworks I ever tried and I really enjoy it! It's a great beginner because of the variety. These can range from $10 to $20 and I can say these are really worth the money.
The Roman Candle is a skinny paper tube, usually a foot or less in length, that shoots flaming balls from the end of the tube. There can be five or more flaming balls in a Roman Candle. Depending on how many there are, these fireworks can last anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute long! Roman Candles are sometimes confused with rockets because they are meant to be stuck in the ground. However, many people hold these fireworks in their hands, which you should NEVER do! According to the 2019 Fireworks Annual Report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 400 injuries occurred from Roman Candles!
Hanna’s Pick: Lightsaber - 90-shot Roman Candle
Anyone who is a fan of Star Wars would definitely want to pick up this Roman Candle. This 90-shot jumbo pyrotechnic is very unique since every shot looks like a lightsaber turning on. There are only red and green colors available for now, but I wouldn't be surprised if blue showed up here soon! The price range is usually $25 to $35 which I find fairly reasonable!
A fountain is just what you think it is! It’s a shower of sparks, which looks like flowing water once lit. Fountains have the visual effect of a firework, but there’s no loud noise like a bang or a whistle. These are a great option if you have young children or pets who are afraid of loud noises. Depending on how big the fountain is, it can change the size of the sparks from the fountain and the duration of how long the fountain will last. Some fountains can last up to 5 minutes!
Hanna’s Pick: Morning Dew
Fountains are very popular in my family and the choice that wins every time is Morning Dew. A few members of the fam that drinking a certain beverage that this is designed after, and it's actually a really good fountain. It starts out shooting out blue sparks, then goes back to the classic orange with a few crackles. Another absolute to add to your fireworks show, the prices are around $5 to $15! I highly suggest picking this fountain up and keeping it as one you can't go without!
The firecracker is a favorite among my family. I can’t tell you how many we've bought over the years, but it was enough that I couldn’t keep track. These fireworks are made using flash powder that’s wrapped in thin paper with a fuse at the end. Once the fuse is lit, it travels down the paper until it reaches the powder and makes a loud bang. There are usually about 50 to 100 firecrackers in a paper sleeve.
Hanna’s Pick: Black Cat Firecrackers
When it comes to firecrackers, there is no better one, in my opinion, than the Black Cat Flashlight Firecrackers. These are the best firecracker on the market because they are always trying to improve them. The price range on this particular firecracker varies based on the size you get. The smaller ones are in that $10 to $15 spot and the bigger ones are up to $60 to $70. Regardless of price, Black Cat firecrackers will ALWAYS be worth the moolah.
These fireworks are my favorite. They may be very short, but the dramatic effects and beautiful display are all worth the half-second duration. Mines are shot from a long tube that is either pre-loaded or reloadable with individual artillery shots. These fireworks are the loudest ones out of the whole arsenal, as the report (loud bang) can reach as high as 120 decibels. To put that in everyday terms, that is like listening to a rock concert in the front row.
Hanna’s Pick: Excalibur
Excalibur is hands-down the number one choice for a firework display. It's actually been voted number one in the world for artillery shell fireworks. Excalibur shots have very vibrant colors and are a longer firework show! Some of my friends consider Excalibur to be a finale piece and save it for the very end. Personally, the price for Excalibur is great! I've seen it be $70 to $110 but other places have it priced around $175 to $200 because of its popularity. I highly recommend picking this kit if you can get your hands on it.
Hanna’s Bonus Pick: Holy Cow!
This one I had to throw in for personal reasons. This certain artillery combo was one of my favorites and still is to this day. You had to launch the shots individually but it was all worth it in the end. Each shot was completely different than the other and they only lasted about half a second, so if you blink you'll miss it! My favorite part of it was watching my dad run as fast as he could after he lit it and drop the shell down into the tube. It was the only time of the year when my dad ran and it was so funny to watch. Sadly, this firework is really hard to find (but if anyone finds one, SOMEONE TELL ME!) but this special display was $35 to $45 last I had seen. Overall, I personally will choose Holy Cow! and keep it as a constant in my yearly explosive party!
This firework is the most popular kind of firework on the market. Cakes are usually made with a group of fireworks that are set off in succession. In order to do this, cakes have an internal fuse system that lights the fireworks automatically, one after the other. This type of firework, opens the door to having all kinds of customizable displays in a small package. There are two different types of cakes: 500-gram and 200-gram. Cakes are 200-gram fireworks that reach a maximum of 150 feet in the air. These fireworks are nothing to scoff at because they can pack a real punch!
Hanna’s Pick: Go! Big! Purple!
This is a favorite of mine for a few reasons. One is that it's purple and gold themed! I haven't seen any other fireworks with just purple and gold. Another is that it's a big hit back home because the school colors in Winner are purple and gold. Putting that aside, this has a nice variation of different effects so it's not the same every time. I found that this can run between $35 and $50. All in all, it's a great choice of a firework display! Especially since this is a South Dakota-made one!
A barrage firework is another name for a cake, but the difference is in size. Barrage fireworks are 500-gram, the largest a consumer can legally buy. These are seen as the “finale” fireworks because they have some of the most beautiful effects a firework can display. Barrage fireworks are a mix of roman candles and mines. They have the same internal fuse system as a regular cake, but they can travel farther than 200-gram cakes. 500-gram shots can reach up to 200 feet in the air!
Hanna’s Pick: Spider Nebula
It may only have 21 shots, but I think it's the perfect pyrotechnic for a finale! The fireworks break out into a "spider" with red, green, and gold colors. It also doesn't have a huge bang so it's a great, quieter option. Since this is a very recent firework, it can be a bit pricey, but still worth it! I've seen it run from the $75 to $100 range. I know back home this is one of the more popular choices as well.
I hope these picks help you when picking out your 4th of July colorful explosives! Here's some shopping advice from 8-year-old me! "Price isn't important. It's the art on the box!"
Hanna Rowe is a summer intern at Results/Townsquare Media. She's a senior at Dakota State University studying Digital Sound Design with a focus in Sports Media. Her interests in the sports and the radio industry started at the young age of 14 when she started filming sporting events for her high school. She hopes to see media coverage from a different angle besides being in front of the camera.