Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No explosions, flashing lights? How does Elkhart County mark Independence Day?

Though fireworks are banned for Independence Day, there are still things to do.
Posted on July 4, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Don’t expect as many loud bangs and flashing lights.

It may be Independence Day, but with the ban on the use of personal fireworks here, it’ll be quieter, with fewer multi-colored bursts in the sky.

It makes Terrance Best, visiting a fireworks stand Tuesday on the north side of Elkhart, wonder. Passing the day with friends and family is important, no doubt. But there’s something to be said for lighting off fireworks on July 4, seeing bright flashes in the sky and vibrating to loud booms.

“Man, the Fourth without fireworks doesn’t seem right to me. It’s crazy,” he said.

Fortunately for him, he lives across the state line in Cassopolis, Mich., where no ban’s in effect. He’ll be able to satisfy his fix for explosions.

Darleen Minix isn’t so lucky — she lives in Elkhart, where the drought-inspired ban is in full effect — but she wasn’t fretting. Sure, she and her family like fireworks, she said, but that’s only one facet of Independence Day.

Being with friends and family, “that’s mainly what it’s about, and celebrating our freedom,” she said Tuesday outside a Martin’s Super Market, where she was doing some pre-Independence Day shopping.

Like it or not, it’ll be a largely fireworks-free Fourth today, July 4, at least if residents comply with the ban.

Elkhart County commissioners, working with officials in Elkhart and Goshen, banned personal use of fireworks last week due to the ongoing drought and concerns that an errant spark could ignite a fire. They’ll schedule make-up dates later when the public can blow off fireworks, presuming the drought breaks, maybe around Labor Day in early September.

At the same time, leaders in Elkhart and Goshen opted to forego their annual Independence Day pyrotechnics displays, though Nappanee will go ahead with its show as planned.

“Why not a family activity that doesn’t involve fireworks?” said Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder. “There are a lot of things in the county that don’t involve fireworks.”


The official ban on personal fireworks notwithstanding, a few bangs will undoubtedly sound throughout the county. You can still buy fireworks, and vendors, though reporting that activity is down, were still moving product.

Sharon Branham of Goshen, leaving a fireworks stand Monday off U.S. 33 in the Dunlap area with a bag of freshly purchased pyrotechnics, had no idea a ban was in place. On learning the news, she quickly said she’d likely forego fireworks.

“I’ll give them to my grandson to take to Ohio,” she said.

Others may not be as compliant, and vendors reported that consumers were buying lower-profile fireworks, things that don’t fly high in the sky, things less likely to draw the attention of the law.

“Most people, honestly, are going for the small stuff that they can do right on a driveway,” said Jenny Howland, helping at TNT Fireworks, where Branham had purchased her stash.

Indeed, police and sheriff’s officials won’t be prowling for fireworks users. Rather, they’ll respond when they receive complaints, according to Elkhart County Commissioner Terry Rodino.

On Monday, Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers reported that his office had responded to 56 complaints about fireworks over the prior weekend. None of the incidents led to arrests.


Meanwhile Tuesday, the debate over the fireworks ban simmered.

“That’s what I want to know. How do we celebrate (Independence Day) without fireworks?” asked Chris Gonzales. His S.R. 19 store, R & P Resale and Scooter Shop, offers a line-up of fireworks but Gonzales had yet to make a sale.

Down the road at Martin’s, Minix was more concerned about the possibility of a stray spark igniting some bone-dry vegetation. She’ll manage without pyrotechnics just fine.

“I’d rather not burn a house down,” she said.

Reporter Angelle Barbazon contributed to this story

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