Staging a backyard version of the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular will dazzle your family and impress the neighbors – all while allowing you to play with fire. But with varying state and county fireworks laws (four states outright ban their sale) and thousands of consumer-grade pyrotechnics from which to choose, a fireworks-stand buying trip can quickly overwhelm. Greg Shelton, 57, is the proprietor of one of the world's largest fireworks chains, Shelton Fireworks, which has grown from a single 4-by-8-foot wooden stand in Chillicothe, Missouri, to 15 shops spread across four states, for one reason: He knows the secret to putting on a backyard show.
Larger fireworks are categorized according to function and weight of explosive chemical composition – a mixture including a charge of black gunpowder to provide lift and burst, salute powder to make a bang, and various chemicals to define the visuals. For your show, find a level hard surface, bring buckets of water for fire prevention, and ask spectators to stand at least 100 feet back because, yes, these things can blow your fingers off. "Happens all the time," says Shelton. Begin by lighting smaller items like sparklers and firecrackers, then progress through aerials, and finish with a multifirework display like a 500-gram cake.
"The best shows have a little rhythm to them," says Shelton. "Keep stuff in the air and you'll maintain people's interest."