Business bursting for local fireworks stands

The TNT Fireworks stand located in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Benner Pike on Tuesday.
The TNT Fireworks stand located in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Benner Pike on Tuesday. Centre Daily Times

The Fourth of July brings mixed emotions for Nathan Norton.

He loves the fireworks, for one, and his favorite colors are red, white and blue. Anything with the American flag catches his eye.

But for Nathan, who turns 10 on Friday, having a birthday so close to the country’s is — in a small way — a bit of a bummer.

During his birthday week, his family is busy running the TNT Fireworks stand in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Benner Pike. With the promise of fireworks so close, birthday candles tend to lose some of their luster.

By the time the show rolls around, however, all is well. Who needs birthday candles when mom and dad run a fireworks stand?

“He loves it,” said Krissy Norton, Nathan’s mother, “because his birthday is so close to the Fourth.”

The Nortons, who have been running the stand for seven years, notice the ostensible uptick in sales in the days leading up to Independence Day, which happens to be the name of Nathan’s favorite firework that the stand sells. The night of, they and other family members gather around the tent and watch the 4thFest display taking place over Penn State’s campus. For the past four years, it’s been a tradition.

“It’s almost like a Fourth of July picnic in the Wal-Mart parking lot,” Krissy said.

Running the stand, however, isn’t always as easy as pulling a firecracker. Though TNT sets up the tent — in addition to one at the North Atherton Wal-Mart — maintaining it can be a challenge. Nathan and his three siblings usually assist with day-to-day sales, Krissy said, but this year summer camp took away most of the help.

Then there’s the weather. On Tuesday, a flash storm pelted the tent with hail. The Nortons’ 6-foot-3 son Kaleb was at Scout camp, his long reach unavailable. Pulling down the flaps was equal parts harrowing, equal parts comical, Krissy said.

Fortunately, the storm passed as quickly as it had appeared. Crisis averted.

“Typical July weather,” said Russell Norton, Krissy’s husband.

Joyce Knepp, co-owner of Kneppy’s Fireworks in Kylertown, also notices the mercurial nature of the business.

“You plan 52 weeks out of the year for basically two weeks,” Knepp said.

Kneppy’s has shed locations in Philipsburg, Clearfield and St. Marys in addition to a brick-and-mortar store in Kylertown. The business also runs a stand in DuBois.

Knepp, who has been in business for 18 years, pointed out several safe practices for firework use. Some suggestions included affixing products to secure objects to prevent flipping and for customers to have the necessary permits. With the proper precautions, spectators can focus on enjoying the show.

For the Norton boys, Scout camp ends on Thursday. They’ll be back in time to help with the busiest weekend for the stand. They’ll also be back in time for Nathan to blow out his candles.

“We call him our little firecracker,” Krissy said.

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy