The Fourth of July is without a doubt one of everyone’s favorite holidays. Filled with fun, family, food, and of course fireworks.
For the last 20-plus years, seven-days-a-week, Roberta Callaway and the gang at the Cheapo Depot stores have supplied Readstown, Ferryville, Prairie du Chien, and the surrounding communities with all of the magic of fireworks.
The excitement of her own children led Roberta to start carrying fireworks at her store, formally known as R & M Liquidators, some 20 years ago.
“At the time, the kids were little and they just loved fireworks,” said Roberta. “So we started to carry a few little things, and as they became more legal, we expanded.”
Currently, a large variety of fireworks are available legally in Wisconsin with a permit, which is also available at Cheapo Depot. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, smaller fireworks such as small sparklers, toy snakes, smoke bombs and the ever popular noisemakers are available without a permit.
Be safe, be legal
Safety and remaining within the limits of the law are points that are very important to Roberta and the Cheapo Depot staff.
“We are very careful who we sell our fireworks to, and that is really important because some people don’t care about safety or laws and we do,” Roberta said. “We make sure everyone has an ID, and are of age to purchase them. We do not even allow children to walk into that part of the store without parents accompanying them.”
Soldiers Grove Assistant Fire Chief Ben Clason also noted that adult supervision is of the upmost importance when it comes to fireworks safety.
In Wisconsin, the penalty for allowing a minor to possess or use fireworks (not including those for which no permits are required) is subject to a forfeiture of up to $1,000 per violation, according to the Wisconsin Fireworks Law.
“There are a lot more injuries reported linked to fireworks than actual fire-related problems in the area,” noted Clason. “It is important to only buy your fireworks from a licensed person to make sure you get the safest and legitimate unaltered fireworks and you’ll know what to expect from them.”
Clason also advises against people altering their own fireworks at home, as this can make the devices unstable and can lead to serious injury.
“Report unsafe or questionable use of fireworks to your local authorities, you ultimately might prevent backyard fun from becoming a backyard tragedy,” Clason said.
People travel from near and far to purchase fire works from Cheapo Depot, with many loyal customers coming back year after year.
Roberta makes it a point to help her shoppers create the best show possible.
“We have videos available of what the different fireworks look like, and if you tell us what you’re looking to create we will walk around and help you pick out the best show for your money,” Roberta explained.
The Cheapo Depot also offers a point system to buyers where every dollar spent equals a point, redeemable for other fire works in the store.
The team at Cheapo Depot import their fireworks directly from manufacturers in China to help insure a quality and unique product.
“We have the sales people send us videos of what they have available, they come here and show us their product, and we also have them create some items from different things the way we want it,” said Roberta.
The store not only provides fireworks for a backyard gathering, but larger events as well—helping to light up the skies for events like Boaz Fun Days, River and Bluff Daze in Ferryville, as well as an annual fireworks show in May in Readstown, and much more.
“Years ago, we shot off fireworks for an area homecoming during the national anthem, and we would shot them off during the ‘Rockets red glare’ part, and it would just give you goose bumps,” Roberta noted.
And as Roberta points out, fireworks aren’t just for the Fourth anymore, “Weddings, people coming home from the service, of even for fun around the holidays, fire works are incredibly beautiful against the snow, and they’re a great show for whatever you’re doing.”
Soldiers Grove Fire Department Assistant Chief Ben Clason also believes that being responsible can lead to a much more enjoyable fire works experience,
“The number one thing to be aware of is fire conditions in your area, before you light them off,” Clason explained. Individuals can quickly and easily consult the DNR website for up-to-date conditions on fire risks before they commence to lighting off their fireworks.
Some quick tips to keep you and your gang safe while enjoying the show include lighting your fireworks away from cars, houses, or other buildings; never trying to light a ‘dud’ if it doesn’t go off initially; and storing used fireworks in a metal container for at least 24 hours and away from other combustibles.
Also, as noted by Clason, “alcohol and fireworks do not mix!”
“Use a little common sense when it comes to fireworks and it will make the holiday season a lot more fun not only for you, but for everyone around you,” Clason concluded.