A Blair fireworks company is hoping for a boom rather than a bust.
Midwest Fireworks Wholesalers, owned by Blair residents Jim Sandvold, Terry Hansen and Heath Reyzlik, is responsible for many of the Fourth of July fireworks displays in the greater Omaha area, including Fremont, Bennington and Blair.
In 2019, the company created 32 shows in eight days.
But amid coronavirus concerns, the fireworks company has faced challenges. Many of the Fourth of July celebrations have been canceled, including one of the company's larger shows in Papillion to celebrate the city's 150th anniversary.
“It was going to be an extra big one,” Sandvold said.
There was also concern if the company could get the needed supply of fireworks from China, where the coronavirus outbreak began.
Midwest Fireworks Wholesalers received its first shipment last fall. But of the two more shipments, which were scheduled to arrive by late February or March, one just arrived within the last two weeks.
“There was a while there where it was pretty iffy if we were going to get (some),” Sandvold said. “We would have had some left over from last year and some from the other container we got, but it wouldn't have been enough to make it through the entire year.”
Midwest Fireworks Wholesalers relies on municipalities and private customers for business.
This year, the company has seen around 12 shows canceled, in addition to seven that were planned for around the Fourth of July. That's left the company down 30 percent of its annual gross. The wholesale business has also taken a 30 percent hit.
Typically, fireworks displays are only sidetracked by weather. Rain dates are always planned. In 14 years, the company has only had to postpone “a handful” of shows, Sandvold said.
“It's very rare that we ever cancel a show or even postpone it,” he said. “We haven't seen anything like this.”
Those cities that are postponing or canceling shows are considering moving the displays to the fall.
“My guess is all these 'might do it in the fall,' it's going to get to the fall and they're just going to say 'Let's save it for next Fourth of July,'” Sandvold said.
But, Sandvold said, some communities, like Blair, are continuing their celebrations and promoting social distancing while watching the displays.
“We're hoping everyone tries to do that instead of canceling,” he said.
Midwest Fireworks Wholesalers produces fireworks displays year round, including at homecoming football games, weddings, fairs and small town celebrations. But recouping their losses from this year will be difficult as 65 percent of their shows, Sandvold said, are in an eight-day window.
“We're dependent upon the Fourth of July,” he said.
Donations sought for Blair display; cruise night planned
Blair residents can go for a drive around town before heading up the hill to watch the annual Fourth of July display.
The second Blair Cruise Night will be 6 to 9 p.m. July 4 prior to the fireworks show, which will be held at the former Dana College campus. The previous cruise, which was held May 2, had around 750 cars traveling along Blair's streets.
A new organization — Blair Celebrations — is seeking donations for this year's Fourth of July display.
Donations can be made online through Midwest Fireworks Wholesalers' website, mwfireworks.com by clicking on the donate tab or through the Blair Area Community Foundation at blairareacommunityfoundation.org. They can also be dropped off at the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, 1646 Washington St. or in collection jars at Taylor Quik Pik in Blair and Fort Calhoun, Butch's Deli and the Blair Meat Market.