Northern Michigan Businesses Discuss Potential for Tariffs on Fireworks



Trade talks between the U-S and China could “fizzle” fireworks celebrations in future years.

9 & 10’s Bill Froehlich talked with those in the industry who are keeping an eye on the trade war and the threat of tariffs.

At Pro Fireworks in Traverse City, Bill Barnes says, “For the big Cherry Festival or city shows, again they’d have less fireworks for their money because that budget is usually pretty set.”

Whether you’re a fan of the old “Red White and Blue Snappers”… a “Supersized Texas Pop Rocket” … or even an “Irish Legend” – odds are it was all made in China. Barnes says, “Everything we have comes from China. The cost obviously affects our retail prices.”

But there are also political fireworks. Store owners and even the company behind the TC Boom Boom Club fireworks show, Great Lakes Fireworks, are watching current events, which include a trade dispute with China that could impact the prices here at home.

Tim Hinkley with the Boom Boom Club leaves it to the professionals. “Who knows? It’s been more about other types of commerce. There was a gradual price increase a few years ago which was normal. It would just be inflationary (at that point.)”

Most of fireworks sold in the U.S. are made in China — but a trade war between the two countries may cause prices to skyrocket, and some fireworks vendors wonder what that will mean for the products they’re selling. Barnes says, “The tariffs could have raised those costs exponentially, which would have raised retail prices, exponentially, you’re just going to get less fireworks for your money that way.”

A proposed 25% tariff on Chinese imports could explode the prices for fireworks, but that’s an idea that’s been defused for now. Bruce Tyree with Great Lakes Fireworks says, “So far the tariffs have not been imposed on the fireworks we import from China. As of now those have been put on delay. We’re hoping that isn’t something that comes to pass. If it does it’ll definitely have an effect on the cost of fireworks.” And Barnes says, “The latest is (the industry has) been able to negotiate with Trump to not tariff fireworks. So we could be excluded from the tariffs on China.”

Sales of fireworks in the US have more than tripled in the past 20 years and exceeded $1.3 billion last year, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

Bruce Tyree says, “We just enjoy being able to do something that pleases all the people. We’re very patriotic people, our family is all involved in it. We just love celebrating this great nation.”

For now, fireworks sales are booming, along with the new state law that allows for more time to set your sights on the sky. Barnes says “Every night’s been legal (this week), and tonight and tomorrow night are legal too.” Check your local ordinances for variations about firing off those “ordinances” of your own.

Or, enjoy the show from Traverse City and the TC Boom Boom Club. Hinkley says, “We plan all year for a 25 minute show. It might seem like it’s overdone, but we’ve got a lot of people that contribute a lot of money to make sure that we’ve got fireworks.”  Total cost runs between $50-55,000. Bruce Tyree adds that a lot of work goes into it.  “Takes me about an hour per minute of display time for programming, and that’s just the preparation of what the show’s going to be. We have to coordinate the barges, the equipment that comes, the setup of the equipment on the barge, the loading. There’s three days of on the ground work once we get here in Traverse City.” And it’s a family affair. “We have eight people setting up this show for three days. We spend about ten hour days, and of course today will be a 14 hour day.”

And for those who work in the business – and those who love watching – the time and money are worth it.

Click here for information on the TC Boom Boom Club

Categories: National Cherry Festival