Fireworks big business in Wilson County

Kimberly Jordan • Updated Jul 29, 2013 at 9:12 AM

As Wilson County gears up for summer, one reminder that the season is upon us comes in the form of dozens of brightly colored tents throughout Wilson County.

As the Fourth of July draws closer, fireworks tents can be seen dotting the landscape in preparation to fulfill the needs of revelers. These tents not only serve the public in their quest for the ultimate backyard light show, but they also provide the city with revenue via sales taxes on the merchandise.

A new sight this holiday season are the tents inside the Lebanon city limits.

In February, the Lebanon City Council lifted its longstanding ban on the sale of fireworks inside the city limits, and tents can now be seen on Highway 231, South Hartmann Drive and in several other locations.

And there's a lot that goes into fireworks sales locally.

Tammy Walpole with Surefire Fireworks in Lebanon said the process of setting up a stand is "pretty involved," and she used the analogy that it is "almost like when you build a house."

"If you want to put up a fireworks stand, first you rent a spot from the landowner for the two weeks. City and state permits are required, and you have to have insurance before you are allowed to set up," Walpole said.

Stand operators will also have to undergo an inspection, just like a new homeowner.

Surefire Fireworks partners with operators on 15 tents in Wilson County, and Walpole said the business has more than 40 in Middle Tennessee.

Walpole said many of the tent operators for Surefire are teachers, and this year there are several students from Cumberland University and a couple of church groups that will man tents.

Each of the operators gets a percentage from fireworks sailes, and Walpole said it is typically 20 percent of sales that go to operators.

"It's a partnership," she added. "We're working together. We've been in [the business] so long, we have children of previous operators who have started operating tents now."

Once the tents are ready for customers, that is when the cities begin to see the rewards. Each stand that is set up collects sales tax, and a portion of that sales tax will be given to the city.

Despite only one fireworks tent in Watertown, Mayor Mike Jennings said "they do pretty well."

"I don't notice it does a major uptick in our sales taxes, but it serves the needs of the citizens," he said.

In Watertown, it is legal to shoot fireworks the week of July 1-7, and the week between Christmas and New Years, so these periods may see a slight upswing in sales tax collections.

In Mt. Juliet, City Manager Kenny Martin said there are six or eight tents in the city. He said the tents "definitely have a positive impact" on sales tax collections there.

"Fireworks aren't necessarily cheap," he said. "They pay about $1,500 up front to set up a tent, plus the sales tax collections.

"They always do well in Mt. Juliet."

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