Fireworks continue family traditions

Published 12:05 am Saturday, January 4, 2020

LAPLACE — River Parishes residents joined people from all corners of the world in welcoming 2020 with noise, light and smoke from dazzling fireworks displays.

First invented in China to ward off evil spirits, fireworks have evolved into a beloved celebratory tradition. European settlers brought fireworks to North America long before the Revolutionary War.

Today, family and friends share the enduring tradition of gathering in driveways and popping off fireworks in increasing frequency as the clock creeps closer to midnight. This year was no exception.

However, for many local families, New Year’s and Fourth of July fireworks traditions lie on the other side of the stand. Numerous family-owned businesses in the form of white tents pop up along Airline Highway just before Christmas Eve each year. Those who operate the stands take the responsibility seriously and hold a lot of passion for traditions that have spanned generations.

Blake Wilson operates Karen’s Discount Fireworks in LaPlace.

Blake Wilson has spent his holidays operating the family fireworks stand since he was approximately 8 years old. By age 17, he was preparing to take over the business from his father.

With locations across from Home Depot and in front of the Belle Pointe subdivision in LaPlace, Karen’s Discount Fireworks has helped generations of River Parishes residents end the year with a bang. The stands are also open prior to the Fourth of July, giving locals another chance to light up the night sky.

Karen’s Discount Fireworks started out in a 20 x 20 tent. Now, the tent is 30 feet wide and 100 feet long.

“We have a lot more products and people coming,” Blake Wilson said. “I enjoy seeing the people and enjoy their company, talking to them and interacting with them. We are local people who live within the parish, and we have the best brand.”

On slow business days in the last weeks of December, the fireworks stand sees approximately 20 to 30 customers. On busy days, there are well over 100.

New Year’s Eve is the busiest day of them all. Wilson’s feet were aching from being on his feet for so long, but the work was rewarding and well worth it.

His favorite products at the stand are the 500-gram multi-shot fireworks.

“The best ones are the big shots that blow up in the air and make a good show,” Wilson said.

Nevin Hall assists Daniel Naquin in picking out fireworks at Crazy Bob’s Fireworks in LaPlace.

Nevin Hall has been selling fireworks for the past eight years, and New Year’s 2020 marked his second year managing the family business at 1426 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace, in the parking lot of the Matherne’s subdivision.

Crazy Bob’s Fireworks is founded on transparency and integrity, according to Hall. The stand carries a variety of high quality Black Cat brand fireworks, and Hall is willing to work with any customer to find what product is best suited to them.

Aside from learning how to set up the tent, Hall has learned the virtues of great customer service.

“We don’t do any gimmicks,” Hall said. “We don’t rip people off. We are very truthful. I let customers know if something isn’t what they are looking for, and I try to find the best thing for them.”

All of Crazy Bob’s prices and suggested retail prices are printed clearly for customers to see. Hall said the family business has been going strong for more than 20 years, and there have been countless returning customers.

“It’s a nice experience,” Hall said. “I meet a lot of interesting people that come through the tent. You learn a lot, too. We see a lot of people come back because they like the tent set-up.”

The time for New Year’s fireworks has ended, but locals will see the stands return to town one week in advance of the Fourth of July. On that day, fireworks will be permitted from dusk until 10 p.m.