Red-Hot Summer Job

For most Americans, this Fourth of July weekend is a time to play -- but not for those who sell fireworks.

The two weeks leading up to the Independence Day holiday is by far the busiest period for those who peddle Black Cats, Roman Candles and sparklers. Retailers can expect to do 95 percent of their business during that brief window, said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association in Bethesda.

Bans on sales of most fireworks to individuals in some jurisdictions, such as Montgomery County, only add to the pressure on legal stands nearby, which often must serve their neighbors' patriotic need to blow things up, too.

But it can be profitable. Heckman said someone running an independent stand can make $15,000 during the peak season -- overhead is low and markups high. The downside: The days are long, those fireworks stands can be sweltering, and you have to be mindful of safety and legal issues.

Who would want such a job? Heckman said it attracts people who have the summers off and want extra cash, such as teachers.

"If I didn't already work for this association, I would consider doing it," Heckman said.

-- Mary Ellen Slayter