Kenny Tschida, 20, started his search two weeks ago, and it was serious business--finding the best fireworks to show his girlfriend and her family for the Fourth of July.
Tschida, a horticulture student at Northern Virginia Community College, found his dream package Thursday--a $29.95 Red Devil with about 30 sparkling and popping displays at the Discount Fireworks stand on Catoctin Circle in the Virginia Village Shopping Center.
"This is it," exclaimed Tschida, as his girlfriend, Katrina Gorski, looked on. "These have some of everything." The two are spending the holiday at Lake Anna, about 30 minutes west of Richmond, where Gorski's relatives have a house.
"Every year, he puts on a show for everyone," said Gorski, 19, who is a nursing student at George Mason University.
But selling fireworks isn't as much of a celebration for Patty and Drew Saikin, who run the stand and 11 others in Virginia and West Virginia. The Herndon couple, who were married on the Fourth of July 19 years ago, can't remember an Independence Day they've spent together since.
For 11 years, each has been on duty at a different stand selling fireworks with such names as Tequila Sunrise, Whistling Pete or Eruption, a $6.95 boomer that sends off purple and white sparks and is the "greatest," according to Drew. In the off-season, they run the Auto Spot used-car dealership in Leesburg.
"There's nothing easy about this business," said Drew Saikin, 42, as he rubbed his sunburned neck. "You sit out here for the first nine days just so they can know you're here, and then on the actual day, the Fourth, we're back here dancing around trying to get them fireworks fast enough."
Headline: Fireworks Do's and Don'ts for a Safe Celebration
If you are going to be setting off fireworks to mark the holiday, Loudoun County Chief Fire Marshal Jeff Flippo urges you to take these precautions:
* Buy fireworks from a local vendor. Only fireworks tested in the county by the fire marshal's office are approved for sale in Loudoun.
* Make sure there is adult supervision. Even sparklers can be dangerous.
* Discharge fireworks on private property where you have permission to do so. Setting them off on public property is illegal.
* Use level ground that is clear of debris and tall grass.
* Never use fireworks in a high wind. Keep a water supply or a fire extinguisher handy.
* Don't use fireworks if you're drinking alcohol.
* Do not try to reignite fireworks that fail to go off the first time.
* Be sure children know how to "stop, drop and roll" in case their clothing catches fire.
* Read the directions carefully. Douse used fireworks with water and put them in a metal bucket outside overnight to make sure they are out before you discard them.
CAPTION: Dave Sellers describes how fireworks he sells now don't deliver the same bang as older models.
CAPTION: Twins Kara, left, and Casey Sheehan check out items at a Leesburg stand run by Patty and Drew Saikin, who have been selling fireworks for 11 years.
CAPTION: A customer picks out fireworks from a wide variety of sparkling choices at a stand on Catoctin Circle in Leesburg.