Watsonville is a fireworks oasis, temporarily at least. It is the only city in Santa Cruz County that permits fireworks’ sale and use.
From Friday July 1 until midnight July 5, will man booths and sell fireworks to local and not-so-local buyers. Safe and sane fireworks do not rocket through the air and , or any other fruit for that matter, but they do provide needed funds to local nonprofits and a little Independence Day entertainment.
At the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture booth, in the Safeway parking lot at the corner of Airport and Freedom Blvd., Friday got off to a slow start. But that is how it normally goes, according to the Chamber’s Diane Rossi. If the usual sales pattern holds, things should get busier throughout the day and the rest of the weekend. Last year on July 4, Rossi sold fireworks all the way up to the 9:30 p.m. closing time.
Families, those with younger children especially, make up a large share of customers, explained Rossi.
Local resident Mary Doyle, accompanied by 10 and 12 year old boys visiting with family for the weekend, were some of those customers Friday. While Doyle bought some sparklers for herself, the kids were the main reason she was there buying fireworks at all.
“It’s always for the kids,” said Doyle. “Last year we didn’t have any kids visiting, so we didn’t buy any fireworks.”
With 26 booths to select from, many selling the same products, people can pick their fireworks booth to support a specific cause—or just go to the one most convenient for them. Doyle bought from the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture booth because she shops at the Safeway in that shopping center.
At the Freedom Rotary Club booth across town in the Nob Hill shopping center, Iris Strong returned to pick up fireworks for her family, just like she does every year.
“I’ve been coming to this booth for years,” said Strong. “They’re just really nice people there.”
For Strong’s family, lighting fireworks is a family tradition that continues even now that her sons are in their 20’s.
“That’s what you do on the 4th of July, especially if you have boys,” she said.
Two of those nice people in the Freedom Rotary Club’s booth were Gloria Garing and Fred Betz, both former club presidents and longtime club members. According to Garing, Freedom Rotary Club has been selling fireworks as long as Watsonville’s allowed it.
By mid-day Friday, the Freedom Rotary Club already had a steady customer stream. They began the day with someone buying the biggest fireworks package they have—available for 525 dollars—a sign that it might be a good fundraising weekend for the club.
The fundraising success keeps the Rotary Club coming back every year. It’s the same story for the , another local nonprofit that depends on fundraising to provide services to the local community.
“Selling fireworks is the most profitable fundraiser for us. You have to do a bunch of smaller fundraisers to earn as much as the fireworks do,” said Rosa Mendoza, the center’s director. “It’s long days and nights, but I think that it pays off. It’s worth it.”