Fireworks alternatives can still be really fun

By Scott Anthony

While public fireworks displays are the safest way to celebrate the holiday, not everyone can attend one, and because more and more municipalities are rejecting the use of personal fireworks due to fires and injuries, (ask a local firefighter about it) maybe it’s time to consider some safer celebratory options this year.

For the record, over all the years I’ve had access to matches, I have burned enough sparklers, blown up enough firecrackers and shot enough bottle rockets to have my own booth on the rez. But that was the old me, the guy who really liked the sound of an M-80 at 3:00 am weeks before the fourth, or the smell of smoke and burning rubber as I stomped out large, low grass fires in my tennis shoes at the local park.

And who doesn’t like the sight of a roman candle as it sends volley after volley of roaring fire onto the neighbor’s roof.

Who? Me..that’s who, and now that I’m an old fuddy-duddy I’m not ashamed to admit it and change my ways. So at the risk of offending constitution thumping gunpowder and fuse advocates, I have a few suggestions for having fun on the fourth of July with a whole lot less smoke, ear damage and pollution.

I did my research via the internet and by word of mouth and so for the sake of brevity in this column, in order to create these do-it-yourself projects, you merely have to ‘google’ the keywords on any internet connected computer. On college campuses around the country a new fad has been popular.

Someone discovered that if you take some Mentos mint candy and drop a few into a bottle of coke, the bottle will erupt it’s contents like a small volcano. I had to try it and will tell you that it is somewhat underwhelming and feels like a viral marketing campaign sponsored by, who else, U.S. candy and pop congloms.

A better version of this trick involves taking that same 2 liter bottle of diet coke and after quickly inserting a couple of candies, the bottle is then quickly tossed against the pavement (with a loosened cap) and the result is a sort of Coke bottle rocket which, upon impact with pavement, will go off in any direction it chooses, dousing everyone nearby with sticky soda. While it’s healthier than consuming the stuff, don’t try this if you don’t like pop in your hair.

A less gooey alternative is what is popularly known as a ‘Film Canister Rocket’. All you need is a paper towel tube, a plastic film canister and some tape, a little baking soda and some vinegar. Some reports indicate altitudes of nearly 50 feet. Water Rockets are similar in construction, though the fuel necessary for lift-off is only a little water and some compressed air from a bicycle pump. A quick google search revealed pages of construction details with projects that run from super simple to very complex. This is so much better than a smoky, expensive fire hazard that you buy at the fireworks stand.

Everyone keeps their fingers and eyes and you can actually learn a bit about rocketry and physics.

Snappers (those little paper twists that you step on and Party poppers (the tiny plastic champagne bottles) are inocuous enough as noisemakers, but how about the old rubberband-powered balsa wood airplanes. Fun and inexpensive, you can still get them at Ultimate Hobbies in Auburn or buy them online. For the very little kids, glow sticks and necklaces are fun and easily obtainable at places like Party City in Federal Way.

Also, marshmallow shooters are cute and fun and if you don’t want to buy one online, they are easy to make. Just some ½ pvc tubing from the hardware store and a couple of bags of mini-marshmallows.

Word of caution: Carpets and marshmallows are not compatible..make the kids play outside.

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