Fireworks ban? What ban?

July 4, 2012

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(WBEZ/Michael Puente)
Customers, many from Illinois, flock to Krazy Kaplan's fireworks store in Hammond less than a mile from the state border in Northwest Indiana where fireworks are a legal and booming business.

It’s Fourth of July and there are plenty of cookouts, parades and fireworks around. Well, no fireworks in Chicago – at least officially – they’re banned. But that’s not stopping Chicagoans from crossing into Indiana to sneak back sparklers, bottle rockets and firecrackers.

At Krazy Kaplan’s fireworks stand in Hammond, less than a mile from the Illinois border off Interstate 80/94, sales are hot. More than half the customers come from Illinois.

“Oh, it’s booming. We’re doing pretty well,” store owner Steve Steele said, adding that customers spend on average $300 to $400 on fireworks.

Steele said he knows many communities in Illinois have fireworks bans, including Chicago and many suburbs.

But, he said, "It’s not our responsibility where people take them. If people chose to take them somewhere, they know the risk they're doing, they know the laws, but we’ll sell to anybody. We’re more than happy to."

A customer from Chicago named Luis bought well over a $100 worth of fireworks. He declined to give his last name. He said he plans to set them off outside his house on the Southeast Side. Luis said he knows there’s a ban in the city, but he wants to entertain his family.

“I understand the precautions of fireworks but I still got to enjoy them,” Luis said. “It’s one day out of the year.”

And when he sets off fireworks, do Chicago cops harass him about it? "No, I haven’t seen that. No,” Luis said.

Another customer, this one from northwest suburban Palatine, thinks his village’s ban is nonsense.

“I think they should just let us do whatever we want, you know,” said the customer, who declined to give his name. “It’s a tradition, isn’t it? All right!”

While fireworks are legal in Indiana, some towns there have temporary bans due to dry conditions.