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Firework Enthusiasts Drive to Key Largo, Spend Thousands On Rockets

Sean Callahan didn't think twice about driving to Key Largo to get fireworks. He had to. The warehouse there carries hundreds of multi-shot fireworks — some that can't be found in Miami-Dade County.

After weaving in and out of rows of sparklers, Roman candles and artillary shells, a smiling Callahan rolled his $800 cartload of rockets and mortar shells into his car.

“I’m really just a big kid – they’re all for me,” he said proudly.  

Thousands of fireworks enthusiasts from across South Florida, like Callahan, stocked up on whistling rockets, artillery shells that shoot flaming balls and novelty items like poppers and laterns. Many residents said they can only find these types of backyard pyrotechnics at Phantom Fireworks in Key Largo. 

The warehouse has a selection of fireworks unrivaled by its competitors. It's closest sister shop is in West Palm Beach.

Raul Orellana, who is from Miami-Dade, said he traveled to Phantom because these fireworks couldn’t be found across the county line.

“That’s why everybody comes out here," said Orellana, who was buying fireworks for his kids — and for himself.

Jeffrey Miller, the showroom manager, says the shop’s location — just over an hour from Miami and less than 60 miles from Key West — keeps the traffic coming. He said "regulars" spend in the thousands.

“Our biggest spender just spent over $5,200,” he said. “They’ll go and put on a show, and that’s somewhere down in Key West. So, very good repeat customers, we expect and thrive upon them.”

Credit Lily Oppenheimer / WLRN
Miami-Dade resident Raul Orellana drove to Phantom Fireworks in Key Largo to buy $700 worth of fireworks on Tuesday, July 3, 2018.

Phantom Fireworks has roadside stands across the state, but they don't compare to what the warehouse has to offer, Assistant Manager Ruben Gonzalez said. And even though the traffic from Miami to Key Largo will likely be bumper-to-bumper on Independence Day, it won’t stop families from making the trip.

“We get at least over 1,000 customers, maybe like the last couple days,” Gonzalez said. “The other days, we get more then 500 customers a day.”

Under Florida statute, chapter 791, it is illegal to use most of the flashier fireworks available at Phantom – but if you scroll all the way to the bottom, there’s a loophole.

Nothing in the law prohibits the importation, purchase, sale or use of fireworks to scare birds from farms and fish hatcheries. Anyone who buys fireworks must sign a waiver, agreeing they’ve read the law and understood the penalties.

Then, once you sign, vendors like Phantom are not responsible if you use the fireworks “unlawfully.” Using fireworks without a proper permit in the state is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.