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Placer Fireworks Buyers Guide

Getting the most bang for your buck in July Fourth fun

By: David Dickstein
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What’s new? What’s loud? What’s colorful? How long does it last? What gives me the most bang for my buck?

As sure as the Liberty Bell has a nasty crack, these will be the FAQs at every fireworks stand from June 28 through July 4, the one-week period when Roseville and Rocklin allow for the selling and lighting of state-approved “safe and sane” fireworks in celebration of America’s birthday.

Once again, we have the answers in our annual fireworks buyers guide. We’ve rated the new fireworks for the season from industry giants TNT Fireworks and Phantom Fireworks. Discount Fireworks Superstore, which sold the majority of its California operations to TNT last month, has no new items for 2018, but is well represented on the “Best of the Rest” list.

The 5-star scale for the freshman class is based on performance, duration, distinctiveness and value. Fireworks are listed by price, highest to lowest.

Let the sparks fly!

New for 2018

  • There She Glows (Phantom), $59.99 – The prettiest pastels ever seen in a fountain come at a steep price. Smokeless lava-like globs erupting simultaneously with surging sparks can also be found in Phantom’s cheaper and superior Funky Monkey fountain. 103 seconds. 3 Stars

  • Wizard Alley (TNT), $59.99 – Terrific crackling sparks spread far and wide, but for the same price TNT’s year-old Wicked Strong is a wickedly stronger buy. It’s Wizard Alley on steroids. 130 seconds. 3 Stars

  • Radioactive Spark (Phantom) $42.99 – Spinning sparks are a crowd pleaser, but not at a dollar a second. Cool packaging and unique rotating effect are overshadowed by the price and fleeting burn time. 44 seconds. 2 Stars

  • Illuminati Triangle (Phantom), $39.99 for two – “Deal of the Season” winner. Long-lasting fountain features multi-color pearls, sprays, flying stars and titanium crackle. Phantom’s buy-one-get-one deals allow for mixing and matching, so consider getting one of these with an equally priced Brew Haha or Dragon’s Tears. 184 seconds. 4 1/2 Stars

  • Tasmanian Cyclone (TNT), $39.99 – An all-star performance in a single fountain. Crackling sparks, lots of reds, greens, blues and yellows, fish effect, smokeless globs and a wild and wide finish make this loaded rookie a winner. 106 seconds. 4 Stars

  • Electrolytes (TNT), $29.99 for two – Goes from meh to OMG at the 50-second mark thanks to a final half-minute of intense crackling sparks. Gets an extra star for being a buy-one-get-one deal. 81 seconds. 4 Stars

  • Red White & Blue Jubilee (Phantom), $25.99 – The advertised blue is more like purple, which is often the case due to the high cost of blue-producing copper compounds. Still delights with white chrysanthemums and red and blue fish and pearls. 110 seconds. 4 Stars

  • Wild Turkey (TNT), $24.99 – Love the big finish of extreme and erratic wide-spreading sparks, but this turkey gobbles up too much valuable time at the beginning. The first stage, five multi-colored flares that do nothing, lasts a full half-minute – meaning half of its total duration. If you want a fan from TNT, spend double on Delirium. 61 seconds. 2 1/2 Stars

  • Wild Side (TNT), $24.99 – It’s like watching the super-charged final half-minute of TNT’s Opening Show for a near full minute. There’s no climax because it’s all climax. Fellow pyro nerds might remember a deservedly short-lived TNT fountain of the same name that debuted in 2004. Fortunately, this isn’t a reissue. 60 seconds. 4 Stars

  • The 3 Emigos (TNT), $14.99 – Unless you’re sold on the clever name and super-cute metallic label that features a silly emoji mariachi band, for less than half the price you can buy TNT’s comparable and far-superior Neon Force fountain. 68 seconds. 2 1/2 Stars

  • Blackbeard’s Cutlass (Phantom), $9.99 – Supervised kids will enjoy brandishing this sword-shaped handheld, but even Capt. Jack Sparrow would agree that this sparky sabre needs serious sharpening. 32 seconds. 2 Stars

 

Best of the Rest (4 1/2-5 Stars)

 

  • Opening Show (TNT), $69.99 – “Best of Show” winner. Budget permitting, this former “Best New Finale” (2013) is a 500-gram must-have. You’ll forget the steep price at the 1:40 mark when shock and awe strikes anyone closer than 25 feet away. Get your smartphone camera out for this one. 130 seconds.

  • Wicked Strong (TNT), $59.99 – Fan-finale hybrid packs a wallop, spewing most of its 500 grams for a serious sparkfest at the 90-second mark. 105 seconds.

  • Apache Firedance Premier (Phantom), $49.99 – Former “Best New Firework” honoree has 500 grams worth of top-notch crackles, strobes and height. 140 seconds.

  • Delirium (TNT), $49.99 – Still the benchmark of all state-approved fan fountains after 13 years, this 500-gram finale emits radiant colors and clamorous whistles and crackles. Phantom’s response is the nearly identical Coral Reef ($49.99). Both 105 seconds.

  • New York Harbor (Phantom), $49.99 – Venerable 500-gram finale is distinguished by its stellar burn time and best-of-breed chrysanthemums. 252 seconds.

  • Brew Haha (Phantom), $39.99 for two – Beer stein-shaped fountain overflows with a cavalcade of color and a loud opening whistle. Solid mix and match deal. 145 seconds.

  • Magnetic Heat (TNT), $39.99 – Amazes with gorgeous smokeless globs, pretty palms and intense colorful crackles. 112 seconds.

  • Miss Liberty (TNT), $39.99 – Beautiful multi-color stars with silver rain and intense crackles. 100 seconds.

  • Sea Serpent (Phantom), $35.99 – Outstanding crackles, whistles, darting silver sparks and height. 100 seconds.

  • Seventh Heaven (DFS), $35.99 – The tallest state-approved fountain (16 inches) and one of the longest lasting. Good 500-gram value. 240 seconds.

  • Flight of Fancy (DFS), $30.59 – Flower-shaped fountain from Brothers packs a dazzling display of multicolored showers and pearls, silver glitter, crackling, pine needles and golden flowers. 123 seconds.

  • Funky Monkey (Phantom), $29.99 – Pyrotechnic primate produces pretty prismatic pearls plus pleasing performance. 90 seconds.

  • Moondance Premier (Phantom), $24.99 for two – A pair of this highly rated super-sized version of Phantom’s little Moondance Fountain is a great deal. 100 seconds.

  • Shut Up! (DFS), $24.99 – Surges of multi-colored sparks and flares are kinda quiet, but with crackles this item isn’t as “low noise” as Black Cat describes and the name suggests. 75 seconds.

  • O-Blivion (TNT), $19.99 – Unique ring-shaped fountain emits multi-colored chrysanthemums with pine and impressive titanium crackles. Sweet burn time. 125 seconds.

  • Power On (TNT), $19.99 – Packaged to look like a miniature power plant, last year’s “Best New Firework” electrifies with towering crackling sparks and unique fusing that moves from end to end. 85 seconds.

  • Sparknado (TNT), $29.99 for two – Three-year-old crackle-happy fountain is being discontinued after this season, and with it the cool effect of geysers of sparks breathing in and out before going into a frenzy. 85 seconds.

  • Serenity (Phantom), $17.99 for two – Noiseless fountain opens with lovely lava lamp-like lumps and peacefully pleases with seven colors and white chrysanthemums. 59 seconds.

  • King of Bling (Phantom), $16.99 – Crackles heard during the final third sound just like popping popcorn. Chrysanthemum and whistle effects are majestic. 90 seconds.

  • Nuclear Physics (DFS), $16.39 – Mushroom cloud-shaped packaging is the selling point, but gotta like the pretty gold flowers, silver chrysanthemums and noisy crackles. 66 seconds.

  • Little Big Show (DFS), $14.59 – This Black Cat dynamo is true to its name with lots of color, multiple effects and sweet burn time. 95 seconds.

  • Firecracker (Phantom), $10.99 – Delivers an awesome crackling barrage alongside multi-colored pearls. 76 seconds.

  • Phantom Dragon Slayer (Phantom), $9.99 for two – Solid pick with white, blue and lemon chrysanthemums, rowdy crackles and red stars. 66 seconds.

  • Lil Red Devil (TNT), $9.99 for two – Packs plenty of heat for the size and price. Ends strong with wide-spreading titanium crackling sparks. 35 seconds.

  • Everglow (TNT), $9.99 – Last season’s rookie sensation scores with a quiet fish effect opening, titanium sparkle middle and boisterous crackle finale. Striking reds and greens. 61 seconds.

  • Luck of the Irish (TNT), $9.99 – Wowing revelers for 17 years with a performance of gold and silver spray, red and green balls, crackles and four super-loud whistles. 75 seconds.

  • Neon Force (TNT), $6.99 – Some of the best height, crackles and color at this price point. 55 seconds.

  • Cool Breeze (TNT), $3.99 – Non-stop crackle, vibrant color and a great price for the duration – what’s not to like? 55 seconds.

  • Cool (DFS), $3.18 for two – Little dynamo emits loud crackles, purple pearls and glittering gold and white sparks. Lower-priced clone of TNT’s Purple Rain ($5.99 for two) and Phantom’s Moondance ($3.49). 45 seconds.

For stand locations and additional product information, visit the retailers’ websites: TNT, www.tntfireworks.com; Phantom, www.fireworks.com; and Discount Fireworks Superstore, www.dfsfireworks.com.