There is no right way to celebrate the 4th of July — but the best July 4th parties always include fireworks. In addition to the massive public fireworks shows that will light up the night sky, there is a variety of smaller fireworks available to produce more intimate displays amongst family, friends, and neighbors. If this is your first time buying fireworks for the 4th of July, here are a few types you absolutely must pick up:
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One of the most quintessential varieties of fireworks, firecrackers consist of flash powder wrapped in paper and attached to a fuse. These fireworks are set off on the ground, where they will emit loud bangs and pops as well as a small amount of light.
Shells are fireworks that are fired into the sky, where they explode into stars. There are many different types of shells, from Saturn shells (which explode with a ring, not unlike the planet) to dahlias (which produce a starfish shape) to strobes (which twinkle or shimmer). Shells are also sometimes called artillery fireworks or mortars.
A barrage is a group of fireworks all fired at once. Usually, a barrage includes many different types of fireworks to create multiple different effects that fill the darkness with a variety of light and sounds. Similar to a barrage is a battery, which is a group of identical fireworks fired at once.
Easily among the most popular consumer-grade fireworks, fountains are ground fireworks that emit showers of sparks into the air. Fountain fireworks come in varying sizes to achieve different heights with their sparks. Though fountains are popular and undeniably dazzling, they also tend to be among the most dangerous consumer fireworks, so you employ strict safety precautions when lighting them.
Named after a medieval torture device, a Catherine wheel is a ground firework that emits sparks in a circular direction, causing the firework to spin. Catherine wheels are not available everywhere because they require special mounting to be safe. In professional displays, Catherine’s wheels can be mounted to rockets and shot into the sky.
Also called repeaters or multi-shot aerials, cakes are fireworks that use a single fuse to light several fireworks in sequence. Usually, cakes integrate a number of different types of fireworks to produce diverse effects with minimal effort. For your 4th of July party, you might look for a cake that includes spinners, fish, flower bouquets, comets, crossettes, and more.
Though small, bottle rockets are remarkably powerful. Attached to a stick that is planted into the ground, bottle rockets fly briefly before exploding in a loud bang, called a report. Some bottle rockets whistle as they fly. These are simple fireworks that are nonetheless remarkably fun, especially for kids.
A Roman candle is a firework that shoots a number of flaming balls into the sky. The typical Roman candle contains about five balls, though there are smaller and larger Roman candles that can produce different effects. Unfortunately, Roman candles are often used inappropriately, resulting in injury. You should never hold Roman candles in your hand after lighting the fuse; instead, they should be securely planted on the ground like a bottle rocket.
Like a Catherine wheel, a helicopter sends sparks in a circular direction to spin, but this firework is designed to spin so quickly that it flies into the sky, where it explodes. Helicopters go by many different names, such as planes, sky flyers, and UFOs.
Though jumping jacks look like standard firecrackers, these fireworks spin and hop after ignition. Usually, jumping jacks will emit different-colored sparks, like red and green, as they jump about.
Snakes are fireworks that transform from small, hard pellets to long tubes of carbon. These are some of the most popular fireworks amongst young kids. Although snakes do not emit sparks or explode like other fireworks, you should still supervise their use as they can include toxic elements.
Though perhaps not technically fireworks, smoke bombs are nonetheless fun to integrate into your July 4th festivities. These devices emit a cloud of colorful smoke, which might create a fun atmosphere for other games and activities.
Whistles or whistlers are fireworks that generate a harsh, loud howling sound as their primary effect. Usually, whistlers are added to other fireworks, especially cakes, fountains, and rockets, but you can find whistlers on their own if you particularly enjoy this type of fireworks.
A firework mine shoots stars into the sky in an upward spray pattern, not unlike a fountain. However, a mine tends to generate more noise, banging, and crackling during the display.
At the very least, every 4th of July celebration needs a handful of sparklers. Sparklers are handheld fireworks that emit small sparks for a short period of time. Though relatively safe, sparklers can cause burns, especially when used by small children or when discarded carelessly.
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