GRANBY — Gene Covey’s retail trailer is chockful of fireworks, but the vendor appears bored.
There are Little Bulls, Screamers, Tasmanian Devils, Snappers, Glow Worms, Camo Smoke, Smoke Grenades, Crack Balls, Killer Bees and every kind of sparkler from A to Z, not to mention “Party Packs” combo platters.
Three days prior to the Fourth of July, Covey normally would have a line at his moveable store at the corner of Highway 34 and 40, next to retail carts selling Kachina dolls and antlers.
But Covey is enduring yet another ban year, and business abruptly stalled after a county-wide ban was announced last Friday.
During the noon hour on Monday, the only customer approaching Covey’s trailer was a tourist asking where he could purchase a National Park Passport.
Although he’s technically not obligated, the fireworks vendor says he’s honest when folks uninformed of the ban are at his counter. “I’m not going to lie to anybody,” he said. “I’m not going to sell something people can’t use. Not being a politician, I’m honest with people.”
Covey got into being Grand County’s foremost exclusive fireworks vendor by accident, he said. A former owner of the business from Denver was retiring, and simply asked Covey if he was interested in taking it on.
“I just like fireworks,” he said of the reason he’s stuck with it 29 years since.
Covey sells fireworks when not selling his handcrafted wooden bowls he makes during the winter.
Last year, the county implemented its fire ban much earlier on June 12, giving Covey time to cancel his fireworks order and commit to selling wooden bowls.
But a much later ban this year means the vendor may have to eat his fireworks inventory.
A Stage 1 ban, as implemented now, prohibits the use of fireworks, but allows for the sale of them, something Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson said he recognizes is awkward.
“That’s a tough one,” the sheriff said. “Our concern is the use of them more than the sale.”
But Covey even questions the ban on use, saying “a bunch of bureaucrats” are lacking the expertise in making such decisions.
Regardless, Covey’s business is always slightly impacted by the fact fireworks are never allowed on public lands, such as in the national forest or park.
The Stage 1 fire restrictions as they are now allow for campfires in developed campgrounds, but not in dispersed camping sites. “Why is that?” Covey asked, inferring the forest service is unwilling to give up its campground fees on a busy weekend.
Spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service’s Arapaho District Reid Armstrong says it’s other reasons. Developed designated campgrounds with metal rings buried in the ground, focussed patrols, on-site hosts, and campers usually using prepackaged wood that fits within the ring are all considerations for allowing campfires at developed sites. Also, “we understand that camping in the national forest is a really important part of the local economy,” she said. “It’s a big attraction for people. We’re not going overboard (with a campfire ban in developed campgrounds) because it does have an impact on the economy.”
There is no indication of a Stage 2 ban this year, which would prohibit campground campfires, Armstrong said, with monsoon season hopefully around the corner.
In the meantime, Covey is not sure what he’ll be doing for the Fourth.
“I’ll have to go back to selling wooden bowls,” he said.