HIBBING — The Fourth of July is a time to remember that day in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence freed the 13 American colonies from British rule. It’s a time to celebrate that freedom, as people across the Iron Range head out to cabins and participate in parades, fireworks and other local happenings over the next few days. The excitement means crowds, bolstered economics and naturally, crime.
Katy Johnson, store manager at Hibbing Super One Liquor, told the Hibbing Daily Tribune on Monday that the Fourth of July is one of their biggest holidays in terms of sales, second only to Christmas. As expected, traffic in and out of the store has been consistent over the past week.
“Beer is definitely the biggest, then liquor,” Johnson said, speaking of their best sellers. “Wine would be last.”
She added that some stopping in are out-of-towners who have cabins here and plan to stay until August. This tends to translate into elevated sales throughout the entire month of July for the liquor store.
So, just how many travel here for Independence Day? The Iron Range Tourism Bureau told the HDT that while it’s difficult to quantify the exact number of tourists, one thing is certain: homecomings are extremely popular right now.
“What I would say is with the new [Hull Rust] Mine View, plus Hibbing High School tours, the Hibbing Historical Society Museum and our beautiful parks, the holiday and the entire summer make this a great time for Hibbing to shine,” Beth Pierce, executive director of the Iron Range Tourism Bureau, wrote in an email.
Vicki Hagberg, president of the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed, pointing to tourism as a major plus for area businesses right now.
“Summer is a fun time for people to gather together in the Hibbing area,” Hagberg wrote in an email. “From family gatherings to class reunions, Fourth of July area parades and the upcoming Jubilee festival, it’s a great season to enjoy Hibbing and the Iron Range.”
Meanwhile, over at Sullivan Candy and Supply in Hibbing, owner Tom Sullivan has witnessed an increase in customer activity. The busyness has had him running from morning until night unloading trucks and trying to keep up with demand. Tuesday morning he told the HDT that the first sign of the Fourth is seeing children coming in to buy “throwing pops” — also known as “Pop Pop” snappers. Next comes the wave of adults with kids in tote to browse the year-round firework selection, which gets moved to the front of the store this time of year. In the past week, sales have predictably jumped.
“The firework business is quick,” Sullivan said in a phone interview. “It’s a 10 day business. Ninety percent of our firework sales are this week.”
Not only that, candy and float material, like red white and blue fringe for trailers in parades, have been flying off the shelf. So far particularly hot sellers include Tootsie Rolls, Double Bubble gum and Laffy Taffy.
“The Fourth of July business is big for us,” Sullivan said. “The parades are wonderful. Parades are the greatest thing in the world.”
On Monday afternoon, Hibbing’s deputy chief of police, Tyler Schwerzler, told the HDT that the Fourth tends to be a calm time at the department. Most people briefly leave Hibbing to enjoy parades in neighboring towns. Of course, that can result in drunk driving incidents — particularly between Hibbing, Keewatin, Nashwauk and Side Lake this side of the Range. However, once the Hibbing Jubilee celebration nears — which is scheduled for July 11-13 — the crowds swell as do complaint calls.
For now, the department is preparing for an onslaught of fireworks complaints.
“The majority [of violations] are noise disturbances, firework complaints, loud parties and intoxicated people,” Schwerzler said. Also, parking issues, drinking in public and people driving while intoxicated.
Schwerzler explained that aerial fireworks, bottle rockets, Roman candles, or essentially anything that explodes and goes “boom” is illegal to set off without a special permit. That said, typical fountain fireworks, sparklers and items sold at stores like Sullivan Candy and Supply are above board as long as they are set off in a safe, controlled environment.
“They're technically legal if they don’t explode or have things that launch over three-feet,” Schwerzler clarified. “People do call and complain to the city, and we will give citations.” He added: “The fine is based on weight — for example, explosive fireworks less than 35-pounds can result in imprisonment of up to 90 days or a fine of up to $700.”
He also has a few suggestions for ensuring a safe holiday:
• Arrange for safe transportation if you’re going to consume alcohol
• Do not leave fires unattended while celebrating
• Become acquainted with local ordinances
• Have a buddy system for going out
• Stay hydrated, especially in hot temperatures
‘Operation Dry Water’
Another popular pastime during Independence Day is boating, and as locals hit the lakes in waves, a national campaign called “Operation Dry Water” is scheduled to come out right along with them. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said in a press release that state patrol, county sheriff’s offices as well as other public safety agencies plan to amp up their enforcement of Boating While Intoxicated crimes between Friday and Sunday. The move is meant to deter the number of BWI-related boating accidents and fatalities caused by people boating while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Last year, alcohol factored into half of the deadly boating accidents throughout Minnesota — higher than the five-year average. For more information, visit www.operationdrywater.org.
Holiday travel can also mean road construction and delays. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation website, there are currently more than 200 active highway construction projects throughout the state, most of which will be suspended during the holiday. For example, Highway 73 between Cromwell and south of Hibbing has a single lane, and there is a single lane between Highway 37 and Eveleth. Bypasses, lane closures and detours could result in slower moving traffic, so MnDOT recommends travelers visit www.511mn.org to stay up to date on road construction before heading out to celebrate with friends and family.