I’m writing this on my way to China. Skylighter has two fireworks orders there that I am going over to inspect. I thought some of you might be interested in just what it takes to get fireworks from China all the way to your hot little hands.
I’ll be on the road for two weeks. During that time, I will try to post to this blog every day I can get an internet connection.
Skylighter sells a line of what are called “Novelty Fireworks.” These include wedding sparklers, party poppers, smoke balls, black snakes, pull-string poppers, throw-down snaps and others. Novelty fireworks are a class of fireworks, which are exempted from most shipping restrictions, as long as they go by ground.
That’s good for you and us because sparklers and other novelty fireworks are easy and cheap to ship anywhere in the US. That is not true of all other fireworks, which are very heavily regulated as to how they can be shipped, which shippers will take them, and how much it costs to ship them (translate: very expensive to ship, often prohibitively so for end-users).
All of the sparklers for weddings and other novelty fireworks we sell are made in China. And none of them are purchased “off the shelf.” Nope. There is no warehouse sitting over there with ten thousand cases of wedding sparklers all piled up and ready to go out the door. Nosireebob. For reasons I cannot yet completely fathom, all those standard products, all of them, are all made to order.
Made to order is not always a good thing. It means that every time a fresh batch of wedding sparklers are made, or a new wedding sparkler box is designed, that mistakes can be made. And given the language differences between English and Chinese, it’s very common for mistakes to be made.
So, this is why yours truly is on a flight from DC to Vancouver to Hong Kong right now. The fireworks in our current order are in various stages of construction and ready to me to take a gander at before they get packed up and shipped to the US.
The trip involves about 22 hours of travel, one-way, just to get to Hong Kong. That is, only 22 hours if I make this next connection in Vancouver on time. Stay tuned.
I like to go into China through Hong Kong. I first went to Hong Kong on R&R from Viet Nam in 1969, back when it was still a British colony. I liked it so much, I wangled another R & R there that same year, before I was dragged kicking and screaming out of the war, back to the “world” as we called it then.
So for the past several fireworks trips to China, I have been going into China through Hong Kong. Hong Kong is FUN! It is also a knockout, visually. While I’m not gonna take this space to do a Hong Kong travelogue, suffice it to say, Hong Kong is a city you just oughta see at least once in your life.
When I leave Hong Kong, I ultimately end up in Liuyang. The Liuyangese call their town “The Fireworks Capital of the World.” That’s gotta be accurate. There are supposedly 1,000 to 1,500 fireworks factories in and around Liuyang. So, although fireworks are made elsewhere in China, nowhere in the world are so many concentrated in one spot.
If you stand anywhere in Liuyang at night and look in any direction, there will be fireworks going off. Everywhere. In town, out of town, everywhere you look. In all directions.
So, that’s good, too. Going to Liuyang means I can check out all the different sparklers and other fireworks we sell in one, relatively small place. Without having to drive all over China, about the same size as the US.
That also means that everybody else who is buying fireworks will be there, too. People who are buying fireworks from everywhere else in the world. And most of us even stay in the same hotel. So, at any given breakfast, you’ll be sitting down with Brits, Germans, Dutch, Ozzie’s, Turks, and Russians—all there for the same reason.
And that’s why in Liuyang you see fireworks going off every night in any direction. Every night fireworks are being tested and demonstrated for buyers from everywhere on this planet (and maybe a couple of others, but I am not allowed to talk about that here in this blog).
Now I’m about to make my connection in Vancouver for Hong Kong. Been here for three hours longer than I planned. Tune in tomorrow so you can find out just how a man with a jar of peanut butter can bring an entire international airport to a scereeeechhhing halt.
Chief Cook & Bottlewasher