The Woodward News

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June 30, 2014

Dairy Queen marks 50th year of selling fireworks

Woodward, Okla. — July 4, 2014 will mark the 50th year for the Dairy Queen Fireworks Stand.

In the early 1960s Kenneth Vassar Sr. was looking for ways to make a living. He did many different things to help support his family, from umpiring baseball games to operating the Dairy Queen to chasing cars. In 1964 he decided to sell fireworks from an outdoor stand behind the Dairy Queen at 13th and Main in Woodward.

From that point on selling fireworks for the July 4th holiday has been a Vassar family tradition.

Kenneth Vassar Jr., who began working at the stand when he was 8 years old, says "Back when we first started we would have drawings. Dad would give away motorcycles, trips to Six Flags, bicycles, TV's, all kinds of things.”

"Woodward was only a town of about five or six thousand then," Vassar added. "We would have two or three thousand people standing around for the drawing on July 4th. It was illegal at that time to charge to get a ticket so if they came up and asked for a ticket to the drawing we would give them one. We would go through two or three big rolls of tickets each year.

“Kids would find pens or pencils and want to trade them out for fireworks. We had five cent packs of firecrackers that we would swap them. You want the kids to have fun. We had one boy come in. He would always have two or three pennies or a nickel. “Well what will that buy me?” he would say. And we would sell him a five or ten cent pack of firecrackers.”

Vassar said at that time there were two stands, the one on Main and another on 22nd and Oklahoma where the old Champlin station used to be.

"Three of Uncle George’s (Vassar) girl’s took care of that stand," Vassar said. "We had a stand in Alva. My great-great uncle ran that one until he passed-away. Then we closed it and just kept the ones in Woodward.”

Vassar said they used to spend the night in the fireworks stands.

"From the time we were eleven or twelve up until we were fifteen or sixteen we would take our sleeping bags and spread them on the floor of the stand. We weren’t glued to the TV," he said.  "We would take our baseballs and play catch until 1 or 2 in the morning. We would be up and opening the stand by 8 a.m. We had fun.

“Uncle George use to make midnight runs to bring back fireworks. He would go to McAlester, Kansas, Enid. Wherever we could buy them. He would get back around 2 or 3 in the morning. He helped a lot. He would provide us with the motorcycles at a low cost.”

Vassar said the fireworks stands have been a family business with grandparents, mother, sisters, brothers, his wife and kids and in-laws all helping.

"My brothers and his kids still come and help. My sister comes in. My cousin Ronnie Vassar has helped tremendously. They have all grown-up and are involved in other things so I depend on local help a lot now," Vassar said.  "I use a lot of local kids. For a lot of them it is their first job learning to count money, learn how to sell. It brings them out of their shyness. I see some of them come in now and they are Grandpas and Grandmas and are bringing in their kids and grandkids. We have been a fixture for that many years.”

There have been a number of changes in fireworks with some being banned for safety and now there is the also the restriction of not being able to sell them within city limits. It is also illegal for people to shoot fireworks in the city limits, something Vassar would like to see changed.

“I wish the city would allow people to shoot inside the limits," he said. "There are more water hoses around than in the country. The fire department wouldn’t have to travel as far if there was a fire. The town of Mustang sells permits to shoot fireworks inside their limits. The permits brought in a $32,000 revenue last year.”

Weather issues have also slowed the fireworks sales as the area has been in a drought the last couple of years.

"We are about two weeks behind this year because of the fire ban. We didn’t see any rain in the forecast so we weren’t quite ready. It takes about two weeks to move the stands and get set up,” Vassar said. “While it is legal to sell fireworks during a fire ban, I would rather not sell them than risk a fire. People will go out of town and buy them and bring them in but I don’t want to burn someone’s livelihood down. I don’t want to burn someone’s farm, home, crops, cattle, or equipment. I certainly don’t want a fireman going out and getting injured. I have a nephew who is a volunteer fireman. He got caught in a serious situation two years ago on July 4th.”

Vassar encourages people to have fun but be safe and use common sense when handling fireworks.

"Always have adult supervision and get permission before you set off fireworks on someone’s property," he said. "Take a five gallon bucket of wet gunny sacks with you so you can smother any fire. Don’t go off and leave a fire if one gets started. Call the fire department and let them know what is going on.

“Setting off fireworks inside the city limits is illegal. But if you are going to set them off in your backyard we have a “Safe and Sane” package that contains fountains and everything stays on the ground. Nothing that goes up in the air. Of course we have sparklers, pop-pop’s, and roman candles.”

Now the Dairy Queen have stands on north 9th Street by the River Bridge and on Hanks Trail. Vassar said he hopes to still get one up by Jim's Auto Salvage again. They are open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. and on July 3-4 will open at 9 a.m. and stay "until people quit coming."

Now getting ready for year 50, Vassar said he still enjoys selling the fireworks.

"I enjoy seeing the kids enjoying it. You know it’s one of our freedoms, celebrations and stuff. I hope they never take it away from us," he said. "Stuff I want our kids to be able to enjoy. Kids don’t get to enjoy arcades, drive-ins, what we grew up with. They have lost all of that. I hope to be selling for another 20 years.”

 

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