THE TOP TEN FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2022: #5


On Monday, July 4, it started to rain in the afternoon. And rain. And rain. A lot.

Admittedly I chuckled Monday when before the hour of 12 noon had even arrived neighboring communities announced they were canceling their evening fireworks due to beyond gloomy weather forecasts. Weak sauce I thought.

Here in Franklin the show was still on.  Folks in surrounding areas could visit our city, hit the Independence Day Celebration, The Umbrella Bar, or Blend. Our mayor Steve Olson loves fireworks and often brags we have the best in our neck of the woods. Surely we wouldn’t even think of canceling.

Wrong.

Franklin caved, citing the weather, of course, and the fact that everyone else was throwing in the towel, so why not us. Talk about a lack of independence on Independence Day.

Taking full advantage of the decision to dump the fireworks was Michael Zimmerman, Owner and Executive Officer of ROC Ventures. He went out and bought…

And staged his own fireworks display despite the monsoon that hit at 9:00 pm.


How could that happen?

Gee, I don’t know. Maybe because Zimmerman is an enterprising private businessman and local municipalities are public sector government entities. As my late father used to say they could mess up a one-car funeral.

BTW two thumbs up to the Raymond fireworks in Franksville that went up the evening during the pouring rainstorm.

And BRAVO to Greendale that decided to hold their taxpayer-funded fireworks, eventually on July 9th.

People in Franklin were frustrated, big time, and damage control was awful.

Then we got this explanation for the cancellation from a member of Franklin’s Civic Celebrations Commission.

Later in July, on the city’s website:

Community Spotlight

The 2022 Fireworks Show is being rescheduled for Saturday, July 1, 2023.

Other communities quickly re-scheduled to have theirs not long after the 4th.

In Franklin, gotta wait a year.

Message to Franklin property taxpayers:

SUCKAHS!

Yes I was blue that here and elsewhere shows were tanked. I was also disappointed at the general negativity about backyard fireworks discussed on social media. Some folks maintain that on the night of July 4th we are to remain indoors, maybe put on the TV, but essentially go silent.

Let me interject that I have empathy for veterans who suffer from PTSD. And I love dogs. Let’s not go down that road. Fireworks have been around long before America. They are required and necessary for the holiday celebrations. Killjoys need to do their best to grin and bear the love of country demonstrations.

That brings me to a column by Teresa Mull, an assistant editor at The Spectator World published on July 3, 2022.

The right to keep and bear fireworks

The political arena is hotter than ever with fights raging over rights and freedoms and all that good American stuff. But one topic missing from these debates only gets the attention it deserves for about a week every year each July: the right to keep and bear fireworks. It’s a right heavily restricted in sixteen states and straight-up illegal in Massachusetts. Yes, Massachusetts, home of the Boston Tea Party, that act of defiance that sparked our patriotic tradition of blowing things up.

In the Pennsylvania Wilds — the romantic name a tourism agency gave to the hick region of the state where I reside — things go boom year-round. It could be someone detonating explosives to open up a strip mine, a truck backfiring, a firearm normal-firing, or someone celebrating making bail with a bottle rocket. But during Independence Day week — heck, it lasts all summer long — the whizzing, whistling, whirring, bang, pop, kaboom! sounds come on in full-force as the natives do their best to remind the Redcoats not to get any ideas…

Fireworks are as American as apple pie and not kissing people when you greet them. A merchant at one of my local fireworks emporiums (we have three) explains, “A guy was in here the other day and said his neighbor called the cops on him for setting off fireworks and the dispatcher was like…so?”

“What do people like about fireworks so much?” I ask the vendor, who, by the way, sleeps on a tiny cot inside his fireworks tent for ten consecutive nights in July to safeguard his wares.

“I think it’s a little bit of danger, the lights, the spectacle,” he says. “It draws a crowd — especially if you’re the one setting them off. It’s like, look what I did. It’s a big party.”

There are, of course, more practical uses for fireworks.

“Some guy said he had to get rid of a groundhog under his house so he bought a bunch of these,” the storekeeper says, running his hand over a pile of “Mammoth Smoke” sticks, which I’m told “just make a bunch of smoke.”

“Yeah, some other guy came in and said he was going to shoot a music video under a bridge and bought like ten of them,” another salesman chimes in.

I visit another fireworks store the next county over. It’s a brick-and-mortar place that’s open half the year, with special hours leading up to New Year’s Eve. When I show up on June 30, it’s busier than our local grocery store the day before Thanksgiving.

“Wow, it’s really crowded in here, huh?” I say to the proprietor, who is open-carrying a Glock on his hip.

He shrugs.

“This isn’t bad,” he says. “In 2020, during Covid, we had people snaking through the parking lot, lined clear down the highway. We had to limit the number of people we could let in the store at one time, or no one could move.”

“What are some of your most popular items?”

“Roman candles and the bigger, 500-gram cakes.”

The man’s voice drifts off as he just repeats the word: “Bigger, bigger…”

“It really depends on personal preference,” his sister says. “There’s everything for everybody.”

I survey the scene: there’s a sweet-looking woman with her hair in a bun who is probably picking up sparklers for her grandkids. There’s a father loading a shopping cart with his two teenage sons. My mental note-taking is disrupted as I must slide out of the way of a dignified-looking gentleman in a suit and tie carrying a giant box of fireworks.

“What do you like about fireworks?” I ask a few folks. They stare at me a second and sort of frown, as if to say, “What do you mean, ‘Why do I like fireworks? That’s like asking, ‘Why do you like fair weather and free pizza?’”

“The party atmosphere,” says the father of two boys. “We have a Fourth of July picnic every year. My mom — this [crammed shopping cart] is all my mom. She likes her fireworks. She gives us the money and lets us pick.”

“Being around family and hanging out with all of them,” says son number one.

“I like the colors of the fireworks, too,” adds son number two.

Another group tells me fireworks are the essence of a celebration and this year will make a graduation party more festive.

I have always been a big fan of fireworks, but had never shopped for them per se. And I don’t want to. It’s way too hard to choose. The “Party Like It’s 1776” firework, with George Washington in sunglasses flashing deuces beneath two bald eagles, seems like a no-brainer, ‘til I realize it’s made by Winda Fireworks — in China. Then again, the Chinese invented fireworks, I think, and perhaps patriotic packaging will make them more sympathetic to our republic?

Oooh, but the “Wrath of the Beast,” with an image of what appears to be Shrek under demonic possession, is also tempting. So is “Rising Storm” with Revelation-style lighting strikes. And then there’s the “Dragon Slayer” with “maximum fire,” which I think should be self-explanatory at this point. Mini-tanks that “actually drive” and throw sparks bring back memories from my youth, and if I spend $140 more, I get a free Mystic Sundae!

I’m happy to say the right to keep and bear firearms is mostly alive and well, and the “rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air” will give proof through the night that our constitutional rights are still there (in most states, at least). The Pennsylvania legislature has actually made fireworks laws less restrictive in recent years.

“It used to be mortars were illegal,” my tent vendor tells me. “Now you can launch and sell mortars, which the people love. I know a lot of people would go out of state to get them and bring them back.”

That’s good news for us yinzers, but we still have work to do. No one should be forced to travel to “haven states” for safe and legal fireworks access. And I don’t think even Amazon employees get a stipend for doing so. It’s clear the time has come for Congress to codify the right to keep and bear fireworks into national law.

—Teresa Mull

My favorite paragraph:

Fireworks are as American as apple pie and not kissing people when you greet them. A merchant at one of my local fireworks emporiums (we have three) explains, “A guy was in here the other day and said his neighbor called the cops on him for setting off fireworks and the dispatcher was like…so?”

Now it’s early September 2022.

My Franklin alderwoman, Kristin Wilhelm, demonstrated her anti-business sentiments during a discussion on fireworks regulation at a meeting of the Franklin Common Council when she called for fewer public displays of fireworks.

“I think we should put some kind of cap on how many events per year.”

Wilhelm’s comment was a direct shot at one of Franklin’s finest corporate citizens, the aforementioned Michael Zimmerman, Owner and Executive Officer of Roc Ventures. Zimmerman has staged several fireworks displays at his Milwaukee Milkmen games this season. He also had the audacity to hold impromptu fireworks on the night of July 4th when the city of Franklin questionably canceled their display. Fireworks were also held in August to celebrate the opening of Luxe Golf Displays at Franklin’s Ballpark Commons.

One of Wilhelm’s fondest allies and buddies on the common council Alderman John Nelson, came out with this:

“I don’t agree with having a limitation to the number. Because I don’t believe that’s been a real issue at all. And if a business that wants to celebrate it, have ‘em celebrate it. I don’t want to hamstring somebody who says ‘well we had 10 at the Milkmen games, I’m sorry, Saputo Cheese you can’t do anything.’ I don’t want that.”

Alderwoman Shari Hanneman didn’t exactly help Franklin’s business climate during the discussion. Businesses pay close attention to this stuff.

“If we have a business in the community that is putting on a public fireworks display without the proper permit, how do we handle that? What is the punishment, for lack of a better word? My only concern for that is public safety.”

Mayor Steve Olson: “Right.”

Hanneman: “Because God forbid what if something were to happen? What if an insurance company wasn’t going to cover that? Does that come back on the city? I don’t know.”

God, I absolutely hate the “What if” argument.

No, Shari, you don’t know. Why don’t you know?

Because you, and no one else for that matter, could cite businesses that operated fireworks that caused such damage that the city became horribly liable.

Enter Alderwoman Michelle Eichmann for some common sense.

She saw no need for limiting fireworks. Her district is across the street from Franklin Field and says she’s had very few complaints about the fireworks that were approved this year.

The common sense approaches fell on Wilhelm’s deaf ears.

“If it’s on a weeknight, having one a week is not reasonable. I’m talking one facility over and over and over again.”

Again. A direct kick in the face to Roc Ventures.

Actually fireworks at Franklin Field after Milkmen games this past season were always on a SATURDAY and were NOT scheduled once a week.

In the end the council delayed taking any action on fireworks at that particular meeting.

And what about July 4, 2023?

Franklin’s Civic Celebration Commission decided at its August 22nd meeting to move the 2023 Independence Day parade from July 4th to Sunday July 2.

Such a stupendous idea that no one said diddly about it publically. That is until local realtor (and a fine guy BTW) Doug Malinovich announced it in a video on Facebook.

Doug thinks the move is wonderful. I got news for Doug.

IT’S LOONY!

Earth to Doug and the commission:  We don’t honor or celebrate July 2. We honor and celebrate July 4.

Hopefully they come to their senses before next summer and schedule the parade when it’s supposed to be held. On America’s birthday.

My guess is they won’t because common sense is a rare commodity in how we manage Franklin.

Finally in early September I sent an e-mail to Franklin officials who think July 4th should not be celebrated on July 4th.

Holidays shouldn’t be so difficult but apparently they’re really brain busters for the Franklin brain trust.

THE TOP 10 FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2022

1) ?
2) ?
3) ?
4) ?
5) A FIREWORKS FLOP
6) THE WALL THAT HEALS
7) SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER’S LONE FIGHT FOR COMMON SENSE
8) NEW SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT
9) FRANKLIN IS SAVING AMERICA WITH THE HELP OF…
10) THE STATE OF THE CITY

5 thoughts on “THE TOP TEN FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2022: #5

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