Pam and Deb's Fireworks is a family business that is starting on its third generation.
Making noise and lighting up the sky is a tradition in the Withers family fireworks stand that is headed into the third generation.
Now under the name Pam and Deb's Fireworks, the stand is located at the intersection of East 54 Highway and Fincham Street on the north side of the highway.
The beneath the large tent is a vast display of fireworks ranging sparklers and firecrackers to the big boxes full of tubes and artillery shells for launching some of the bigger display works.
With grass under their feet, customers come and make their selections for their holiday celebrations.
The stand started years ago when brothers Dale and Stanly Withers decided to sell fireworks for an extra family project.
The brothers manned the wooden stand for a year then turned the project over to their wives, Arlene and Deborah Withers, said current operator Deb Polok, Dale's daughter.
For many years Arlene and Deborah ran the wooden stand on Withers property on the east side of town. Other members of the family got involved in selling fireworks and they hired some seasonal help as well. That good seasonal help continues to this day and is one reason the stand has been a success.
Cousins Pam Howell and Polok opened a second stand on K-61. It was also a wooden stand where people could park and walk up to make their selections.
As the years went by, the business outgrew the wooden stands and the business was moved under a big tent that measures 60 feet by 30 feet. Cousins Pam Howell and Polok eventually took over the operation of the fireworks stand, still offering a wide variety of products that keeps growing, Polok said.
Howell has retired from the business. Polok's daughter, Jenna Polok Lenkner, is woking at the family facility as she learns the business and prepares to take over when Polok retires. She will be the third generation to operate the facility.
This family run business has been in operation for over 45 years and with Lenkner getting ready to take over the business, it will be in operation for years to come.
The original stand site was further west 45 years ago and closer to K-61. As the city and businesses grew, it took over some of Withers land and the stand has moved several times further east to its current location. Another move may be coming in the future. If all goes well, a new four-plex movie theater will build on the current stand location, forcing it to move further east again, Polok said.
For some, it might seem selling fireworks would be a perfect job. It lasts for eight days a year, people come to the site and buy products that make them happy.
For those actually doing the selling, there are things about the job that are a challenge. It can get very hot in Kansas during the eight days the stand is open for business. The humidity is also a factor. The Kansas wind helps keep things cool but if it gets too high, it can create a problem.
One year in the late 1970s, possibly 1978, there was a flood in Pratt that hit the stand area hard. The relentless rain and strong wind combined to bring the tent down. Polok and Howell had to crawl out from under the tent then make their way across the highway to retrieve their merchandise.
Surprisingly, once the merchandise dried out, it still worked, Polok said.
The work is hard and hot but it's a lot of fun. They workers get to meet a lot of people over the course of eight days and Polok said she and the other employees enjoy the social aspect of the business.
The biggest selling day varies from year to year but it tends to be July 3 and July 4.
The best sellers are the artillery shells followed by snappers, Roman candles, sparklers and the ever popular fire crackers.
Every day starts with unloading the supply trailers and setting the merchandise out for sale. Business hours usually run from 9 a.m. to around 8:30 p.m. or so but they sell as long as customers are buying so the end of the day might not come until 10 a.m.
This family business looks to continue for years to come with Lenkner eventfully taking over. She has just had a baby so who knows. A fourth generation, who has already been at the site, will take over years down the road.