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They're comin' to Costa Mesa

July 04, 2006|By Michael Miller

COSTA MESA ? It's called the Big Bang, and it stands almost the height of a person ? a colorful package containing a whopping 292 different kinds of fireworks.

On Monday afternoon, it leaned in the corner of the Orange Coast College basketball fireworks stand on 17th Street as customers flocked to the windows to buy smaller items. Teeya Fernandez, the student in charge of the stand that day, said the Big Bang often resides there for most of the Fourth of July weekend.

"I think one year we sold two of those," said Fernandez, an Anaheim resident and sports medicine major. "They're pretty hard to sell."

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If it does sell, though, the basketball teams at OCC may be wearing mink next year. The price tag for the Big Bang: $500.

Every year on the holiday weekend, booster clubs from OCC and a number of public schools set up fireworks stands around Costa Mesa. In one of the few Orange County cities that permits residents to light their own fireworks, there's natural public demand ? and for most clubs, the Fourth of July stands are the biggest fundraiser of the year.

The funds from fireworks sales cover numerous expenses for Newport-Mesa sports teams, including uniforms, equipment, motel bills and tournament fees. For parents, coaches and team members, it's worth spending four days manning the counter in the hot sun.

With Newport Beach and other surrounding cities banning private fireworks displays, Costa Mesa is a haven for people who want to be dazzled up close. Still, the city sets firm limits on what can and can't be lighted on Independence Day. In general, any fireworks that stay on the ground and feature labels of approval from the California Fire Marshal are acceptable.

Off limits: sparklers, bottle rockets, roaming candles, sky rockets or anything that flies off the ground. In general, Costa Mesa Fire Department Capt. Kevin Diamond said, it's best to stick with the dealers by the side of the road.

"If you don't buy it at a licensed fireworks stand, it's not legal," he said.

Vendors said on Monday that they frequently had to turn down requests for forbidden items.

"People come asking for everything, but we only sell the safe and legal fireworks," said Rachel de los Santos, the Estancia High School tennis coach who helped to run a stand on Newport Boulevard.

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