Pyrotechnic Peddlers Encouraged By Climate, Calendar; Brides Benefit From Record Rainfall

Jul 3, 2015

Fireworks stands popped up across more rural parts of the metro weeks ago ahead of the Independence Day holiday, and Oklahoma's climate, some calendar luck, and easing of fireworks laws in other states should a $695 million dollar nationwide industry continue to boom (and yes, of course, that bad pun was intended). Sales have steadily grown since 1998, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

Oklahoma's drought formally ended earlier this year after dozens of inches of rain fell across the state, and as a result there aren't any burn bans in the state. But Cheryl Hooper, who manages a stand in Arcadia, told The Journal Record's Kaelynn Knoernschild her success really depends on what day of the week July 4 falls. Saturday is ideal.

Last year, Hooper made about $5,500, she said. Her agreement with TNT allows her to keep 20 percent of what she sells, with TNT taking the remaining 80 percent.

Hooper said she keeps a small cut of her 20 percent and donates the rest to a nonprofit. Last year’s earnings were given to her church’s youth ministry.

“That’s the way I want it,” Hooper said.

The stand opened June 26 and will stay open until 10 p.m. Sunday. Hooper said she has made about $1,000 so far this season and expects sales to pick up Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

"What's interesting that we found out is that some owners give away what they make. The owner of ten stands told us that he lets non-profits such as sports teams work for a cut of the money," said Journal Record managing editor Adam Brooks. "I suspect that if you've got a youth baseball team that's working a certain night at a stand, that all those parents will encourage their friends and family to come out and buy fireworks, and that probably helps a little bit."

Rainy Rewards

Sarah Beth Monhollon was one of several brides who received a refund on her wedding ring from B.C. Clark in May.
Credit Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

For years, Oklahoma City jeweler B.C. Clark has run a promotion called "Pray for Rain." It will never surpass the iconic notoriety of that catchy holiday jingle, but it does have an almost "urban legend" status - how often have you heard of someone having their engagement ring paid for because it rained on their wedding day?

The jewelry store will reimburse customers up to $5,000 if a nearby Oklahoma Mesonet rain gauge measures an inch or more on the day of a wedding, any time between midnight and midnight. The final count in May? 23.4 inches of rain, 25 free rings.

"The company tracks that data itself. People don't have to file a claim or anything," Brooks said. "We talked to one bride named Sarah Beth Monhollon, and she got a refund even though rain ended at 3 a.m. on the day of her wedding. She had an afternoon wedding, but she got her check two weeks later."

It's kind of a numbers game, and The Journal Record's Brian Brus reports there are experts and oddsmakers who play that game well:

Mark Gilmartin, co-owner at Odds On Promotions in Reno, Nevada, said that although a jewelry store’s payouts for bad weather might seem like a bad bet now with the benefit of hindsight, it’s really just a matter of statistics and risk assessment. After all, most of Oklahoma was in a drought for the last four years; couples fretted more about too much sun than too much rain. A good actuary has a much broader perspective and looks at the overall balance, he said.

Odds On insures promotions such as half-court basketball shots, paper airplane tosses and dice rolls. For a small fee, the company will cover the payout for up to $1 million on a golf hole-in-one, for example.

. . .

Weather insurance requires a slightly different perspective of chance. A simple dice roll or roulette table toss have mathematically simple odds because all outcomes are known and equally weighted. Skill events like shooting a hockey puck from the middle of the arena require an expert’s assessment of the challenge and likelihood of drawing a ringer from the audience. Weather forecasting, though, is based on decades of data and trends that suggest strong averages.

Brooks said even though that type of service exists, B.C. Clark doesn't use it, and the promotion doesn't really affect their bottom line.

"They save up in years where they don't have to pay out too much, and really they just consider it a marketing expense," Brooks said.

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