Pyromania: An Ode To American Fireworks : The Picture Show In 2009, a photographer and his son set out on a road trip to document America's fireworks economy.
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Pyromania: An Ode To American Fireworks

In 2010, photographer Bill Vaccaro and his son, Chris, set out on a 3,500-mile road trip across America. Vaccaro's mission was twofold: Get some quality time, and get some photos. His son's: Get some fireworks. For both of them it was a successful trip.

Chris and his Stash. Grand Island, N.Y. My son with most of the fireworks he purchased during our 3,500-mile fireworks store road trip. ... We managed to set off about half of his stash that night. Bill Vaccaro hide caption

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Bill Vaccaro

Chris and his Stash. Grand Island, N.Y. My son with most of the fireworks he purchased during our 3,500-mile fireworks store road trip. ... We managed to set off about half of his stash that night.

Bill Vaccaro

I met Vaccaro this past December, and he's not what you would imagine a pyromaniac to be. He's as gentle as can be, and refreshingly unironic about the things he photographs.

"I love fireworks," he writes on his website. "I love to hear the oohs and aahs of a crowd as they sit on their blankets and lawn chairs looking skyward at things that go flash and boom on a warm summer 4th of July evening."

On the phone he explained that his genuine love of explosives inspired this documentary project, which he calls Boomtown. But it was also a curiosity about those small businesses that spring up along the interstate this time of year. There's an entire economy to fireworks sales, and for some, like the owners of Patriot Fireworks in Chesnee, S.C., it's been a family business for decades.

I'll go out on a limb and wager that these roadside stands are a distinctly American thing. As for why: I'll let the historians and sociologists parse that. And in the meantime, I'm sure my holiday, like many of yours, will be spent on a sidewalk with a sparkler and a Popsicle, watching people launch bottle rockets out of beer bottles.

God bless America; let's blow some stuff up!