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Promo for Pyros

Jessica Lussenhop hangs out with the fireworks vendors and finds the pitch hard to resist.

By Jessica Lussenhop

ON JULY 1, the sun rose on 27 wooden trailers dotting Watsonville's busiest avenues, each wrapped in screaming neon signage--"TNT," "NO FUMAR" and "WE TAKE CREDIT CARDS!" Ah, morning reverie, all signed, sealed and delivered by large fireworks companies for the start of the four-day-long fireworks season. The nonprofit organizations that paid to rent the booths took different tacks on what has traditionally been the slowest day of the sale. Some remained unmanned, a cool breeze fluttering price tags on empty shelves. But others, like the Pajaro Valley Wrestling Team--stocked to the rafters with Blazing Rebels, Lightning Flash 4's and Zombie Fountains--brought out the big guns: little kids waving American flags.

"Fireworks!" they hollered, voices swallowed in the din of cars speeding past. "Thirty-five percent off!"

"This is the first shift," said coach Gary Garcia as the little arms furiously whipped back and forth in a blur of red, white and blue. "It's important for kids to have an idea of what it takes to keep a program running."

What it takes is money, and money did not come easily last year, when the city banned the sale of fireworks as a fire safety measure.

"We lost a recovery home people were living at," said Victory Outreach's Pastor Gary Valenzuela of the lost fundraising money. "We would have been able to weather the housing crisis."

But this year, the pastor is seeing everything through Rose Blossom-colored glasses. "That's the one I want to sell," he said, pointing to a tall box called Backyard Bash containing over 30 pieces and ringing in at $581.24. "We'll be able to get the windshield fixed on our van, fix the brakes."

United Pentecostal Church said they were surprised to find people actually waiting for them to open at 9am. "Customers coming are excited. Last year was super, super hard," said music director Jamie Koch. "We had a leak in the bathroom, sheet rock was hanging down. This pretty much covers everything."

The wrestling team has the money earmarked for uniforms and travel expenses. "Show us your wrestling stance," said Garcia to 8-year-old Abel Peņa, who obligingly crouched down with his hands out. And then Garcia struck: "So, you're going to buy some fireworks, right?" That's a hold I could not get out of. And though the "Bargain Bag" cost me $17.51 and will translate into a $1,000 ticket if I am caught with it in Santa Cruz, when Peņa came tumbling underfoot saying, "If I win this tournament, I may be champion, or I might not be champion," it seemed like the patriotic thing to do.

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