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The sizzle of July 4 spending

Krystle Wagner • Jun 30, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Spending is expected to reach $6.9 billion for cookouts across America to celebrate Independence Day 2018.

While 87 percent of Americans plan to celebrate the holiday, spending is down slightly from the $7.1 billion spent in 2017, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). According to the NRF and Prosper Insight & Analytics survey, 62 percent plan to have a cookout and 43 percent plan to celebrate the day with fireworks.

“With the holiday falling in the middle of the week, a few less Americans will be free to celebrate, and that affects totals,” NRF President/CEO Matthew Shay said in a press release. “But those who are celebrating or hosting a cookout or picnic are actually spending more, and retailers will be ready with red, white and blue decorations, apparel and food.”

According to AAA Michigan, about 1.6 million residents of our state plan to travel at least 50 miles from home for the holiday, which is up about 5.5 percent from 2017. Michigan travelers will be among about 31 million others traveling this holiday, which is down from 33 million in 2017.

Twenty-five percent of survey responders indicated higher gas prices changed their plans.

People will spend about $6 less for cookout foods this year, according to the Michigan Farm Bureau Federation. Based on an informal survey conducted quarterly, the bureau’s livestock specialist, Ernie Birchmeier, said the average cost of a cookout for 10 people is about $55.07, or $5.51 per person. Foods included in the cookout menu for 10 people are cheeseburgers and buns, hot dogs and buns, deli potato salad, pork spare ribs, corn chips, baked beans, ketchup, mustard, lemonade, chocolate milk, watermelon, and dessert.

“The cost for the cookout is down slightly (less than 1 percent) from last year,” Birchmeier said in a press release. “The year-to-year direction of the Farm Bureau market-basket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home, as both the index and the market-basket remained relatively flat compared to year-ago levels.”

While 106 million Americans plan to celebrate with fireworks, sales have started out slow so far for Muskegon resident Tim Sheffer. Sheffer, an independent contractor for Jake’s Fireworks, said he hopes business will pick up with the weekend and as the holiday nears.

This is the sixth year that Sheffer has set up a tent in Grand Haven off Beacon Boulevard between Russ’ Restaurant and Subway to sell fireworks.

On average, people spend about $150, he said. Some of the most popular items are mortars, a “grand finale cake” and the Excalibur canister mortar.

“People like the stuff that makes the loudest noise,” he said.

Firework safety

Across the country, emergency departments treated about 12,900 fireworks-related injuries last year, and there were eight deaths caused by fireworks, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. About 67 percent of those happened between mid-June and mid-July.

Sheffer urges caution to those who light fireworks. Given the recent heat, he said people should water their lawns for at least three hours or longer before they light their fireworks. They should also have a water hose on hand.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also reminds residents to be safe.

“The Fourth of July and fireworks go hand in hand,” said the state agency’s director, Nick Lyon. “However, they can be dangerous. We want to make sure residents are celebrating our nation’s independence safely and using caution when handling fireworks.”

Safety tips from the MDHHS include:

— Ensure fireworks are legal in your area.

— Don’t allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks and sparklers.

— Don’t use or make professional-grade fireworks.

— Never throw or point fireworks at a person.

— Keep a hose or buckets of water readily available.

— Don’t relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes before soaking it in water.

— Once fireworks are done burning, douse them with water before placing it in the trash.

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