Evanston, Wyo. • A quick survey of cars in the parking lots of four firework stands here reveals as many Utah license plates as Wyoming plates.
Despite restrictions where they can ignite fireworks and a severe wildfire season, Utahns are flocking to Wyoming to buy fireworks just before the Fourth of July, taking advantage of deals and products that can't be found in the Beehive State.
"People are still coming up and taking advantage of the offers we have," Phantom Fireworks Store Manager Shawn Wheeler said.
Matthew Anderson, of Lindon, bought fireworks from at least two Evanston stores Tuesday. Anderson said he understands the fireworks restrictions near his home and he isn't worried about igniting dry grasses and brush.
"I know the stuff we light off isn't going to make it to the foothills," Anderson said.
The state of Utah has banned fireworks, campfires, most kinds of target shooting and even smoking on state lands and unincorporated areas. Cities can set their own restrictions.
In Evanston, the Phantom Fireworks stand was offering 50-percent discounts on their entire stock Tuesday and combined with other offers, shoppers could leave with $2,300 worth of explosive entertainment after spending only $800.
Those kinds of deals make it worth the short trek to Wyoming rather than spending more money on less selection in roadside firework tents in Utah.
"It's close by and it saves time to go to the stands, but it's not that far out," Anderson said.
Even in wetter years, Utah prohibits firecrackers, M-80's, cherry bombs, bottle- rockets, Roman candles, single or reloadable mortars, and ground salutes. The penalty for transporting it into Utah is a misdemeanor.
Utah Highway Patrol troopers are not pulling over drivers specifically for possessing illegal fireworks this year, but will confiscate fireworks and cite drivers if they are pulled over for another reason, UHP Cpl. Todd Johnson said.
That isn't deterring most Utahns though, including 19-year-old Jake LaSalle, who took his first trip to Evanston Tuesday and bought $220 worth of artillery shells, mortars and aerial fireworks.
"It's the one time out of the year we can do stuff like this," said LaSalle, a Bountiful resident.
Brian Durant, of Layton, said he made the trip for the pricing and selection, too, buying $100 worth of fireworks. He compared firework restrictions in Utah to prohibition, saying people will set off everything from sparklers to Roman candles each year in Utah, anyway, and that it's impossible to stop everyone.
"If you say it's OK and set limitations, people will be responsible enough," Durant said.
Wheeler said she was worried sales might decline from last year because the holiday falls on a Wednesday this year, but numbers have remained strong, with up to a 1,000 people coming through the store each day as July 4 approached.
"I think people are realizing this is an American tradition and celebration," Wheeler said.