Monday, July 17, 2006

If You're Wondering What Drives Jake...

Apologies to the blogosphere; June and July are my very busiest months. I've had a couple of surges in business, a birthday, a family vacation, my daughter's birthday, several fireworks shows, and Guilder to frame for it. I'm swamped.

I know that apologizing for lack of posts is one of the big blogging no-no's, so I'm sorry for that, too. Damn, I just did it again.

Thanks, Eric, for the birthday post. I'm sorry I didn't post in reply sooner, I really meant to, but see above.

EDIT: This is not an ROCI. This one got too long, so the ROCI will be my next post. The ROCI, like this post, will be about fireworks shows.

I attend a few a year. I've attended the Clearfield show for the last four years or so (this year it got rained out), and I see the Weber State University show about every three years. I went to the Clinton City show for about four consecutive years there, and I've been to Kaysville and Layton shows also.

But the show that I most avidly attend is the Logan City show in USU's Aggie Stadium. I've been there for the last 17 consecutive shows or so, except for the two years I was in Milwaukee. My annual schedule for Logan usually consists of:
  • Lunch at an old A&W in downtown Logan (if there is such a thing).
  • A tour of Willow Park and the Willow Park Zoo on the southern skirt of Logan.
  • A couple of frames or a couple of racks or a combination thereof at Logan Lanes.
  • A final stop at Albertson's or Smith's on the way to the stadium for drinks and snacks.
  • Find a parking spot that we can get out of quickly at USU Stadium. We have a traditional lot.
  • Wait in line for a couple of hours at the gate, as they keep moving back the gate's opening time.
  • Enter the stadium, find our seats (which are dictated by preference and tradition), and save seats for the rest of the family.
  • Eat the dinner that my parents bring in exchange for us saving them good seats.
  • Wait for the show.
  • Enjoy the show.
  • Drive home.

This year we added a stop in nearby Smithfield during the day to hit the Pepperidge Farms outlet. Now I have Mint Milanos and Goldfishes to last another week at least.

The day that I go to Logan for the fireworks show is hands-down, one of my top two favorite days of the year. I honestly look forward to it all year, and have a hard time sleeping the night before. Yes, I know that I'm an adult now. Shut up.

What few people outside of politics know is that city fireworks shows are money-making enterprises. Sure, shows in the dark ages before ROI was a buzz-acronym were probably hosted solely for the public enrichment, a la "Music Man," but these are animals long extinct.

The Logan show in particular is a booming endeavor. I know this first-hand, as I was once a peripheral part of that machine.

You see, my family were light rope pioneers. Fifteen years ago, when light ropes were a brand-new novelty, my Dad saw a market for them at firework shows. So he bought a few hundred and tried selling them at a couple of shows. The very first light rope you saw at a fireworks show in Utah was probably ordered, activated, and sold by my Dad and I.

We did this on contract with the organizers of a couple of shows, and we did it on the fringes of some other shows, carefully staying off of the official show grounds so that we wouldn't be bothered by organizers with law-enforcement types standing behind them.

Finally, we landed at the Logan show. My Dad made some calls, spoke to the people who could cut a deal with us, and we got booths. And it's a good thing we got booths, because navigating the crowd was a risky proposition in those days. Now the light rope guys walk around with the tubes full of them, and they get takers every now and then. But we were mobbed. Our booths were surrounded, and we couldn't take money as fast as the crowd was shoving it at us. We'd sell out and desperate fathers would beg for the light ropes we'd forgotten we were wearing.

We'd usually sell out right before the show, take a few minutes to clean all the cash out of our booths, sit down just in time to see fireworks, and then go straight to the business office on the southeast corner of the stadium with our lunchboxes stuffed full of cash.

Then, with a stadium representative present, we'd sort the cash, count it, and the stadium would take their cut...I think it was 30% of our gross. This process alone would take more time than preparing and selling the light ropes, and then watching fireworks combined ever took; two to three hours.

The Domino's Pizza booths at the stadium would always have unsold pizzas, and I'd usually leave the stadium with ten to fifteen personal pizzas that would go in the downstairs fridge, about four feet from my bedroom door at home. It was summer, and in the week or two after the show, I enjoyed a pizza and a (glass!) bottle of Dr. Pepper whenever I pleased.

On the way home from the stadium, my Dad and I would always stop at a certain gas station downtown and put gas in the car while we made sure we still had our filled-to-bursting lunch boxes and laughed about the night's events. I'd usually request a soda and some jerky at these stops, and my Dad would see no reason not to be generous.

I get so emotional thinking about the years we sold light ropes. I think that it was at these shows that I came to understand the difference between the people selling hot dogs and nachos, and the people in the management offices, or the entrepreneurs in the crowd who looked and worked just like everyone else. The people in the booths would get a check in two weeks and a bad complexion from the fryer. The people with their own businesses went home with golden lunch boxes and the pizza equivalent of spoils of war.

It’s no wonder that I don’t work well for other people. I’ve seen what’s on the other side of that curtain.

1 comment:

JoyousJulia said...

Ya know, the people that read this post might think that "lunch box full of money" is just a figure of speech. Tee hee.