New Yorkers Travel to Pennsylvania for Fireworks

July 2, 2013 Updated Jul 2, 2013 at 11:35 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

July 2, 2013 Updated Jul 2, 2013 at 11:35 PM EDT

North East, PA (WKBW) - In the next few days, fireworks shows will light up the sky across the country -- and not all of them will be legal.

Even though fireworks are illegal to be owned by the regular person in the Empire State, thousands of New Yorkers are willing to drive up to several hours to the Pennsylvania state line, to get their hands on fireworks for the Fourth of July weekend.

"My whole neighborhood blows off fireworks for the fourth, and everyone comes here to get them," says Kevin Callahan of Buffalo.

Just off the first Thruway exit into Pennsylvania, at Phantom Fireworks, 85 to 90 percent of sales go to New York residents around the Fourth of July. Those customers come knowing fireworks are illegal in New York.

Scott Weigle, an Assistant Manager at Phantom Fireworks, says, "If they ask us -- yes, they take these fireworks at their own risk. But we do -- we have a form and we stay within the letter of the law in Pennsylvania and how they do it."

For some, the drive down to Pennsylvania has become a family tradition. Ojay Wright says he's taking his family to the outlets and making a trip out of it.

Wright is buying fireworks so that this weekend, "Instead of going downtown, where it will be crowded and packed, we just do it out back for the kids."

Two days before the Fourth of July, more than 500 transactions were made at Phantom Fireworks. That number is expected to double on Wednesday.

Fireworks stores are popping up elsewhere on the Pennsylvania border. Residents of Delaware, New Jersey and Ohio also face fireworks restrictions or bans, and many head to Pennsylvania.

About 75-percent of Phantom Fireworks business comes during the summer months.

During other times of the year in North East, PA, New Yorkers still make up the bulk of the customers. However, so do people from other states traveling through, along with Canadians heading north after a winter stay in the southern states.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission reports 87-hundred fireworks related injuries in 2012. 60-percent occurred around the Fourth of July holiday.

Advocates say it's a number that is too high, despite a 10-percent drop-off since 2011. Weigle says there has been a 60-percent decrease in injuries since 1994.

Pointing to a display with fire distinguishers, goggles and gloves, Weigle says part of the reason for the decline is the industry's effort to promote safety. The store's manager adds in the last 13 years, no accidents have been reported related to any products bought at the store.

This year, New York State Police do not have any major crackdowns planned on fireworks brought illegally into New York State. However, that doesn't mean they won't be looking for them during regular road checks.