Chris Rutland and son Julian buy fireworks from the Big House of Boom stall at Boom City on Thursday in Tulalip. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Chris Rutland and son Julian buy fireworks from the Big House of Boom stall at Boom City on Thursday in Tulalip. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

At Tulalip’s Boom City, fireworks are a family tradition

Generations have grown up at the Fourth of July institution. “Some people make good money, some are just out here for the pastime.”

TULALIP — Each summer for a few weeks, an empty lot behind the Tulalip Resort Casino transforms into a bustling fireworks bazaar.

For Tulalip tribal members who run the stands and their customers, Boom City is a tradition.

Rows of brightly colored wooden structures with names like “Porno 4 Pyros” and “Wally World Jr.’s” are spaced evenly throughout the area, with throughways as wide as city streets. Often a distant crackle or boom punctuates the air.

Tribal members have been selling fireworks on sovereign lands for generations, exempt from state laws that regulate sales.

Decades ago, tribal members would sell out of their cars on the side of the road. It was dangerous, resulting in accidents and chaotic traffic. The Tulalip government decided to designate a location for temporary stands.

Around 1980, the first two Tulalip fireworks stands opened for business.

Harold “Juju” Joseph owned one of them. He was 19. He spent his teenage years helping his mom sell fireworks out of her car. In the four decades since, children and grandchildren have helped, some moving on to start their own stands.

Now, as chairman of the committee of Boom City stand owners, he oversees the planning of what has become an ecosystem of over 100 fireworks stands.

“It evolved fast,” Juju Joseph said. The committee starts planning for Boom City months in advance, and every year, the marketplace must be approved by the Tulalip government.

Juju Joseph said cash from the sales means “a lot for a lot of families.”

“Some people make good money, some are just out here for the pastime,” said Anthony Lane, stand owner and marketing director for Boom City.

Lane’s stand has been in his family since his grandmother first built it over 30 years ago.

“It’s not just about selling fireworks and making that money. There’s so much history here,” Lane said.

Juju Joseph said it’s also a chance for tribal members to spend time with friends, Tulalip or not, and even family members who they may not see much the rest of the year.

Two rows over, Juju’s granddaughter Matilda Joseph, 23, worked with her parents at the stand they own, as she has done for the past ten years. Her family also owns the shaved ice truck parked in the food vendor area.

“We kind of have our whole family down here,” she said.

Rocky Harrison has run a stand with his brother for 15 years. Many cities in Snohomish County have banned the use of fireworks in recent years, but Harrison and others said it hasn’t had a significant impact on sales.

In response to injuries and wildfires, nearby cities have passed fireworks bans and increased fines. According to the state Fire Marshal’s Office, 110 fires due to fireworks were reported in 2021, as well as 70 injuries.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Greg Baruso said that though fireworks bans are difficult to enforce, they are still effective at reducing firework-related incidents around the Fourth of July.

“When the ban is greater, the percentages go way down,” Baruso said.

The city of Marysville, which neighbors Tulalip, passed a fireworks ban in 2017. Since then, the Marysville Fire District has seen an overall decrease in fireworks accidents, said Christie Veley, spokesperson for the district that covers the city and part of the reservation — including Boom City.

Around the Fourth of July in the district, the majority of fireworks incidents happen outside the city in areas where fireworks are legal, Veley said.

Harrison said being able to sell and use fireworks on the reservation is a form of independence.

“It’s another way that we can practice our sovereignty,” he said, pointing behind him to a firework called “Sovereign Nation.”

“It’s a part of being Tulalip to me,” Harrison said.

Tony Hatch has been selling at Boom City since he was a teenager. Now, at age 52, he said Boom City is “absolutely” tradition.

“This is something our tribal members have worked hard to protect,” Hatch said.

Natalie Kahn: 425-339-3430; natalie.kahn@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @nataliefkahn.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Providence nurse’s tearful plea shines light on short-staffed ER

The nurse described an overwhelmed emergency department, as staff have pleaded with the Everett City Council for hazard pay.

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as "a random event" that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)
Snohomish Health District hiring full-time monkeypox task force

The county is gearing up for more cases. The outbreak will be evaluated weekly to decide if a four-person team is merited.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Body found in impounded car in Lake Stevens

In June, Bothell police impounded the vehicle. Last week, a Lake Stevens business found a body inside.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
California woman dies after motorcycle crash west of Lake Stevens

Kimberly Moore was the passenger on a motorcycle Friday morning. She died the next night. She was 53.

A view of the proposed alternative station location to Everett Station located east of the current BNSF rail tracks in downtown. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could light rail station under Pacific Avenue and over railroad work?

A group representing people around Everett Station wants Sound Transit to study the idea.

State Representative Robert Sutherland, left, gives a thumbs-up to passing drivers as he and a few volunteers wave flags and campaign signs along the side of State Route 9 on July 22, in Lake Stevens. Sam Low, right, talks with seniors on July 20 in Lake Stevens. (Sutherland photo by Ryan Berry / The Herald, Low photo by Kevin Clark / The Herald)
In GOP battle of Sutherland vs. Low, Democrats may tip the scale

The state lawmaker and Snohomish County council member are vying for a House seat. Democrats make up roughly 40% of the vote.

Food forum
Chocolate peanut butter Incredibles

These chocolate peanut butter bars are, as the name suggests, incredible.

SnoTown Brewing’s Frank Sandoval in 2019. (Aaron Swaney)
SnoTown Brewery owner charged with child molestation

Frank Sandoval conceded his conduct with a girl at his brewery was inappropriate, but he denied touching her sexually, charges say.

Everett
Head-on crash in Everett leaves man with life-threatening injuries

A two-vehicle collision in the 11600 block of Evergreen Way shut down southbound traffic Monday morning.

Most Read