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;; Twitter: @nataliefkahn.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The Walmart Store on 11400 Highway 99 on March 21, 2023 in in Everett, Washington. The retail giant will close the store on April 21, 2023. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
Walmart announces Everett store on Highway 99 will close on April 21

The Arkansas-based retail giant said the 20-year-old Walmart location was “underperforming financially.”

Firefighters respond to a house fire Wednesday morning in the 3400 block of Broadway. (Everett Fire Department)
3 hospitalized in critical condition after Everett house fire

Firefighters rescued two people, one of whom uses a wheelchair, from the burning home in the 3400 block of Broadway.

Michael Tolley (Northshore School District)
Michael Tolley named new Northshore School District leader

Tolley, interim superintendent since last summer, is expected to inherit the position permanently in July.

News logo for use with stories about Mill Creek in Snohomish County, WA.
Mill Creek house fire leaves 1 dead

The fire was contained to a garage in the 15300 block of 25th Drive SE. A person was found dead inside.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
New forecast show state revenues won’t be quite as robust as expected

Democratic budget writers say they will be cautious but able to fund their priorities. Senate put out a capital budget Monday.

Everett Memorial Stadium and Funko Field on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Drive to build new AquaSox ballpark gets $7.4M boost from state

The proposed Senate capital budget contains critical seed money for the city-led project likely to get matched by the House.

Ron Thompson, a former resident of Steelhead Haven, places a sign marking the 9-year anniversary of the Oso landslide Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at the landslide memorial site in Oso, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘It’s the closest I can be to them’: Nine years after the Oso mudslide

In the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, 43 people died. Families, survivors and responders honored the victims Wednesday.

Prosecutor Craig Matheson gives his opening statement in the trial of Richard Rotter at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
At trial in Everett cop’s killing, witnesses recall chaotic chase

The testimony came after an Everett officer was shot while investigating a robbery Wednesday morning, investigators said.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Pursuing pursuits, erasing advisory votes and spending battles begin

It’s Day 73. Budgets are in the forecast as lawmakers enter the final month of the 2023 session

Most Read