Betty's Fireworks, Booming for 49 Years

Last Updated by Rebekah Tuchscherer on
Betty Mead
SDPB

Inside of a 200 square foot building painted off-white with red trim and topped with an aluminum roof stands a beaming 81 year old woman sporting an American, red, white and blue jumpsuit. With an open palm she offers yearly visitors homemade sugar cookies wrapped in plastic as they browse shelves for neon sparklers and whistling bottle rockets.

DSC_3293.JPG

Betty Mead, a firework stand owner and lifetime resident of Milbank, South Dakota, has been running her booming business for 49 years.

Beginning in 1968, Mead began selling bottle rockets and firecrackers eight miles north of Milbank on Highway 15 next to the farm where she grew up. While her son now owns the land, Mead continues to send out flyers and decorate with pinwheels and lights every year to attract those driving towards Big Stone Lake.

Firework StandSDPB

“I had a nephew that wanted to [sell fireworks]…and I had had a new baby that year—his name was Todd--so we went together on it,” Mead said. “The first time I made any money on it, I bought an air conditioner for the house”.

While Mead’s nephew moved to Missouri after just a few seasons, Mead continued to grow her business with new clientele and bigger, better product. Her stand continues to attract visitors from the surrounding community and across the Minnesota border, drawing lifelong customers and those just passing by.

Betty MeadSDPB

“Now, people want the bigger items, the great big items,” Betty said. “Way back 49 years ago I couldn’t even get those great big items with 300 shots or 250 shots, but now people want them. I do have some loud things, too, and some little kiddie items for the kids.”

While a definitive icon within the Milbank area, Mead continues to advertise her business through radio commercials, newspaper ads, and patriotic, red and white wooden road signs set up by her partner and grandson, Isaiah Thyne.

Homemade FudgeSDPB

“[Betty]’s just crazy,” Thyne said. I don’t know any other person her age that can do what she does…Last year, I hung up a tire swing outside and she was swinging in it—like, what 80 year old lady does that?”

Other members of Mead’s family also help out stocking shelves and making sales, including daughters Cheryl Johnson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Gail Keating of Flandreau, South Dakota.

“All of my aunts and uncles, if they’re around, will come down and help out,” Thyne said. When my cousins were kids, we all used to come up here.”

Isaiah Thyne

While the firework season may only last from June 27th-July 5th in South Dakota, Betty keeps busy visiting her six children, 15 grandchildren, and 23 great grandchildren throughout the year, along with baking and decorating the occasional cake.

“I tell people that I don’t know enough to quit it,” Betty said. “But, I enjoy it because it’s only for eight days. A lot of the old neighbors even stop in for a cup of coffee and a cookie—I always have cookies to give away here.”

 

 

 

 
subscribe to sdpb email updates food blog link image learning blog link image living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Related content from SDPB Radio - Art

In The Moment ... The Art Of J. Steven Manolis

In The Moment ... October 5, 2017 Show 192 Hour 2 The "Painting Vermillion Red" art exhibit features the work of USD...

In The Moment ... The Hob Menace With Angela Swedberg

In The Moment ... September 18, 2017 Show 179 Hour 2 When you visit a museum you expect authenticity from the exhibitions, art, and artifacts. Angela Swedberg is a...

In The Moment ... On The Other Hand With Kevin Woster

In The Moment ... September 14, 2017 Show 177 Hour 1 Arthur C. Jones is a professor in the department of musicology,...

In The Moment ... The Future – And Past – Of Racing In Huron

In The Moment ... September 1, 2017 Show 169 Hour 1 Sioux Falls based singer/songwriter Meriweather Raindelay is...

Books

In The Moment ... Rediscovering “The Thresher”

In The Moment ... October 13, 2017 Show 198 Hour 1 You can now rediscover a classic Midwestern novel about the...

In The Moment ... Writing And Well-Being With Denice Turner

In the Moment ... October 12, 2017 Show 197 Hour 2 In a world thrumming with joy and agony, sometimes the only thing...

In The Moment ... 160 Years Of Meaning

In The Moment ... October 5, 2017 Show 192 Hour 2 This year marks the 160th anniversary of The Oxford English...

In The Moment ... The History Of Capitalism With Bhu Srinivasan

In The Moment ... September 29, 2017 Show 188 Hour 1 If you're looking to make a little money (or a lot of money) in...

Music

In The Moment ... Moment In Sound With James Elliot

In The Moment ... October 13, 2017 Show 198 Hour 1 It's three full days of performances, panels, and parties. The...

In The Moment ... Gary Reeves And The History Of The French Horn

In the Moment ... October 12, 2017 Show 197 Hour 1 From the fox hunt to the 16th century opera to a fall recital at...

In The Moment ... South Dakota Symphony Orchestra Season Opener

In The Moment ... October 6, 2017 Show 193 Hour 1 The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra celebrates the season opener...

In The Moment ... Moment In Sound With Ioana Galu

In The Moment ... October 6, 2017 Show 193 Hour 1 We welcome violinist Ioana Galu. She performs tonight at 7 p.m. in...

Theater

In The Moment ... Alex Meyer's Scenic Design

In The Moment ... May 10, 2017 Show 090 Hour 2 Alex Meyer. He's a junior art and theater major at Augustana College...

In The Moment ... Remembering Vietnam On Horseback

In The Moment ... May 9, 2017 Show 089 Hour 2 Colt Romberger’s father served in Vietnam, and it changed his life...

Dakota Midday: S.F. Washington's "Wizard Of Oz"

South Dakota high schools produce a variety of plays each year. This week the Washington High School drama...

Dakota Midday: Lisa McNulty On Female Artists

The Off-Broadway Women's Project Theater is the oldest and largest theater company that promotes women artists in...