Family, Fireworks & Memories: The Story Of North Dakota’s Own Memory Fireworks

by on Jun 28, 2017


Photos courtesy of Memory Fireworks

Most families’ Fourth of July traditions consist of community parades, indulging in mouthwatering grilled hotdogs at the lake, picnicking in the park and, of course, fireworks displays.

But when your family is in the fireworks business, traditions surrounding July Fourth have a different flare.

Memory Fireworks Bismarck North locationMemory Fireworks crew from the North Bismarck location four years ago.

For the Knutson family, who have been running Memory Fireworks—North Dakota’s largest fireworks manufacturer—for nearly 40 years, it’s about selling fireworks so other families can continue having memorable Fourth of July traditions year after year with affordable, high-quality fireworks.

“We’re proud that we’re able to give so many families the products to create family traditions and memories,” said Ron Knutson, founder and co-owner of Memory Fireworks. “Everybody wants to have something they can remember.”

Knutson’s entire intermediate family and a majority of his extended family are involved in selling fireworks for Memory Fireworks in 35 locations throughout North Dakota each year.

“They all come back to the same place for this time of the year. It has become a tradition in my family,” Knutson said.

2016 photo of some of the crew from the North Bismarck Memory Fireworks store. Posing in front of the giant blow-up gorilla names Hector.The crew from the North Bismarck Memory Fireworks store last year posing in front of a giant, blow-up gorilla named Hector.

His love of fireworks was sparked at a young age. When he was a kid, around the Fourth of July each year, Knutson would take the little extra change he had jingling around in his pocket and sprint to the nearest fireworks stand.

“I’d be running over the minute they opened,” he said. “Of course, I couldn’t afford anything more than firecrackers, since they were only a penny a piece or less. But I enjoyed seeing the new products, going through the stand and looking at all the various fireworks—then wishing that someday I will be able to afford the big ones.”

Ron Knutson 40th Birthday Fourth Of JulyRon Knutson celebrating his 40th birthday during the fireworks season. “Since I was a kid, Fourth of July was always my favorite time of the year, because I had a birthday so close to to the fireworks season,” Knutson said.

When he got a bit older, he started TNT Fireworks, a business where he sold fireworks out of the back of a U-Haul truck in Williston during the oil-boom days. The following year, he decided to round up more family members and open a tent.

“I remember setting up that tent and getting ready to start selling the next day when people started to come at midnight,” Knutson said. “So we decided to just open right at midnight on June 27, which is the first legal time you can start selling.”

But there was another TNT Fireworks—a national corporation. A trademark dispute over the name ended when Knutson decided to sell his business to the other TNT.

Braun and his wife ShannonBraun and Shannon Knutson

“And that’s when my son (Braun Knutson) found out TNT Fireworks and other firework distributors raised the prices too high and took the quality out of the product,” he said. “He decided he had to start his own—Memory Fireworks.”

Braun Knutson wanted people to remember what it was like to have stunning fireworks at a reasonable price instead of taking out the quality and raising the price, Ron Knutson said. “He wanted to make sure that no matter how much extra cash you have for fireworks, people can always afford remarkable ones for their family on the holiday.”

Braun Knutson first decided he wanted to continue the family business when he was a teenager helping his father sell fireworks.

“It’s in our blood,” Ron Knutson said. “When you grow up being around fireworks year after year, it becomes one of those things that’s hard to get out of your blood.”

Braun and Shannon’s youngest daughter Jhetta Purple Jhetta MissileBraun and Shannon’s youngest daughter Jhetta. Memory Fireworks has a new firework named after her called the Purple Jhetta Missile.

Braun and Ron Knutson travel to China annually to handpick their favorite manufactured fireworks and also customize their own.

“We feel we get a better product if have it made the way we want it made,” Ron Knutson said.

Braun Knutson’s custom designed fireworks are in a series called the Memory Series and Ron Knutson’s are called the Dakota Series.

“We’ve now turned it into a family-friendly competition of which series is the most popular,” Ron Knutson said with a laugh.

They’ve developed more than 70 different products between the two series. A majority of the firework’s names within the series are North Dakota themed. Such examples are the “Fargo,” “You Betcha,” “Bakken Gold” and “Medora Nights.”

“We’d rather have better quality and pay a little more to have it custom made because, in the long run, it’s cheaper to have a good product than to have a bad product,” Ron Knutson said. “We want people to buy our products, love them and then come back year after year.”

After being established for decades, the Knutsons have noticed the same customers returning annually. Ron Knutson said some people have kept their previous year’s receipt and starred the ones they loved. Then they return to purchase the same fireworks the following year.

“My family really enjoys seeing the same returning customers and hearing about how memorable their Fourth of July was because their entire family enjoyed fireworks we sold them,” he said. “After a few years of them returning with the same positive experience, we begin to build this relationship that turns customers into family.”

Memory Fireworks

The Knutson family has had fireworks in their blood for generations and want to keep that tradition alive by opening Memory Fireworks. Ron Knutson started selling fireworks almost 40 years ago and today at Memory Fireworks, customers can still see the family’s parents, brother, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and a whole lot of friends selling fireworks. Firework season for the Knutson family is a bit like a family reunion.
Use these coupons to save this Fourth of July with Memory Fireworks.

Memory Fireworks is a second generation business with more than 35 locations across the North Dakota, as well as in Minnesota and South Dakota. Use the map below to select the pinpoint nearest you. By clicking the link located within the pop-up box, you will be forwarded to that firework stand’s specific page.