Fireworks Stands and Classical Education

For a brief time each summer, striped canvas tents selling fireworks pop up on the Topeka landscape drawing buyers of all ages.  Carter Brian,13, rings up a sale behind the cash register inside one of these tents and mentions to a customer that if he buys another cone fountain, he can get two more free. “You’re a pretty good salesman,” the man says as he sends his young daughter back to the fountain display for more cones.  Carter flashes a big smile and with a confident nod of his head says, “Thank you.” 

This is the fifth year that Carter’s family has managed a fireworks stand in Topeka and he has become a veteran of the business.  But his reasons for working 12-15 hours for nine straight days each summer may surprise you.  His mom, Susan, remembers the time he approached his parents with a proposition:  he wanted to spend all his money from the fireworks stand on tuition at Cair Paravel Latin School.

Carter had attended CPLS through first grade and never forgot how much he liked going there.  The summer before fifth grade he told his parents he wanted to go back and was willing to pay for it.  His parents decided to send him and took a leap of faith by sending his two younger brothers, Cameron and Ian, that year too.  “We’ve never regretted it,” Susan said.

Carter works the stand with his dad and his brothers and often recruits friends from school to help.  He is learning about sales and marketing, profits and margins, and the power of merchandising.  “It also builds character and helps develop my work ethic,” Carter asserts as his dad, Tom, stands close enough to overhear.  They exchange smiles.

Susan recalls a conversation a couple of years ago where the family discussed spending the fireworks money on a big vacation to Disney World.  It was quiet as the boys each considered it.  But it was eventually the middle brother, Cameron, who broke the silence and said “Guys, Disney would be for one week, but Cair Paravel is for a whole year!”

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