My Perspective on Fireworks, and It’s Probably Not What You Think

red white and blue caramel oatmeal bars and red white and blue star cookies on tray

I don’t often share my opinion about controversial topics. The “does pineapple belong on pizza” debate is as daring as I get.

Not that fireworks are widely controversial—scores of Americans celebrate our nation’s freedom with sky-dazzling Fourth of July fireworks displays. But I’ve noticed lately an increasing number of harsh opinions and demands for a ban on pyrotechnics—forever. 

We all have a right to our opinions, and the right to share it. I respect that. I’m sharing my home-grown South Dakota perspective, with a twist, in the hopes maybe it will encourage softer edges to naysayer dictatorial commentary.

You know, just be a little bit nicer. 

Plus, I’m sharing my recipe for red, white, and blue cosmic caramel oatmeal bars.


I’m not insensitive to the adverse effects flashy and booming fireworks can have on people and pets. 

I like people. And I love dogs. 

I’m not ignorant to the fire hazard of ignited fireworks and their embers—especially in the drought conditions we are experiencing. If fireworks need to be banned in areas where fire safety is a concern, make that decision. 

But let’s also consider the livelihood of people who sell fireworks. In the Midwest at least, most pyrotechnic businesses are run by small business owners—people who contribute to the local economy, invite visitors and support tourism across the state, donate to your community’s Main Street parades and Independence Day fireworks shows, along with youth sports teams. 

In addition to their financial investment, there is also the economic impact of temporary employment, offering local hard-working people a boost in income, which they will likely spend as patrons in your local businesses. 

The Twist

For my kids’, it’s a multi-generational business. Their great grandparents on their dad’s side started a fireworks store in South Dakota in 1954. Their grandma took over in 1988 and runs that store today with the help of her sons, her grandchildren and her sister. Kalani and Sajen’s dad created a fireworks business and has expanded to several locations in southeast South Dakota. It is part of their livelihood.

Since they were old enough, my kids have worked for their dad, and my niece and nephew have worked for Grandma Shirley. And a long time ago, my sister and her friend Barry worked at the family fireworks store on US Highway 14 on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota. It was tradition for me to bring them deviled eggs and cream cheese cookies as they set up the store.

There are real people behind the business. 

My son, Sajen, and his lovely girlfriend, Sydney working at his dad’s fireworks store July 4, 2021
Sajen, me and Kalani at their dad’s fireworks store July 4, 2014

Anyway, it’s more important to remember what Independence Day is all about for the United States. Thank you to the men and women who serve and sacrifice to protect our freedoms and our safety. 

Celebrate with 1776 patriotic JELLO jars.

red and blue JELLO layered ini jars
Red, white and blue JELLO layers in mini mason jars make cute desserts for the Fourth of July

Enjoy the recipe for red, white, and blue cosmic caramel oatmeal bars.

plate of red white and blue sweet bars to eat
Red, white, and blue cosmic caramel oatmeal bars

They started out as desk-hopping cosmic caramel oatmeal bars.

Desk-hopping Cosmic Caramel Oatmeal Bars

Happy Fourth of July!

Sweet & slightly snarky wishes,

Red, white and blue cosmic caramel oatmeal bars

Staci at Random Sweets
Celebrate the Fourth of July with oatmeal bars layered with caramel, chocolate, and M&M's candies.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 36 servings
Calories 245 kcal


  • jelly roll pan approximately 15" x 10" x 1" high


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 11 ounces caramel candies
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup red, white and blue M&M's candies
  • 1 cube vanilla almond bark
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil


  • Heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease a jelly roll pan.
  • Unwrap caramels and place in a small saucepan. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine soda, salt, flour, and oats. Set aside.
  • In a medium mixing bowl cream butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined.
  • Press peanut butter mixture into greased pan.
  • Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. While it's baking, move on to the next step.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the sweetened condensed milk with the caramels. Stir constantly because it burns easily. Remove from heat once melted and creamy. When the crust is finished in the oven, pour the caramel over the crust.
  • Toss the chocolate chips onto the hot caramel. Let is sit for a couple of minutes, just until the chocolate is soft and then gently spread the chocolate over the bars. Top with mini M&M's.
  • In a small bowl, melt almond bark and oil in microwave, stirring until smooth. Drizzle with a fork over the bars. Let cool for a couple of hours before cutting. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.


Calories: 245kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 4gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 127mgPotassium: 131mgFiber: 1gSugar: 24gVitamin A: 262IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 73mgIron: 2mg
Keyword almond bark, bars, candy, caramel, chocolate, Fourth of July, holidays, M&M’s, oatmeal, picnic, quick-cooking oats

All text and images © Staci Mergenthal • Random Sweets

Tried this recipe?Mention @RandomSweets and tag #OurSweetMidwestLife

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