When These Hobbyists Get Together, Fireworks Ensue
'Pyrotechnists' Gather in Iowa to Create Explosive Entertainment; 'Thump Junkies'

For most Americans, fireworks are a complement to a special occasion—the home team wins, the New Year rolls over, the country celebrates its birthday. But for Pyrotechnics Guild members, fireworks are something more: an art, a passion, or even their own personal declaration of independence.

Each year, several thousand "pyrotechnists" arrive in a town, often in the Midwest, in trucks and RVs, armed with tents, coolers and earplugs, for the guild's convention. It entails a week of workshops, lectures, crafting sessions and elaborate pyrotechnic displays at night.

Some guild members are ex-military personnel with experience in explosives. Others are do-it-yourselfers with a strong libertarian streak. A large contingent is interested in the history of pyrotechnics.