Testing Coordinator Jeff Taylor Competes in firework shows as hobby

Teacher by day, explosives expert by night

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Hannah Hoffmann

Special School District Testing Coordinator Jeff Taylor works to set up a firework show for a competition on Oct. 29. Getting involved in firework competitions has been Taylor’s hobby for a couple of years now. “We just started getting into it a few years ago, so we haven’t gotten into the larger competitions yet, but we’d like to. We enjoy doing it.” Taylor said.

It’s raining. Seventy-six explosives cover the ground, laid out across a field in a form that took months to perfect. In a matter of moments, the sky is lit up as Special School District Testing Coordinator Jeff Taylor watches his creation come to life.

Taylor has been working with fireworks for about eight years, since getting his start in a little community in the Lake of the Ozarks.

“It started with about $500 worth of fireworks and just running back and forth lighting off things with flares and I thought, there’s gotta be more to it than this,” Taylor said.

Taylor started buying wholesale fireworks in Columbia, where he was introduced to an organization called Missouri Pyrotechnics, or MO Pyro for short.

“I joined them, watched what people could do with fireworks, started playing around with them, getting more and more involved. It went from hand lighting them with matches to electronically firing them, to setting them up to music.”

Missouri Pyrotechnics meets five times a year, and there are all different types of people in the club. There are people who just want to watch fireworks, the people who make their own shows and the people that have been working for years on incredible shows.

“There’s a lot of trial and error. It’s a lot of fun. It’s expensive, an expensive little hobby. But some of the competitions will supply you [with stuff]. You’ll pay an entrance fee, and they’ll supply you with most of the fireworks. The only thing you have to supply is the core stuff, show a plan and usually matches, just the normal firing system,” Taylor said.

In order to set up the shows, they use a program called Show Sound to script it. The program gives Taylor the script, and it shows him what he is firing and when, and when to press play. It also shows him the script to the music chosen.

“I’ve been working on [this script] for about a month now, and of course you gotta figure out what fireworks are available and what you can put in there and what you can’t. It’s really neat because all of these are consumer class fireworks, which means anybody can buy these fireworks.”

Every year, there is a large firework display in Eureka called PyroMania that Taylor participates in, and in total, he participates in about three a year. He works with a group of about six to eight people, depending on the show.

“They have competitions, and basically what it is is at 3 p.m. they hand you fireworks and say ‘put on a show,’ and you have four hours to set it up. So we script it, set it up, get it all going,” Taylor said.

Taylor laughed when he talked about his first show and the progress he has made.

“Our very first competition was terrible. There wasn’t even music set to it. It’s funny ‘cause the first time we did it, we didn’t know what we were doing. It just was terrible, horrible. So we tried to learn more and more. I worked with a guy who does a lot of these shows, and I got a chance to work and watch what he does, and I really learned a lot from him,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s next performance is at Moscow Mills on Oct. 29. He plans to continue working with the fireworks and exploring further into what he loves to do on the side.

“I’m hoping to get really good at it where I can look at it and go ‘okay, that’s perfect’. And you’re never gonna get it that way,¨ Taylor said. ¨I think it’s like anything else, if you just keep trying to get farther and farther, and make your timing a little better, work with different fireworks, you’ll get somewhere.”