THE FULL CREW
Meet the Artists – 2023
AJ is back for more! From childhood fireworks antics and a small-town-turned-annual-event show to Sky Wars Championship of Champions, our 2021 Pro-Am winner is ready to rock.
AJ is a hospital plumber by day and a pyro by season. He’s made his mark where he lives in Sandwich (population 8,500 people) and in Atalissa, Iowa (pop. 200).
What started in 2012 as a little family show at his brother and sister-in-law’s home in Atalissa has evolved into a giant pyromusical and event that brings hundreds of out-of-towners in each year. AJ owes much gratitude to his wife and pyro partner, Amber, who provides help and support during his shows (and even lets him spend money on his often very expensive hobby).
AJ’s Favorite Pyro Memory
AJ says he felt amazing after his 2019 show in Atalissa, his first pyromusical attempt, shot successfully. “It was one of those moments where I thought, ‘I could do this’. It felt good, the whole family was into it, and it made me think I could really keep doing this… and maybe my wife will let me keep spending money.” AJ said his wife Amber picked out the song for the show. That pyromusical was a huge success and learning experience for him and his family.
AJ’s Early Fireworks Antics
When he was 12 years old, AJ and his friends accidentally caught a bush on fire while playing with a bottle rocket (always aim for the sky, kids!). Long story short, he got in trouble and was sent to fire school, where he had to sacrifice two of his Saturdays that summer for 8 hours of sitting in a classroom watching fire safety videos like Smokey Bear..
AJ’s Past Sky Wars Experience
One takeaway he learned from his 2021 show was the importance of being organized. While his crew was incredibly helpful and trustworthy, he said he still thinks they ”could have completed that show almost a day sooner” if he’d had a little more structure on the set-up. AJ also shared just how much anxiety he feels leading up to the event. “I don’t even sleep the week of the show!” He joked that in 2021 his family actually brought a bucket and labeled it ‘AJ’s Puke Bucket’ for his pre-show jitters. Luckily, the second his show is off the ground and in the sky, he’s able to relax and accept a beer.
AJ on His 2023 Competitors
AJ is no stranger to his Pro-Am “Championship of Champions” competitors Mike Allen and Scott Smith. The three share a camaraderie, and even have a group chat in which they continuously poke fun at each other. Regardless of the friendly competitiveness, AJ says all he truly cares about is that all three of their shows go off without a hitch. “I want to win, don’t get me wrong! But I want Sky Wars to be great. As long as everyone’s shows go up right and it’s safe, I’ll have fun. We just do what we love.”
AJ’s 2023 Show
AJ claims he didn’t imagine he’d win in 2021, and now, he feels a huge pressure on his shoulders. Whether or not his 2023 show will have a clear musical theme, he wants each song to have a message. For instance, he plans to dedicate at least one song to inspiring pyros in the audience to pursue their firework hobby… and for another song to poke fun at his competitor-friends Mike and Scott.
As for special effects, AJ confides that both his competitors are aware of his wheels that Brian Craig made for him. “I’m definitely incorporating those this year.” He’s also planning to be a bit ambitious and try some things that, while he’s seen others try unsuccessfully, hopefully he can experiment and perfect during the off-season.
To Bo: Make sure you bring your precision-cut pool noodles! And to Jamie (who somehow manages to roll his ankle the day of a show every year): Make sure you wear your ankle brace!
Check out the footage of AJ’s first pyromusical (and favorite pyro memory) from 2019 in Atalissa: