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For fireworks enthusiasts, July 4 is one of many occasions to celebrate

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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 2, 2010

Most of them probably fit into one of three categories: the bang, the whoosh and the ooohh-aaahh.

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For some of the fireworks-obsessed, who happily call themselves "pyros," it's all about that "chest-thumping" bang, the sheer joy of making a really loud noise, explained Harry Gilliam, my guide to the local subculture of serious pyros.

The rocket guys love sending stuff up into the air with a whoosh, he told me.

Gilliam, 63, who once owned a software company in Tysons Corner before he realized that he'd never be happy until he scratched that insistent childhood M-80 and cherry-bomb itch, chucked the tech world to run Skylighter., a fireworks supply warehouse in Loudoun County.

He considers himself the most evolved of the species, the ooohh-aaahh kind who revels in the colors, the patterns, the artistry of a spectacular show set to music. He once was brought to tears by a display choreographed to music from "Jurassic Park."

For people such as Gilliam, who tells the story of his first boyhood cherry bomb in Lynchburg, Va., with the kind of drawl that makes you want to have a lemonade on the porch and listen for hours, fireworks aren't just for the Fourth of July.

The Molten Madness fountain you'll see at roadside stands this weekend?

The Shogun Bad Boy jumping jacks?

The 8 Ball Texas Cyclone roman candle?

Amateur hour.

Hard-core pyros pack their own.

They buy ammonium dichromate, asphaltum, tubes, shells, caps and 100-foot fuses.


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