Homecoming hoorah

Ilkos find joy in bringing joy to others through fireworks

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With names such as Bombs over Baghdad and 100 Shots Thunder King, the boxes in John Ilko's garage reflect the making of a huge pyrotechnic display.

With more than 1,000 firework shells in tow, Ilko is packing to amaze fans Friday during the Moffat County High School homecoming game against Steamboat Springs, which begins at 7 p.m. today.

John and his wife, Sally, have volunteered to do the firework show during the homecoming game for about six years and enjoy the fans' reactions.

"They're dancing out in the field every time they get a touchdown, and we send up a salute," Sally Ilko said. "It gets them going. They get so pumped up."

For more than 40 years, the couple has shared a passion for explosives and fireworks.

Sally said their neighbors hardly notice the blasts coming from their rural home off of Moffat County Road 18.

"One of the funniest remarks from our neighbors was, 'You know Osama bin Laden could have been attacking Northwest Colorado, and we wouldn't have known the difference. We would have thought John was just practicing again,'" Sally said.

The deafening boom that comes from John's concussion mortars, stuffed with flash powder, is enough to scare someone senseless. And you could drive from Craig to Vernal, Utah, on the gasoline he's bringing for flame.

"It's truly an art and science," John said. "The colors to me are absolutely beautiful. Trying to organize them into a show is a challenge."

But not to worry, the couple is licensed with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and they are not new to the art and practice the utmost safety.

"Nothing makes a pyrotechnic happier than having a crowd go crazy," John said. "It just rings your bell."

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