This pyrotechnics expert turned his Minnesota backyard into a DIY fireworks testing ground

Ken Miller designs smoke displays for NFL games and air shows, but he tests his most destructive creations at home.
pink smoke
Good smoke volume, Miller says, “is the result of the correct mix of chemicals and confinement.” He creates a dense and tactile quality—which sometimes makes plumes look like billowing ­velvet—​by compacting his explosives (here it’s red dye, sugar, and potassium chlorate) just the right amount. Kevin Cooley

You see Ken Miller’s smoke displays at NFL games and air shows. What you don’t see are the explosions, DIY rockets, and smoldering craters that speckle his Minnesota farm. His personal pyrotechnic experiments don’t belong on the 50 yard line or in anyone’s backyard.

fireworks shot out of a vehicle
red rocket flares on a wire rack
Ken Miller working on fireworks
a rocket launch in an alfalfa field
ignited magnesium at night
Ken Miller working on fireworks at night in a lit garage
packaged professional smoke bombs
magnesium caked hole in yard
dryer on fire