Hawking Fireworks On The Wyoming-Colorado Border: "God Bless America!"

Of the five different fireworks businesses on the Wyoming-Colorado border, one stands out: Artillery World. Maybe it's because the owner stands in the middle of the road with an American flag and a bullhorn for 12 hours every day.

JO
Jimmy Orr

June 29, 20237 min read

Pete Elliott, owner of Artillery World, encouraging drivers to stop by his fireworks business
Pete Elliott, owner of Artillery World, encouraging drivers to stop by his fireworks business (Jimmy Orr)

There’s a cluster of businesses right on Wyoming’s southern border that sell items not legal in Colorado: fireworks.

And on June 29, it was busy. Not as busy as it will be this weekend, but for a late Thursday morning? Hundreds of cars filled the parking lots, mostly with green and white license plates. 

It was a Colorado invasion.

Firework aficionados will tell you that Colorado is awful for fireworks. Anything that explodes or leaves the ground is illegal. You can spark up a blunt there, but not a fireworks fountain.

But in Wyoming, it’s wide open. Thus, the collection of warehouses and corresponding traffic on the border, some 11 miles south of Cheyenne.

One Stands Out

Although they may all sell the same thing, there’s a big difference between the cluster of stores.

Four of the five are somewhat staid. One is more pronounced.

That’s not to say anyone would mistake the multi-colored and garish buildings for law offices and accounting firms.

The giant, 20-foot inflated gorilla — which somehow has defeated the Wyoming wind — provides a clue that this isn’t a whitetie business district.

But even in this carnival atmosphere, one is more festive than the others: Artillery World.

First, there’s the guy standing outside his building with an American flag and a bullhorn. That’s Pete Elliott, the owner.

Then there is the recorded message blaring from hidden speakers on infinite loop.

“Colorado, avoid Phantom Fireworks!” the pre-recorded voice yells to the passing cars. “Check it out, they got caught ripping off the Colorado consumers.”

Elliott doesn’t like Phantom Fireworks. He said he doesn’t have a problem with his other competitors, but he’s got an issue with Phantom’s tactics.

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  • Cluster of fireworks businesses on the Wyoming - Colorado border. Fireworks are illegal in Colorado so thousands of Coloradoans make the trip to Wyoming.
    Cluster of fireworks businesses on the Wyoming - Colorado border. Fireworks are illegal in Colorado so thousands of Coloradoans make the trip to Wyoming. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
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  • Jurassic fireworks 6 29 23
  • Pyro city 6 29 23

God Bless America!

Phantom had no interest in talking to the media. Neither did the others. But Elliott welcomed the conversation.

“I’ll talk to you, brother!” Elliott said sounding more like a professional wrestler than a business owner. 

“I stand for freedom, and that means I stand for the freedom of the press,” Elliot said. “God bless America!”

The only thing that would have improved Elliott’s presentation is if he was decked in red, white and blue boxing shorts, top hat, while James Brown’s “Living in America” played in the background.

Maybe next year.

The atmosphere in the stores was different too.

There was a palpable excitement in Artillery World. Customers were laughing with the employees.

 And the checkout stands were busy.

Inside 'Artillery World'
Inside 'Artillery World' (Jimmy Orr)

Strategy For Buying Fireworks

Three overflowing baskets of fireworks is what Mark Deerson and Jack Ross of Lafayette, Colorado, proudly walked out with after spending about an hour in the store, they said.

What’d they buy?

“Some whistlin' bungholes, spleen splitters, whisker biscuits, honkey lighters, hoosker doos, hoosker don'ts, cherry bombs, nipsy daisers — with or without the scooter stick — and a whistlin' kitty chaser,” Deerson said.

Ross immediately jumped in, “Plus we got some fuzz buttles, snicker bombs, church burners, finger blasters, gut busters, zippity do das and crap flappers.”

Really?

The two burst out laughing. 

“Dude, that’s from ‘Joe Dirt,’” Deerson said.

Joe Dirt

The two had memorized and then recited a David Spade monologue from the movie “Joe Dirt,” the story of an acid-washed and mulleted redneck who had a thing for fireworks.

Incidentally, critics were not impressed with the movie, scoring the comedy a full 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. Deerson and Ross thought otherwise.

“It’s my favorite movie,” Ross said before reeling off another line from the film:

“You wanna fight? Why don't you stick your head up my butt and fight for air?”

The two high-fived and walked away.

Coloradoan with part of his haul of fireworks
Coloradoan with part of his haul of fireworks (Jimmy Orr)

How’s Business?

Elliott said business has been “solid” so far this year, but not as good as in the COVID years.

“When we had COVID, it was busy for months,” Elliott said. “But now that the government’s not giving everyone free money, it’s trickled off.”

“But starting tomorrow, this place is going to be on fire with customers,” he said. “The next couple weeks are going to be a madhouse.”

Elliott said he loves Wyoming and Wyoming, people but it’s the Coloradoans who are his biggest customers.

“I would guess 80% of my customers are from Colorado,” he said. “It used to be 90%, but we’re starting to get customers from other places too.”

Elliott has a gigantic “Colorado Owned” banner outside of his building. He said he didn’t know if it worked, but he thought it was smart marketing regardless.

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Appreciate The Effort

He said he didn’t know if his standing in the middle of the road with an American flag and bullhorn was helping him either, but he loved meeting his customers, so it was worth it.

Patrons of his business, however, said his effort absolutely worked.

“I didn’t know which store to go to,” said Rachel Zumwall of Morrison, Colorado. “But I saw this guy standing in the middle of the road with an American flag and I just thought, ‘This is classic.’”

Troy Wilson of Lamar, Colorado, said Elliot’s “performance” was what brought him in.

“I’m in sales,” Wilson said. “So when I see someone busting their ass like that guy, I’m going to give him my business.”

Wilson didn’t know Elliot was the owner. That impressed him even more, he said. 

“That’s awesome,” he said. “That means a lot to me.”

‘Love You, Baby!’

Back out on the street, Elliott was chatting with consumers as they left the parking lot.

Most were heading back to Colorado where their goods are not legal to be detonated.

Elliott said he hoped law enforcement would be lenient on the soon-to-be scofflaws.

There’s so much stress in the world and fireworks help people relax and have fun, he said.

“Remember what it was like when we were kids, man?” he asked. “We never had to worry about all this government stuff. It’s sad."

In Elliott’s opinion, government needs to back off and let the “American people celebrate their freedom.”

“We need it man,” he said. “Everyone needs to de-stress a bit.”

The sound of a car honk set Elliott back in motion.

“Love you, baby,” Elliott called out to a woman driving away from his parking lot.

“I love my customers,” he said. “I love doing this.”

Jimmy Orr can be reached at jimmy@cowboystatedaily.com.

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JO

Jimmy Orr

Executive Editor

A third-generation Wyomingite, Jimmy Orr is the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily.