The Danang International Fireworks Festival, or DIFF as it’s known for short, is finally back for 2023. Eight teams will compete for the title this year – the first time the event has been held since 2019. On Friday 2nd June, and then each Saturday after, the teams face off, until a winner of DIFF 2023 is crowned on 8th July. And the reigning champions, Finland’s JoHo Pyro, begin the show against Vietnam. Their founder, Johan Hollander, told us more about the fleeting and ephemeral art of the fireworks display team.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
The name, JoHo, comes from their founder, Johan Hollander. Johan’s been, he admits, a fireworks obsessive since he was a kid. “Wow, I can’t even remember how old I was when I fell in love with fireworks. I don’t remember ever not loving them,” Johan shrugs.
Naturally, in Finland, they’d have shows on New Year’s Eve. But also they’d let off fireworks to mark villaavslutningen, the end of the summer season in the countryside when they’d lock-up their summer villas for another year. Before reacquainting themselves with urban life they’d make bonfires on the shore, light lanterns, and let off fireworks.
Champions At The Danang International Fireworks Festival 2019
Back then, he could never have imagined the places pyrotechnics could take him. There’s been competitions in France, Poland and Sweden. And after this event in Danang the team goes on to Montreal in Canada for another competition.
Johan Hollander says, the most meaningful competition was probably the first one – a national competition held in Finland in 2006. “Which we won,” he adds happily.
But, right now, Jonah and his team are busy laboring in the Danang heat again setting up for another DIFF. He doesn’t remember it being this hot last time. The last time, by the way, was 2019, when Johan and his JoHo Pyro team won the competition.
For DIFF’s comeback year, JoHo Pyro will compete against the home team, Vietnam in the first event that kicks off the competition at 8pm on 2nd June.
Compared to its size now, the event started relatively small. In 2008, its first year, Danang International Fireworks Festival lasted for only two days. By 2017, it spread over two months – a format that continues today, with a lengthy hiatus since 2019 caused by the pandemic when the idea of a massive influx of fireworks fans to Danang every year combined with the potential of spreading the pandemic caused DIFF to be canceled.
Welcome Back DIFF 2023: The Wait Is Over
It’s been a four years’ wait. But Danang International Fireworks Festival finally returns and this year, joining the host team are seven international teams: England, Italy, Canada, Poland, France, Australia and Finland.
Fireworks still have an allure. Captivated crowds. The audible ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs.’ Even with the growing popularity of drone shows, Johan feels that fireworks displays won’t die out anytime soon. “Drone shows, which are amazing, are quite short at least for now. I foresee a future where drone shows are combined with fireworks into an integrated event.”
This year, he’s concerned about facing Mark Kelsall’s Pyrotex Fireworx team from England. That’s partly because they’re the team who Finland beat in the final in 2019. “They’re very good, and, of course, considering what happened last time around, they really want to win,” Johan nods. “But the pyrotechnics teams from France and Poland are extremely strong too,” he adds. He’s also mindful that kicking off the competition can be tricky. “For me, it’s the hardest to open the competition. We have to set the bar.”
“When you see the show come to life, and it goes as planned, you’re as happy as a child.”
The attraction is not solely in winning though, he says. “When you see the show come to life, and it goes as planned, you’re as happy as a child. And then you have the audience’s reaction. It’s the best reward – regardless of winning.
Despite the team’s success, Johan and the other four members of JoHo Pyro keep evolving their approach. “So, this year we’re going for something more subtle and emotional,” he tells us. Back in 2019, they preferred a hard rock and metal soundtrack but this time they’re going for something softer and more melodic. “The Finnish love rock and metal,” he laughs, “I don’t know why – maybe it’s something to do with the harsh cold and drinking beer.”
And, if they reach the final at Danang International Fireworks Festival again this year, they’ll have to produce a completely new show in only two weeks. “It’s not easy,” Johan reminds us, in case the life of a pyrotechnic team was starting to sound glamorous.
With most events coming during what Johan refers to as the summer season, we wonder what he and the team do for the rest of the year. “Oh, well, it might be surprising,” Johan Hollander smiles, “but we’re actually firefighters too…”