Rocket Boys Festival
October 4, 5, 6 2013
To see the Fire Hydrants "Glam Photos" , visit
The October Sky Rocket Boys Festival would like to thank Andrew Jackson for volunteering his talents to his hometown to help make the festival the best it can be. Thank you Andy and for those who do not know him, here is some bio information.
Andy was born in Beckley WV and attended Crescent Elementary , Park Jr High, and Woodrow Wilson High School, before obtaining his electrical engineering degree from WVIT in 1987. Beckley has always been considered his home regardless of where his physical address has been. His grandfather (French Davis) owned and operated the first Piggly Wiggly grocery store on Main Street, across from the court house as well as a Christmas tree farm in Pax, while Andy’s father (Ralph H. Jackson) was the funeral director at Blue Ridge until his retirement in 1985. Ralph also owned the original ski slope on the family farm at Bald Knob decades before Winterplace existed.
Aviation has been a passion of Andy’s since grade school. He idolized guys like Chuck Yeager and dreamed of being a test pilot or astronaut. As a 3rd grader at Crescent Elementary, he sold his hand drawn airplane sketches house to house in his neighborhood. He read every book on aviation and built his own airplanes and rockets with scraps of Balsa wood. In the late 70’s with help from a new local model shop, Andy was able to get into radio controlled airplanes and joined the Beckley Model club, along with his father. “ I can remember those days well” …said Andy…” It was a key time of my life when my father and I shared interests that carried us through the winters as we built models in the basement”. My father taught me the value of working hard and those hours together gluing ribs on a wing or designing a remotely controlled bomb door compartment created life lasting memories I still cherish”.
After graduating college and marrying his wife from Daniels, Andy moved to Orlando, Florida, to start his engineering career. “God’s providence is amazing. I never would have guessed that I would be able to work in the aviation field, but it happened.” Andy spent the next 20 years moving up the career ladder designing electrical systems for ground support equipment used in the airline industry. “It afforded me so many wonderful opportunities to travel the world and spend time close to all types of aircraft. I was living a dream.” One highlight of Andy’s career was getting to meet and talk with Col Gene Halverson. Halverson was known as the Berlin Candy Bomber in WWII. “We had just finished the design of a new generation K-loader for the USAF and Mr. Halvolsen came to commission it. Just afterwards the Iraq war started and sales went through the roof. “
Andy and his team were often the engineers responsible for testing new airport vehicles. “There is a certain thrill starting and driving a piece of equipment for the first time. You envision yourself as a test pilot. Things could go very wrong. You learn to trust your instincts. I recall one windy night at the Cleveland airport. We were testing a new one-man drive deicer around a parked commercial jet. I was fifty feet above the ground in a truck mounted deicer, driving with only a joystick around the multi-million dollar aircraft. The winds were just under our tipping limit and it was a white knuckle experience. “
In 2007, Andrew and his family made the move from Florida to Williamsburg, Virginia, to get closer to aging parents. “My wife was ready to move years earlier but the timing wasn’t right for me yet”. After 20 years in the airline industry, Andy made the transition into the mining equipment industry where he currently works for a major OEM, making the world’s largest electric haul trucks.
Photography has also been a part of Andy’s life since working on the yearbook staff at Park Jr High. His parents bought him his first camera in 1979. “It was an underwater camera I used during scuba diving at Flat Top Lake and at my sister’s house in West Palm Beach. It opened up a new world for me.” He purchased his first real SLR camera in college and began shooting for WV Tech’s newspaper and yearbook staff. “It helped fund my weekend gas and food purchases. Photography has been an integral part of my life ever since. I used it in children’s ministry in central Florida. I spent months compiling the photographs into several music videos at the end of each year. It was a big hit with the families and allowed me to balance both sides of the brain. “
Andy started Savand Action Photography (derived from the first 3 letters of each daughter) after moving to Williamsburg. “The pace of life was much slower in Williamsburg than Orlando and I needed an outlet for my self diagnosed ADD. It has taken off quicker than I had imagined. Two local newspapers have picked me up as their freelancer. I just love capturing action and anything challenging. I am always seeking new endeavors. During a photo shoot at the local airport last December, I got to know a pilot who has an ultra light. It isn’t much more than a riding mower with a wing. We have become close friends and fly the mad-max plane multiple times each week. Of course I always have my camera on board with me. We have captured some memorable moments. I could write a book on the stories so far.”
While visiting Beckley recently, Andy noticed the astronaut painted on the fire hydrant near CVS onHarper Rd. He began seeing more painted fire hydrants and while driving down South Kanawha, he saw two ladies painting another. He did a u-turn and came back to find out what it was about and learned of Scott Hill. “I contacted Scott to let him know I would like to document the fire hydrants on my website. I offered him free photos for his United Way posters. If people wanted to purchase photos, downloads, calendars or posters of the hydrants, then it would be great too, but I wanted to document what this small town was doing. It’s a great concept & I love the designs. I think Scott is a great cheerleader for this festival and is a genius for developing the fire hydrant concept. We need more folks like him to raise the energy in our small towns. I have loved being part of this festival. Rocket Boys is a great story and I could relate to the characters in the movie, which brought back memories while watching it the first time. Homer Hickman was just another hometown hero we could be proud of. While I have not personally met Homer yet, I suspect that like most other West Virginians, he is a humble ,down to earth man who appreciates the upbringing he had that helped make him who he is today. “
Andy will be in attendance at this year’s Rocket Boys Festival documenting the occasion. His work can be found on his website http://savand-photography.smugmug.com He had planned to fly up in a friends open cockpit ultra light that weekend to help promote the festival from the sky, but scheduling conflicts may delay that flight to a later date.