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It’s not just Salt Lake City swapping fireworks for drones this year

Utah-based Open Sky Productions specializes in creative drone shows and is working with Price for its 2023 International Days.
Courtesy Open Sky productions
Utah-based Open Sky Productions specializes in creative drone shows and is working with Price for its 2023 International Days.

In wildfire-prone Utah, some cities are leaving the fireworks behind and opting instead for drone light shows as a safer alternative during traditional summer festivals and events.

Salt Lake City did away with its traditional Independence Day fireworks show this year. The city will do the same on July 24, for Pioneer Day at Liberty Park.

In a statement, Mayor Erin Mendenhall said the city went with drones because of the city’s high fire risk and to alleviate air quality concerns linked to the traditional smoke-ridden fireworks performances.

In Central Utah, the Price City International Days committee is presenting what they’re calling the first drone light show to conclude the 2023 International Days on August 5. The move is to also reduce fire risk, according to the event’s chairman and city council member Layne Miller. He said fireworks were typically a part of the opening ceremony.

“We would launch them [fireworks] off of Wood Hill. And they were a big hit. We started looking at how dangerous they are and potential problems because they were right over the city.

Miller said he pushed for the drone option given the hot and dry weather conditions.

“But the reason everybody loved them, you could sit in your front yard and see them.

In an effort to provide a unique experience that the community can still enjoy, the decision was made to go with a drone show. Miller said they’re working with Utah-based Open Sky Productions, which specializes in creative drone shows. According to the company’s website, pricing for a drone show can range from $10,000 to $50,000 and they last around 15 minutes.

Miller said Zions Bank, a co-sponsor for International Days, was willing to split the bill so the city’s cost went from $10,000 to $5,000.

“I think the other reason that I pushed to do it was because it seems like progressive cities are doing this, and I want us to look like we're one of the progressive cities,” Miller said.

That may have been the reason why American Fork has decided to add a drone show to their annual Steel Days opening celebrations. The light show, made up of 200 drones, will launch from the city’s Art Dye Park on July 17. Unlike Price, American Fork isn’t sacrificing the traditional fireworks.

“The fireworks show is a longstanding tradition for American Fork and we didn't want to interfere with that,” said co-president of the American Fork Chamber of Commerce, Josh Walker.“So that's why we're like, well, let's kick off the events with the drone show and do something unique and fun.”

Their funding came from a grant through the American Fork’s PARC tax that helps fund parks, arts, recreation and culture events in the city.

Because safety wasn’t the leading factor for American Fork’s drone show, Kristina Wesemann, also a co-president for the chamber, said one of the biggest concerns from the community is the thought of no fireworks show.

“A lot of it is that most people don't actually know what a drone show is, so they don't understand that, you know, a couple hundred drones are going to go in the air and create this artistic display. They just think, ‘Oh, is that just one drone going up and videoing everybody or what is that?’ So a lot of what we've had to do is kind of educate them on what a drone show actually is,” Wesemann said.

For those who want to enjoy the booming pyrotechnics of fireworks in the sky, Steel Days will conclude with a fireworks show on July 22.

Curtis Booker is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in Central Utah.
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