The Occasions Lady and Fireworks of the Future

Brittney Osborn


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The Occasions Lady and Fireworks of the Future

by Audrey Poff 

While the annual fireworks displays held in Jonesboro are scheduled to take place as usual this year, more cities across the country will be replacing traditional fireworks shows with drone-based shows.

Although Fourth of July celebrations have long been associated with fireworks displays, more towns in the U.S. are beginning to abandon the usual pyrotechnics shows, citing noise, safety and environmental concerns.

I know many people who dread Independence Day each year because of the loud noises associated with fireworks. Bombs bursting in the air and rockets shrieking across the sky can be unsettling for young children and animals.

Safety is another major concern. While most professional fireworks shows entertain crowds without a hitch, there are accidents that make the news every year highlighting damage to property, people and pets. Most injuries from fireworks, however, are the backyard variety. Regardless of local ordinances preventing the discharge of fireworks within city limits, you would be hard pressed to find many neighborhoods in Jonesboro where fireworks are not lighting up the nighttime sky on the Fourth of July.

As a child, I remember shooting fireworks in our yard in Blytheville with my brother and friends in the neighborhood. It wasn’t uncommon to hold a firecracker a millisecond too long or to have a rocket reverse its direction and come right back at you. We were fortunate and avoided any significant injury.

My son is an emergency room doctor at U.A.M.S. and has mentioned the injuries that they typically see on the holiday. I don’t think ER doctors look forward to working on the Fourth of July. Burns are reported to be the most common injury, with the most frequently injured body parts being the hands, head/neck and eyes. Some accidents result in major trauma or even death.
As for environmental concerns, ongoing drought issues increase the risks associated with traditional fireworks shows, as the ashes can quickly ignite already dry areas and increase the risk of wildfires. Other municipalities cite concerns over the fumes and chemicals released from fireworks shows as the reason to favor drones.

Will drone-based shows be the fireworks of the future? I suspect the cost of drone shows, which can easily top $20,000, will be the main factor in how quickly we see traditional fireworks shows replaced. Big cities with big sponsors will be your best bet for catching a drone show again this Fourth of July. Nashville has one scheduled in conjunction with the holiday.

While it’s not part of an Independence Day celebration, Arkansans can experience a drone show this summer at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. “The Portal: An Art Experience by Jewel” will continue Thursdays to Sundays through July 28. “The Portal” is described as an immersive journey at the intersection of music, wellness, technology and art created by four-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and mental health pioneer Jewel. The collaboration between Jewel and Crystal Bridges features one-of-a-kind, 200-piece aerial drone shows choreographed by Jewel and set to an original score by the artist, in addition to other works of art. For more information, visit crystalbridges.org.

A drone show in Northwest Arkansas is one thing, but in the opposite corner of the state, you’ll probably still want to stay inside your vehicle for safety – I mean safety from the mosquitoes, not the fireworks. Anyone who has ever attempted to watch a Fourth of July fireworks show in an area surrounded by rice fields knows the mosquitoes will carry you off. 

It makes me wonder though:  If you can light up the sky with hundreds of drones programmed to create amazing visual formations, can someone not program them to also fly around and zap mosquitoes? High-flying drones creating works of art with mosquito-zapping abilities – what a beautiful thing that would be.

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The Occasions Lady and Fireworks of the Future