City to explore options for July Fourth celebration

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Hoping not to repeat the last minute cancellation of Claremont’s Fourth of July fireworks show, city staff has investigated several options for the 2023 Independence Day celebration including switching to a drone light show.

The fireworks were called off last May in response to the severe drought conditions and restrictions imposed by Metropolitan Water District, which largely curtailed outdoor watering. At issue was the extensive irrigating needed to prevent accidental fires in the firework fallout zone around Pomona College’s Strehle Track, where the show traditionally takes place.

During a meeting last spring, the Claremont City Council voted to cancel the show in large part to show solidarity with residents who were essentially being forced to stop watering decorative plants such as lawns.

“With the potential for drought conditions to continue into 2023, staff sent out requests for proposals for multiple types of evening programs. On October 7, 2022, requests for proposals were sent to a wide distribution of fireworks show vendors, drone light show vendors, and laser light show vendors for the 2023 event,” according to the staff report.

After considering several options the city asked its Independence Day committee to consider either a 12-minute synchronized music and drone light show, or a 17-minute traditional aerial fireworks display. It also gave the committee the option of hosting the show on either Tuesday, July 4 or Saturday, July 1.

For a variety of reasons, including wishing to avoid another cancellation, concerns over air pollution, and the noise being a trigger for veterans with PTSD, city staff recommended the drone show.

The committee did not agree.

“While the Independence Day Committee (IDC) did consider the staff recommendation for the drone light show, ultimately they agreed that the community’s preference is for an aerial fireworks show. The IDC was also concerned about the level of interest in a drone light show, and questioned whether the City would be successful in selling enough tickets to cover the cost of the show,” according to the report.

The committee’s decision was then forwarded to the community and human services commission, which held two different votes but were split 3-3 both times, ultimately making no recommendation regarding fireworks or drones.

Pomona College remains committed to hosting the show and even suggested it might be able to use some reclaimed water to douse the fallout zone. The unique location at Pomona includes many trees, and that natural flora is the main reason for the intensive irrigation.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Council member Corey Calaycay asked about the option of holding a lower elevation aerial fireworks show that would decrease the diameter of the fallout zone.

Independence Day committee vice chair Steve Collins said during the 2015 drought the city held a low elevation show with smaller explosions, which the public was largely unaware of because the launch site was closer to the audience. This reduced the amount of pre-show irrigation.

Council member Jennifer Stark said she preferred the drone show because it’s time to find a more sustainable alternative to fireworks as climate change makes droughts longer and more severe. She was also concerned about poor air quality as a result of fireworks throughout the region, and the effect the explosions have on people with PTSD.

The council voted 4-1 to investigate the possibility of a low elevation fireworks show on the Fourth of July.

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