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Drone show scheduled for Fourth of July weekend in Durango

Fireworks display canceled for third year in a row because of drought conditions
Cindy and Michael Salyards of Minneapolis dance with their children, Lily, 10, left, and Ellison, 7, during the Fourth of July street dance in 2015 in downtown Durango. (Durango Herald file)

Durango is too dry for fireworks this Fourth of July, but technology is sweeping in to save the day with a drone show scheduled for Independence Day weekend.

Durango Parks and Recreation made the call to hold off on fireworks again this year after discussions with Durango Fire Protection District, said Ellen Babers, community events administrator.

This is the third year in a row the city has foregone a fireworks show because of drought conditions, fire hazards or the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in lieu of fireworks, the city is putting on a $30,000 drone show through the drone company Verge Aero, Babers said.

“It’s different,” she said. “It’s not the big, booming fireworks. But it is pretty unique; it’s pretty exciting to see it.”

One hundred twenty-five drones will take to the skies the evening of July 2 to put on a patriotic light display. The lights and images themselves aren’t the only draw to the show – watching the drones segue into their next routines is part of the viewing experience, she said.

Babers said she has been researching drone shows across the country. There aren’t too many companies or organizations that put on shows, she said, but she narrowed down her selections to two or three companies that have operated in Colorado and performed other Independence Day shows.

She said large cities have organized drone shows, but it isn’t something people are likely to see in smaller cities and towns. In that respect, it is exciting to be at the forefront of a novel spectacle, she said.

The city tested alternative fireworks earlier this year, but because of fire restrictions imposed in late May, even those are off the table this July, Babers said. Those close-proximity fireworks shoot only 125 to 250 feet into the air and are designed so spectators can be as near as 50 to 80 feet away, although the best viewing distance is from 1,200 feet away.

Spectators will be able to view the drone show from a much wider angle than they would have with the alternative fireworks. The planned launch site is from Greenmount, she said.

The annual street dance will be held directly below the drone show, she said.

“That’ll be awesome viewing,” she said. “Even up on the Fort it will be great viewing. And we’ll print out maps (of best viewing areas) as we get a little bit closer.”

The last live fireworks show hosted in the city was in 2019, and before that, 2016, Babers said.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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