No more fireworks on July 4th in North Tahoe

It is a well-known fact that July 4th is the busiest weekend of the year on Lake Tahoe. This is the highest peak of tourism. Weekends flock to the cool mountain air, hotels are booked, beaches fill up, and at night, a fireworks boom echoes throughout the basin.

Still, Tahoe’s Independence Day is also an abbreviation for everything that went wrong with overtourism. On the West Shore, a two-mile drive to Tahoe City can take an hour or even longer. Second houses and vacation rentals host furious parties at night, turning a normally quiet neighborhood into a fraternity-like scene. And in the aftermath, volunteers comb the Tahoe coastline and Truckee’s riverbed, picking up all the empty beer cans and plastic inner tubes left.

But this year at least one thing is different. From Incline Village to Tahoe City, across the North Shore, drones are replacing fireworks. No more boom, ah, ah. Instead, hundreds of drones take off for a choreographed patriotic celebration.

Kings Beach’s annual celebration will host a drone light show on July 3rd, and Tahoe City and Incline Village will do the same on July 4th. South Lake Tahoe and Truckee continue to maintain the fireworks tradition this year.

“The North Shore will all be a drone show,” said Andy Chapman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Incline Village Crystal Baby Visitors Bureau. “It’s a new way to celebrate. I think it’s as dynamic and festive as a fireworks display.”

Congratulations, yes. However, Chapman said the decision to switch to drones was in line with the larger shifts underway at Lake Tahoe. This is a regional move to curb tourism pollution and put the Lake Tahoe basin on track for a more sustainable future.

“Independence Day is a busy time of the year here. People are flooding here and we know it. Over the last two years, we have been flooded with the impact we all felt here.” Said Chapman. “It’s part of what we’re all working on to drive the region-wide Stewardship Tahoe project.”

A group of people will carry a raft to the Truckee River, one of Tahoe's hotspots, on July 4th.

A group of people will carry a raft to the Truckee River, one of Tahoe’s hotspots, on July 4th.

Julie Brown / SFGATE

The pandemic canceled the fireworks show in North Lake Tahoe in 2020 and 2021. The suspension has given tourism authorities a window to reassess how Tahoe will celebrate July 4th in the future. And given the threat posed by today’s wildfires, the Caldor fire is still fresh in the hearts of the people of Lake Tahoe. Drones are an obvious decision for safety.

According to Chapman, the North Tahoe fireworks are always ignited by a barge in the middle of the lake and are under the supervision of the local fire department. However, fireworks permits, effort, and risks are all high costs and outweigh the additional costs of the drone. Incline Village’s budget for the drone show is about $ 130,000, a slight increase compared to the $ 110,000 spent on fireworks in 2019.

A spokesman for the North Tahoe Fire Protection District said in a statement that fireworks were inherently a safety issue. Drones not only reduce the risk of fire, but also reduce air pollution during vacations.

The humming sound of fireworks also surprises pets. Pets go missing on Lake Tahoe more often than you think. According to the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, pet loss has increased by 30% across the United States between July 4th and 6th each year. The drone hopes to help calm the pet a little.

“It’s really a community celebration. For visitors who are already here. For our residents and second homeowners here. We don’t expect a lot of people along the beach. Hmm. It’s not the beach — it’s in the stadium, “Chapman said. “That’s the change we made.”

In Tahoe City, businesses are preparing for a festive weekend, even without fireworks.

“We know the history that fireworks share in the hearts of many families. Drone shows are not going to recreate the history that fireworks have played in our community, but we offer this sustainable option. We are excited to introduce you to our area, “said Katie Biggers. By email, the secretary general of the Tahoe City Downtown Association. “Like the fireworks display, this is a vibrant, energy-driven event just above Tahoe City that brightens the sky and provides an awe-inspiring experience.”

Not all of Lake Tahoe is on a drone. For those who miss the tradition of sparks in the dark sky in the middle of the mountains, head to South Lake Tahoe, where the annual fireworks show will continue unchanged.

Carroll Chaplin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, said in an email: “Of course, along with fireworks, we have some responsibilities, including safety, and we take them seriously. Holding a Lights on the Lake Fireworks Show can reduce the illegal and unauthorized use of fireworks. I hope. “

According to Chaplin, South Lake Tahoe has done some research on switching to drones.

“There are many challenges, such as launch areas, roads and flight patterns of people, but we continue the discovery process in the future,” she said.

Visitors will be seen on the beaches of South Lake Tahoe on July 4, 2021.

Visitors will be seen on the beaches of South Lake Tahoe on July 4, 2021.

Tom Herauer / SFGATE Special

Incline Village has purchased 200 drones for Independence Day on July 4th. There are two actions with a break in between. Incline Village hired the same production company that flew the drone for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“There are obviously people in our community on both sides of this conversation,” Chapman said. “I watch the show with people, see what happens in the first year of the year, help us learn from it, make it better in the future, and hold our perceptions and ideas until the end of the show. I recommend you to do it. “

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