Drone debut gets mixed reviews as fireworks still rule in Burlington

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Published July 2, 2024 at 1:19 pm

drone fireworks Burlington Canada
Drones combined to form this image of a maple leaf in the sky above Spencer Smith Park in Burlington on Canada Day. (inhalton photo).

“They were nice but lacked the ‘wow’ factor of fireworks.”

That simple review seems to sum up the opinion of several who watched as drones took over the sky above Spencer Smith Park just before the fireworks in Burlington on Canada Day.

The 12-minute drone display was presented as a trial run to gauge public response to their potential replacement of fireworks to close out July 1 ceremonies in the future.

While the drones drew applause each time they morphed into images such as a maple leaf, beaver, duck and bear, many who spoke to inhalton.com said the fireworks remain the star of the show.

“The drones were cute, but…” said Lily Rubino whose other comments lead off this story.

In the park with a large group of friends and family members, Rubino said the tradition of ending Canada Day with a bang rather than the buzz of drone engines is what brings people out each year.

“Come on, it’s Canada Day, a time to celebrate, let’s make a little noise and have some fun,” she said. “Maybe it’s just my age showing but drones just aren’t the same.”

The City of Burlington introduced the drones following a report that many municipalities across North America are making the switch.

The possible change in direction is in response to long-standing complaints that fireworks are not good for the environment and that the noise can trigger distress in both humans and animals.

An online survey has been set up where you can add your comments about the drones and fireworks.

“They believe fireworks can scare people who have lived in war zones. But believe me, we know the difference between fireworks and war,” explained San Abadi who said he lived through several conflicts in the Middle East. ‘This is about fun. My kids are not frightened by this. What Canadians need to realize is that many of the people they want to protect are from cultures that use fireworks for almost every celebration. It’s no big deal really.”

Abadi added that drone technology has to get better if it is going to impress the crowds. “Maybe in a few years, but not now,” he said.

Twelve-year-old Josh Sebastien said he has his own drone that he plays with in the park but prefers the fireworks each year.

“I like the loud noise,” he said. “It’s like watching a movie.”

Mary Douglas, a long-time Burlington resident, suggested a similar show for next year with drones mixed in with the fireworks.

She said coming down to the park to see the fireworks is a tradition and that it is okay for Canada to hold on to some of its past.

“The drones were okay, nothing spectacular, just okay,” she said. “I know fireworks are not politically correct anymore but once a year…I’m sure the powers that be can live with that. I don’t think we have to replace everything that we are used to.”

Online responses to the drones were generally positive with many pointing out the reduction of noise and pollution.

“Let’s just say that my dogs weren’t frightened by the drones,” a user on X (formerly Twitter) commented.

A report to Burlington city council earlier this year pointed out many of the negatives associated with fireworks but also showed they are more expensive to operate. If the city decides to switch to an all-drone display the cost would be double that of the $22,000 it now spends on fireworks.

The results of the survey and recommendations on how it will proceed will be decided by local politicians later this year.

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