CA Resort Town Replaces Annual July 4th Fireworks Display With Laser Show, Citing Trauma To Pets and Veterans

“Do the fireworks for the public, don’t blame the veterans,” said a local resident who served in Vietnam.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The city of Palm Springs, California, recently announced it would replace its annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration with a laser light show, citing the negative impacts the loud noises could have on animals and veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The change follows a 3-2 city council vote last month against authorizing $55,000 to fund the “All American July 4, 2021, Fireworks Event.” Officials also canceled the pyrotechnics last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but city staffers said they were confident crowds would be able to safely gather this year with protective measures. The state is set to fully reopen its economy on June 15.

Councilman Dennis Woods noted before the vote that the community is “just coming out of covid” and “it seems like the perfect time to do a paradigm shift.”

Mayor Christy Gilbert Holstege, who voted to approve the expenditure, described the move as “a sudden judgment” to cancel a “50-year” tradition.

The Palm Springs Desert Sun reported, “An agenda item about approving funds for fireworks was originally on the council’s consent calendar on May 6; typically, items on the consent calendar are items recommended by staff and passed without discussion by council members.” However, according to the outlet, “Councilman Geoff Kors requested that the item be removed from the consent calendar for discussion after several community members offered comments opposing the fireworks.”

Kors specifically raised concerns about frightened pets and wildlife, veterans and others who have PTSD, toxins, and people with respiratory issues. Some community members who called in to the virtual meeting mentioned air, noise, and light pollution, along with potential harmful effects on victims of gun violence. Kors said “we didn’t have one comment from people saying they support” funding the fireworks show. Councilmember Grace Elena Garner argued, “Nobody thinks they need to call in to defend fireworks.”

“My phone is lighting up now because of all of the people going, ‘What? What just happened? What do you mean we’re canceling the fireworks?’” she added.

“My phone is also blowing up,” said Mayor Holstege. “People are appalled.”

Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton, California’s first openly transgender non-judicial election official, said fireworks “are very problematic for a number of people and extremely problematic for pets.” Middleton, who voted against funding the fireworks celebration, called on the city to go even further and study whether they should ever be allowed again.

“This is not the only time during the course of the year in which we have fireworks displays,” Middleton said. “If we’re going to step away from fireworks on the Fourth of July, I think we should be actually stepping back and making a determination as to whether or not they are ever appropriate in our city.”

Edward G. Johnson, a local Vietnam veteran who reportedly has PTSD, told News Channel 3 that the city’s efforts are misguided.

“Do the fireworks for the public, don’t blame the veterans,” he said. “I think city council needs to get back in their chambers and think of a better solution. When we have the Veteran’s Day parade in Palm Springs, they have a concert afterwards, they shoot off fireworks, and you have no complaints about that.”

According to KESQ, “The city said that in past years, more than 10,000 people have participated in the fireworks show from the Palm Springs Stadium and in other surrounding parks, parking lots and neighborhoods.”

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