Lawrence’s Summerfest to feature drone show instead of fireworks this year

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The rockets’ red glare is going to be a little different in Lawrence this year. And bombs won’t be bursting in air.

The traditional July 4 fireworks show is being replaced by a drone show, with hundreds of synchronized drones flying intricate lighted patterns around the Douglas County Fairgrounds on the night of Wednesday, July 3.

The high-tech spectacle will be part of the city’s annual Summerfest celebration that day, which will also include food trucks, live music and a crafts show at the fairground.

Lawrence officials decided to switch to drones, which have become an increasingly popular alternative to fireworks for many municipalities. The explosions can be triggering for war veterans, pets and others.

“We had a little problem with fireworks last year,” Porter Arneill, assistant director of Parks and Recreation — Arts and Culture for the City of Lawrence, told members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board during their meeting Monday.

Last year, the city moved the fireworks show from the location it had been using near KU’s west campus to the Douglas County Fairgrounds, which is very close to the Lawrence Humane Society. Many community members raised concerns about the plans, fearing that the extra noise for an extended period of time would wreak havoc for the animals. More than 20 volunteers joined the animal shelter staff that evening to help keep the animals calm and happy.

“We found a drone show that is financially agreeable, and so we’re actually going to do a drone show which we’re excited about, because I think we’re one of the first to do that kind of thing,” Arneill told the board Monday.

The festivities — which will be free to attend — will begin with a craft festival in the air-conditioned Fairgrounds Building 21 from 3 to 8:30 p.m. on July 3. Food truck and beer sales will begin at 4 p.m., along with City Play Corps activities for children.

A lineup of community musicians and bands play from 4 to 9 p.m. on the event’s main stage, which will be positioned at the east end of the demolition derby arena at the fairgrounds.

The drone show — which will be staged from adjacent Venture Park — begins at 9:45 p.m.

More information is available on the city’s website, which will be updated as details are added, at

A map of the layout for Summerfest 2024, set for Wednesday, July 3 (via City of Lawrence website)

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