Community drone, fireworks shows to receive county funding

County grants will help fund firework shows in Langley, Freeland and Oak Harbor this year after all.

Grants from Island County will help fund firework shows in Langley, Freeland and Oak Harbor this year after all.

The grants hit some snags earlier when two communities, Langley and Oak Harbor, opted for drone shows instead, and a couple of commissioners expressed skepticism with the proposed awards.

The chambers of commerce for the communities announced earlier that the shows before, on and after the Fourth of July will happen with or without the county funds. This week, the county commissioners decided to fund all three displays, at a total cost of $148,000 from the lodging tax funds, though it may mean less money for the chambers next year.

The county’s lodging tax advisory committee recommended fulfilling the cities’ requests for $50,000 in Langley and Freeland and $48,000 in Oak Harbor.

“(Drones) can be as much fun, as patriotic, as entertaining for folks, so I would encourage my colleagues to support this,” Commissioner Melanie Bacon said at a recent meeting.

The drone show would disincentivize people from lighting fireworks in their yard and be a step in the right direction of transitioning from fireworks to drone shows overall, she said.

Having three shows on three different days encourages tourists to stay more than one day, Commissioner Janet St. Clair said.

Commissioner Jill Johnson supported the fund allocation too, with the caveat that they will decrease the 2025 lodging tax advisory committee allocation by $98,000 to make up for it.

“I don’t like the perception that is out there a little bit in the tourism community that they just can get more when they want more, right? And it’s not just the fireworks folks,” she said.

County staff will finalize the contracts to be approved during the consent agenda of the next meeting.

Leaders of the Freeland Chamber of Commerce have said they plan to put on a July 3 fireworks event. The Langley Chamber of Commerce has begun advertising “Langley Lights the Night” an aerial light how planned for July 6. The festivities also include music, food and crafts. The Oak Harbor show will be on July 4.