Community Voices
Open image in lightbox
Scene from National Experiential’s drone show at the Santa Monica Pier in May 2023. (photo: National Experiential / Facebook)

As a kid growing up in Washington, illegal fireworks from nearby reservations were cheap and plentiful.

We would gather in the horse pastures or the middle of the high school football field and see who could put on the best display. Hundreds of families would come together as one community, and we looked out for each other. We had plenty of safety equipment to ensure no digits were lost.

Away from homes or other structures, things were both enormous and pretty contained. It was understood that you had to be sober to hold a lighter, and being reckless wasn’t tolerated. I have permanent damage to my left ear from a mishap, but I cherish those memories to this day.

San Pedro, on the other hand, is a warzone on a bell curve starting the first day in June, peaking on the Fourth of July, and continuing well after the nation’s birthday.

The kid in me still loves fireworks: the lights, the concussion that runs through your whole body, and the “oohs” and “ahs,” but I feel for the pets and vets who suffer this time of year. Our boxer-bulldog Isabella is the happiest dog at the dog park, but she shakes and goes catatonic with every loud explosion. 

To dismiss the effect these fireworks have on so many of our military veterans doesn’t seem very patriotic. I’m also making an assumption, but I’m pretty sure the folks lighting up the sky above our 100-year-old house in our neighborhood are not the same folks crowding Cabrillo Beach for the Fourth of July display.

Unfortunately, there will be plenty of fireworks without a public show this year. Maybe the police who would have worked Cabrillo on the Fourth could be free to address neighborhood fireworks.

Putting on public fireworks shows requires coastal permits, insurance, and skilled pyrotechnic companies. As climate change grows, permits consider the debris on the shore and water, the effects on wildlife, and the aftermath on the environment. Insurance costs have also gone sky-high, and there are fewer skilled fireworks companies around to put on decent shows. Drone shows are cleaner, quieter, and more flexible in design for specific events. The downside is drones are still a growing industry, and the cost is often three times that of fireworks. I can imagine using drones more often and over more events in coming years as more vendors enter the industry and prices come down.

What if the Port had a local drone company that could program events and concerts in weeks instead of months? We might be able to see drone shows twice as often as our fireworks shows.

For fireworks lovers, the Port of Los Angeles Cars & Stripes Forever! event is happening on Friday, June 28, from 5 to 10 p.m., with fireworks happening around 9 p.m. It’s a free event with live music from favorite harbor bands, a beer garden, food trucks, and almost 120 beautiful classic cars from around the Harbor Area. Spots are filling up. There may be opportunities for additional pre-1975 vintage cars to participate on the day of, but it is best to register ahead of time at

For drone lovers, the 74th Annual John Olguin 4th of July “Weekend Spectacular” will take place at Cabrillo Beach on Saturday evening, July 6, with the drone show happening around 8:45 p.m. The drones will be presented by National Experiential, an experiential marketing company that has produced professional drone shows nationwide, including projects for Disney, Spotify, and Riot Games.

I never knew John Olguin personally, but I can imagine him smiling down over this eco-friendly and critter-friendly version of his event — such a great way to honor his legacy. Drones may be a sign of changing times, but some San Pedro traditions never change.

I hope to see you at both of these events. Feel free to let me know what you think. Remember, I’m just a volunteer. If you plan to yell at me, at least buy me a drink first — I’m on your side. spt

Lee Williams

Lee Williams leads The Lee Williams Real Estate Group at REAL Broker and is a Los Angeles Harbor Commissioner. He also serves on the board of directors for Boys & Girls Clubs of the LA Harbor, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Connects, and the San Pedro Education Foundation. He can be reached at