If you’re feeling torn about putting on a fireworks show at the cottage, there may be a solution. There’s a rising awareness that while the display is a meal for the eyes, these loud explosions are not so enjoyable for pets and nearby wildlife.
In 2010, thousands of red-winged blackbirds fell out of the sky during Beebe, Ark.’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display. It’s theorized that the birds were scared from their nests by the explosions, sending them into flight where they became disoriented, crashing into objects. Deer, squirrels, and other mammals have also been known to dash out onto roads to escape the noise, and anyone who owns a pet dog has seen them whimper and cry—or worse, bolt for the woods—during holidays like Canada Day.
Beyond wildlife, fireworks can also have adverse effects on people with post-traumatic stress disorder and autism, the loud explosions causing severe stress and anxiety. That’s why more and more people are looking for alternatives to noisy firework displays.
In 2018, during Canada Day, Banff, Alta., ditched the noisy chaos of exploding rockets, opting instead for “quiet fireworks.” The display was orchestrated by Fireworks Spectaculars out of Calgary and focussed more on the lights and aesthetics of the show rather than the noises.
The switch to quiet fireworks was prompted by the Bow Valley Naturalists, a conservation group that was looking to protect the wildlife that inhabits Banff National Park. Banff, however, isn’t the first town to adopt quiet fireworks. According to the New York Times, in 2015, Collecchio, a town in northern Italy, passed a law banning loud fireworks. That town, too, was making an attempt to assuage the anxiety of local animals.
How are quiet fireworks different from regular fireworks? “They’re not really different,” says Melanie Sutherland, the executive director of the Canadian National Fireworks Association. “What it is is there are different products that have different amounts of powder in them and provide different displays in the air. Some of them go up with a big boom and have a big display. Some of them aren’t as loud and produce a different type of display.”
Sutherland explains that “there’s noise to every firework,” some just make less noise than others. Quieter fireworks tend to be wrapped looser and packed with more black powder rather than metallic powder.
If you’re looking to purchase quiet fireworks for the August long weekend, Sutherland recommends that you consult with your local retailer about which fireworks have a lower noise level. “Fireworks like fountains and fly fish will make a swoosh noise and some will come with a crackle,” she says. “It’s just a different type of noise, but it’s a quieter noise.”
The louder products would be aerial shells where they have multiple shots, thumping as they launch and releasing loud bangs when they explode.
If you want to avoid fireworks entirely—they are known to have a polluting effect because of their smoke and the tiny metal particles that they release after they explode—there are other ways to celebrate. Sparklers and glow sticks are a fun alternative To avoid unnecessary pollution and to mitigate the chaos of loud explosions, the California State Fair has replaced fireworks with a coordinated display of hundreds of drones outfitted with LED lights—a solution that may not be reasonable for a small lake gathering (or a DIY budget). Maybe, at the end of the day, a good old-fashioned campfire is all you need to celebrate being at the lake with family and friends.