East Bay city celebrates Fourth of July with fireworks alternative — a drone show

A new way to celebrate the Fourth of July took place in different cities around the country, and now, it's an alternative that at least one East Bay city is embracing: drone shows.

The first ever drone show to celebrate the holiday in Brentwood drew a huge turnout on Tuesday. Organizers estimated that 15,000 people came to enjoy the festivities.

Many said the drone show was a new and exciting experience, and supporters also said that the show is safer than a fireworks display.

Organizers said the drone images could be seen about three miles away. One hundred fifty drones dazzled in a display of lights, creating animations that expressed patriotism and local pride.

"I think it's amazing especially because of the environment," said Mary Bates from San Carlos.  

"It's technology in the sky and you're watching it. I think it's going to be even better than a fireworks show," said Alani Rodriguez of Brentwood.

There were no loud explosions with a drone show, just music.

"I like it because the kids aren't scared of the big booms, so normally we have to leave the fireworks show because the kids are crying. But that was perfect," said Michelle Morfin of Oakley.  

Amy Tilley is the executive director of Downtown Brentwood Coalition, a nonprofit that supports businesses. Shepitched the idea of a drone show after seeing videos of shows held elsewhere.

"We have a lot of fire danger in this area and that was a concern for us, and we're looking for an alternative," said Tilley.

It's an alternative that does not require a fire inspector from Contra Costa County Fire Protection District to be at the event. Fire Marshal Chris Bachman said it will be a busy night, dealing with illegal fireworks and staffing fire inspectors at July 4th fireworks shows in five other cities.

"We feel that the fireworks displays can be done safely. But we want to make sure we do have inspectors on site going over all the state requirements," Bachman said.  

For Brentwood, fireworks shows may not be a thing of the past.  

"There's a lot going on with the environment right now. I think at least for the short term. This is the solution for now, but I know this community loves fireworks," Tilley said.

Cost is a factor, and she said this drone show cost $50,000. A fireworks show would cost less, likely about $40,000, she shared.

Tilley said this show was paid for by small businesses, crowdfunding and a grant from the city of Brentwood.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU, Instagram @AmberKTVU or Twitter @AmberKTVU.