Laser light shows like this one at the Coachella Music Festival are substitutes for fireworks displays. (Tim Anderson/Nu-Salt Laser Light Shows International)
Paul Pritchard has lived near Bass Lake for 16 years. He says he moved to this mountain community near Yosemite to get out of Los Angeles. And he makes the most of it, especially during this season when it’s warm enough to take a dip.
“We always come out every weekend and sit on the shore and drink some beer and get wet,” says Pritchard.
And he never misses the annual Independence Day fireworks.
“It’s great. It’s fantastic,” he says. “It’s the best! Because there’s so many of them, they last for 30, 40 minutes and everyone’s happy.”
Lots of people agree including Michelle Miller. She helps run her family’s resort, Miller’s Landing. She says the Fourth typically draws about 20,000 people.
“Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of boats and then they just completely pack the beaches,” she says.
And the best part of this more than 75-year-old tradition?
“The boom noise echoes in a circle around the trees. So it’s really something that is spectacular,” Miller says.
But a lot of those Ponderosa pine trees ringing the lake are now brown.
“You can see we have a lot of dead trees,” says Miller as she points to the far shore. “They’re expecting a big portion to die by the end of summer.”
And there’s the threat of wildfires.
“We also had a fire that burned down to the water at the end of last summer in September,” Miller says. “If you drive through that neighborhood, it is just devastating.” The fire destroyed more than 30 homes.
“Everyone’s just on edge with the dry conditions,” Miller says.
So this summer, the local chamber of commerce is dropping the fireworks for a display of laser lights.
The lasers “move to the music,” says Miller. “It’s all choreographed and we’ll be playing, you know, patriotic songs.”