Rhein in Flammen 2024 This is why the fireworks and drone show started so late

Bonn · Rhein in Flammen encountered several challenges, including heavy rain. Despite the delays in the drone show and fireworks, the organiser is satisfied.

300 drones took to the air for the innovative and impressive show at Rhein in Flammen - but unfortunately much too late due to technical problems. The fireworks were also delayed as a result.

300 drones took to the air for the innovative and impressive show at Rhein in Flammen - but unfortunately much too late due to technical problems. The fireworks were also delayed as a result.

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

Fireworks in combination with a drone show: this was supposed to be the highlight of Rhein in Flammen. But the start was delayed by more than half an hour, leading to many visitors leaving disappointed on Saturday evening. Despite this setback, tens of thousands of people still flocked to the Rheinaue over the three-day event, according to the organisers. Approximately 5000 guests travelled along the Rhine in a convoy of boats.

Yannick Fugenzi organised Rhein in Flames for the first time this year. He was visibly crestfallen after the breakdown on Saturday. "It's a shame, of course, that it didn't work properly in the first year. We just had bad weather. But the weather is nobody's fault." His team had been in contact with the German Weather Service the whole time. The heavy rain was expected to taper off and turn into light rain over the course of the evening. "That's why we were confident that everything would work," he says. Although the experts were still certain a few hours beforehand that the bad weather would not be a problem, circumstances proved otherwise.

The delayed drone show was likely due to the heavy rain, as reported by Madlen Kronfeld, spokesperson for the drone company Showmatrix, and Fugenzi. "The low-hanging, extremely dense cloud cover was also a problem for us," says Fugenzi. This disrupted the satellite connection to the drones, which was necessary for their GPS control.

The malfunction was apparently communicated at very short notice. Mayor Katja Dörner was already on stage, counting down. "That's when we realised it wasn't going to work," says Fugenzi. Everyone in the control centre scrambled to salvage the show, but there were communication problems, as confirmed by Kronfeld. Initially, the crowd in front of the stage was informed that the fireworks would be postponed until 11:30 pm.

Once it was clear that the show could go ahead, the files on the drones had to be synchronised and checked. But even that was only possible with a stable satellite connection. "This delayed the whole process. But we were no longer able to communicate this," says Fugenzi. It was not clear how long it would take. "It could have been one minute or ten." The show was able to start late, but the music and drone show were not synchronised due to the hectic rush.

Rhein in Flammen was the start of the festival season. There are typically complaints about the condition of the Rhine meadows after major events. Fugenzi is in a positive mood despite the mud. "On Sunday morning, when I toured the meadow, I was surprised at its condition considering the event that had taken place." Rides and exhibitors were scheduled to leave the Rheinaue on Sunday, with Fugenzi and his team organising vehicles to minimise damage to the meadow during their exit.

Despite the hiccups, Fugenzi is content. He has received significant positive feedback. "People have recognised the effort we've put in." He anticipates organising the event again next year, as a contract has been secured with the city of Bonn for three years.

Quiet evening for the BOS112 rescue service and the Bonn police

This year marked the first time that the rescue service provider BOS112 was present at Rhein in Flames instead of local aid organisations. Tim Balz, Operational Director, draws a positive balance, describing the operations as "normal incidents at a festival." There were few joint operations with the police. There were no problems with cannabis. However, alcohol remained a major concern, he says, leading to seizures and minor cuts. There were two call-outs during the evening, each involving an unconscious person. ‘It turned out that too much alcohol had been consumed and the people were not unconscious at all,’ says Balz. In his view, visitors behaved in a very civilised manner, even when it got crowded around 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Bonn police also reported a relatively calm evening, with few incidents requiring intervention. The police were called for various reasons. In one case, a drunken man caused a disturbance by kicking rubbish bins, carrying a knife, shouting at others, and allegedly giving the Hitler salute at a beer stand. The police issued bans for theft and sexual harassment and initiated investigations in some instances.

Statements from Stadtwerke Bonn and the City of Bonn

Both Stadtwerke Bonn (SWB) and the city are satisfied with the weekend. ‘Due to the rain, the return traffic from the event site started earlier than usual, but was also handled more quickly due to the overall lower number of visitors,’ reports Joachim Schallenberg, head of the SWB operations control centre. After the programme, buses, trains, and alternative mobility options such as Clara scooters, rental bikes, and e-scooters were in demand until 1:30 a.m., says Silke Elbern, SWB spokesperson. The city of Bonn emphasised that more visitors had observed the glass ban and significantly less broken glass was left behind.

(Original text: Maike Velden; Translation: Jean Lennox)