Like Francis Scott Key's Fort McHenry, the venerable tradition of Independence Day fireworks is under attack.
From one flank, red ink from municipal budgets has fireworks fuses fizzling.
Without enough bucks for their bang, California cities that once bankrolled fireworks shows for the Fourth of July have canceled them though in the Modesto region, most of the shows go on.
On another side, environmentalists are raising questions: What about the smoke? The noise? The debris?
One environmental group in San Diego has won three court decisions against the annual La Jolla fireworks next to two sensitive oceanfront areas, but the show will reprise this year.
Fireworks face at least one other, "Star Wars"-like threat: lasers.
Laser light shows are making inroads in places where fireworks have been nixed, including Monterey, which will use lights choreographed to live music Wednesday.
The economy appears to have caused the most damage to the tradition.
Monterey, for example, cut its $200,000 fireworks show in 2009 while facing a multi-million budget deficit.
This year, San Ramon in the Bay Area cut its show, too.
Huge crowds flocking to San Ramon after other cities canceled their shows meant its show costs would double, according to the city Web site.
Despite these cancellations and others, the American Pyrotechnics Association says municipal fireworks are alive and well.
There are 14,000 shows for Independence Day 2012 around the country, said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the group.
She didn't challenge the idea that cities are cutting back, but said, "What we're really seeing is a shift in who's paying for the fireworks."
Corporate and private donors are picking up the tab, she said.
In Monterey, the nonprofit Monterey Bay Symphony is paying for Fourth of July entertainment, but they are skipping the fireworks.
"This is going to be groundbreaking," said Michael Walas, who came up with the laser idea for the symphony group.
He estimates the laser show will cost about $10,000 a fraction of the fireworks show, which used to be shot off over the famous bay.
Eliminating pounding noise and debris on the coast is a good thing, Walas said.
"Here we have the Monterey Bay which is a protected (marine) sanctuary," he said. "It can't be denied that there's residue going into the bay."
He hopes the city will be pleased by the alternative show and will take back the show and it's lowered costs in future years.
Creative Laser Media, the Bay Area company doing the show, says laser displays for the Fourth have become more popular since they did their first 13 years ago.
Another place that opted for lasers is the tiny town of Columbus, Texas.
They used to do fireworks but one Fourth of July, a wildfire broke out and forced cancellation of the pyrotechnics, said Kim Dyer of the Chamber of Commerce.