The Big Bang or Fireworks Over PK

The first time I saw fireworks exploding overPossum Kingdom Lake I was a Boy Scout during summer camp at the first week of July, 1961. The first shows were put on by Circle Ten Council who owns Camp Constantin. Senior camp staff members placed the fireworks on handmade wooden rocket launchers and set them off one after another. A renovated cannon was also fired off. The cannon was as integral part of flag and official ceremonies. I can still remember the loud boom and smell of burned gunpowder. The show was gradually discontinued due to costs and liability. I’m not sure, but I think this was the first organized firework show at the lake.

The lake is a popular place for people to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with outdoor cooking, swimming and boating activities, and a place to set off fireworks outside of city limits. Boat owners began a tradition of forming a floating parade through Hell’s Gate and along the high limestone bluffs that included igniting fireworks on the water.

Friends and supporters of the celebration began taking donations for the annual event. R. E. “Gene” Chambers, a Wichita Falls businessman and Board Member of the Brazos River Authority who had a home at the lake on Bourbon Street was instrumental in making the show an annual event. The PK Chamber of Commerce was organized in 1988 and took over raising funds to continue the fireworks show at Hell’s Gate. The first fireworks display held at Camp Constantin in the 60’s was said to have cost $300. Today the chamber contracts with a professional firework display company with expenses of over $35,000. The chamber continues to sponsor and raise funds annually for the event known all over Texas. In 2012 the Josh Abbott Band recorded the song My Texas which included the lines Never seen fireworks on PK, then you ain’t met My Texas yet.

YMCA Camp Grady Spruce sponsors a special Fourth of July event with concessions and fireworks viewing located directly across from Hell’s Gate. Visitors can bring their own picnic meals, blankets and chairs to get a fifty-yard line seat of the show. The grand finale is usually a waterfall of fire across Hell’s Gate. There is a small admission fee to assist camp operations.

Hundreds of boaters anchor in designated sites away from the direct firework site for safety. You can almost jump from boat to boat without getting wet. BRA Lake Rangers, State Game Wardens, and Highway Troopers are on hand to protect the large crowds attending the show on land and water. After over forty years of viewing the fireworks, I stay at home and watch it from my dock and the next day on YouTube. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

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