History of pk fireworks at hell’s gate

The first time I saw fireworks exploding over Possum Kingdom Lake was July 4, 1960 while a Boy Scout at Camp Constantin located on Johnson Bend across the lake from Bluff Creek. I looked forward to a week of summer camp during the 4th of July so I could see the fireworks display. Senior camp staff members placed the fireworks on handmade wooden rocket launchers and set off the rockets with a lighted punk. A renovated Spanish-American War cannon was also fired, The cannon was an integral part of flag and official ceremonies and is still in use today. The display was discontinued at the camp due to costs (at the time about $300) and liability. This may have been the first organized fireworks show at the lake.

Lakes are a popular place for people to celebrate the Fourth. Outdoor cooking, camping, aquatic activities and exploding fireworks are the major events of the day. By this time boat owners began a tradition of forming a floating boat parade through Hell’s Gate and along the high cliffs. Fireworks, of course, were included. The annual event became so popular that hundreds of boats take to the water and anchor along the cliffs.

Eventually, friends and supporters of the annual celebration began taking donations for a fireworks extravaganza. R. E. Chambers, a Wichita Falls businessman and board member of the Brazos River Authority had a lake residence on Bourbon Street. He was instrumental in making the display a memorable event. Eventually promoters persuaded the PK Chamber of Commerce to take over sponsorship, raise funds and contract a professional fireworks display company with insurance to handle the event. Today, the logistics of hauling fireworks and equipment by boat and then hiking to the top of hell’s Gate to set the show up has become a issue for licensed companies and has increased the cost and reduced the number of companies who will agree to perform the display.

The Annual Fourth of July Fireworks Show at PK continues, but who knows for how long? Modern technology is replacing fireworks with lighted drones. Maybe a combination of real fireworks and synchronized drones will be the future of the display at Hell’ Gate if enough funds are raised. The display is one of the most popular in the state, so much so, that lyrics in the song “My Texas” by the Josh Abbott Band has several lines stating “Never seen fireworks on PK, Then you ain’t met my Texas yet.”

(Most of the information in this article comes from “Possum Kingdom Journal- Volume I”)

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