In The News

July Fourth fireball was not part of a cover-up

by Bud Kennedy | Jul 10, 2012

BY BUD KENNEDY
bud@star-telegram.com

Fort Worth's 35th annual July Fourth fireworks show included one fireball 10 yards wide.

Some called to report an explosion.

The executive director of the host Trinity River Vision Authority called it a good start.

"An 85-year-old grandmother told me it was the best show she'd ever seen," J.D. Granger said.

"Next year, we'll have a bigger one."

Two days after the Trinity Vision and a Mansfield-based fireworks company set off nearly 2 tons of fireworks over the river's party-ready Panther Island, Granger was still dealing with fallout from a few spectators who swore they saw a dangerous accident, so help them Facebook.

"Fort Worth firework show trailer explodes during finale," an Azle man wrote as a caption on one fireball video.

When I tried to explain, one of the man's friends replied that some unnamed "they" just want to "cover it up."

Fire Department spokesman Tim Hardeman said there is no "they."

"Everything went as planned," he wrote Friday by e-mail.

"The show did what it was supposed to -- 'shock and awe,'" he wrote.

Firefighters put out one small grass fire from falling debris, he wrote.

WFAA/Channel 8 originally reported "several explosions on the ground" but dropped that description later Thursday.

"I've been on the phone with every TV station explaining how that was part of the show," said Mike Wagner of Mansfield-based Extreme Pyrotechnics, which produced the 2011 show and also the Fort Worth Cats' fireworks.

"It gets people's attention. Everybody wants the big balls of fire."

Maybe the reason callers thought something went wrong is that something often goes wrong.

For 25 years after the first show in 1978, it was an orderly event co-sponsored with a bank as a downtown promotion.

Then it became a Cats event, with an unexpected hang-up: extra innings.

The 2005 show didn't start until 11:06 p.m., and 2006 also ran late. Families became accustomed to giving up and leaving or watching the Fort Worth Symphony's show at the Botanic Garden instead.

Trinity Vision brought it back to the riverbank, this year adding an AC/DC cover band, a children's play area, tubing and personal watercraft shows to promote river recreation.

The 26-minute show was expected to draw 20,000 spectators.

It drew 35,000, Trinity Vision estimated.

"This is exactly what we want," Granger said. "People out having fun, sharing the holiday, enjoying the Trinity."

Rumors just blow up.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @budkennedy