This year marks the 55th anniversary of the Wendell Family fireworks show. It will “blast off” Saturday, July 4 at dark (about 9:15 p.m.).
For the first time music will be live streamed during the show that has been choreographed specifically for the show. Folks who want to listen can do so by tuning into the simulcast on 104.5 Classic Rock FM or 107.3 The Bull. Streaming is available via wendellfamilyfireworks.com.
If you’ve ever been in Aransas County on the Fourth of July, chances are very good you have watched in awe the show.
It is a tradition started by the late Jerry and Jan Wendell back in 1965.
Jerry passed away in January 2001. When Jan died in May 2011, the Wendell family went to work behind the scenes to ensure the future of the annual fireworks display.
In May 2012 the Wendell Family Fireworks Fund was incorporated under Texas State Law as a nonprofit corporation, under the new name Wendell Family Fund. The IRS approved its 501(c)3 designation in July 2013.
Tax-deductible donations (checks) can be mailed to:
Wendell Family Fund
3730 Drake Street
Houston, TX 77005
Or, one can donate via PayPal or debit/credit card at www.wendellfamilyfireworks.com. Click on “Donate” and fill in the required form.
Excess funds collected by the Wendell Family Fund (above that which is deemed necessary as carryover for the following year) can be distributed to other non-profit organizations.
The first Wendell fireworks were shot off on July 4, 1965 when Jerry and Jan were entertaining a group of family and friends at their new home on East Linden.
The next year they did it again, but on a larger scale. So large, in fact, the display attracted onlookers who parked along the road to watch them. The Wendells then made the decision to secure a place in Rockport to shoot off the fireworks so the entire community could view them.
The first public display was based on a vacant lot on Key Allegro. That lot, owned by the late Ed Harper and Bill Christian, faced Little Bay. It drew a large crowd of people lining the roads to watch.
It became apparent the event was something the residents of Rockport appreciated.
Jerry’s next move was to get pyrotechnic certification and to begin using professional-grade fireworks to make the show much more spectacular.
When his sons Wayde and Shawn were old enough, they too became certified pyrotechnicians and participated in the launching of the fireworks. The display grew more and more sophisticated, using larger mortars and more spectacular fireworks.
The fireworks display began to draw such large crowds Jerry approached the late Bobby Landrum of the Aransas County Navigation District, requesting permission to launch the fireworks from Rockport Beach Park, over little Bay. That action also had to be approved by the City of Rockport, as well as the State of Texas.
Once the location change was made, the show began to generate even larger crowds. Jerry and his sons started to increase the size and quality of the fireworks.
In the 1970s, Key Allegro developer, the late Carl Krueger, asked Jerry’s permission to send letters to the residents of Key Allegro, and to local businesses, soliciting donations to help defer expenses.
Jerry was reluctant at first, but after much persistence by Krueger, he relented.
The response was overwhelming. The generous support for residents, the business community, and visitors allowed the Wendell fireworks tradition to evolve into an outstanding display, celebrating our most treasured American holiday – the Fourth of July.
With the formation of the nonprofit Wendell Family Fund, and the continued financial support of the community, the annual Wendell family fireworks display will continue to create memories for residents and visitors.