It’s pure Americana. And this year it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary as well as the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. The annual Fourth of July fireworks display at Ventris Trail’s End Resort on the north shore of Beaver Lake in Garfield is scheduled this year for July 2.
“We have 7,000 to 8,000 shells going off this year,” says Jody Simrell, owner/manager of the resort. Some of those shells contain 120 shots. “Our smallest shell is 10 times bigger than anything you can buy at a [fireworks] stand. We’re actually going to have shells that have never been seen in this area before.”
The patriotic events starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem.The resort owners deliver 30 solid minutes of fireworks choreographed to music. “I promise it will give anyone goose bumps because it’s inspirational,” says Simrell.
The resort uses an 8,000-watt music system with surround sound along the shoreline broadcasting toward the water. The music begins about an hour prior to showtime. About 45 minutes before the fireworks display the resort shoots off a salute, a small flash of light with a big boom. There is a salute every 15 minutes until the show. “It’s kind of like ringing the dinner bell,” he explains. “It’s really neat because the enthusiasm and excitement builds.”
Simrell anticipates lighting up the sky around 9:30 p.m. “But it could be later if it’s a clear night,” he explains. “You have to wait until that blue dusk leaves and it gets dark enough for that fireworks splendor.”
Boaters begin to congregate as early as noon. Many show up at least two hours before the show. “They’re swimming out there and having fun,” says Simrell. He recommends getting there at least one hour before start time.
“We tell everyone to try to get there during the daylight hours so they can find a good spot,” says Simrell. “There is probably going to be record attendance because of anticipation [of the larger 10th anniversary celebration].”
The fireworks are shot from a point that juts out adjacent to the resort. They are projected over the water for a doubling effect and meant to be seen by boat.
“Normally we have people on shore too, but this year will be impossible because the lake is up in the woods. There are no shores on Beaver this year.” Heavy spring rains filled the lake to high levels. While people are able to enjoy boating and fishing, shorelines are still affected.
“We can take a moderate size crowd on our docks,” Simrell adds. He encourages people to “boatpool,” or in other words, carpool to the event.
“Many people are coming from the Eureka Springs side to see this show and many are carpooling their boats.”
“There will be thousands in attendance.” He expects anywhere from 500 to 1,000 boats -- sailboats, houseboats, pontoon boats, ski boats, bass boats... “You’ll see huge houseboats, like some reaching 100 feet long. They’re monstrous,” Simrell adds. “People decorate their boats with lights. It looks like an unbelievably beautiful Christmas tree.”
The boaters often tie their water crafts together. “You’ll see 20 boats in a ring with everybody sitting back and laughing,” he says.
Hundreds of people also gather on the shoreline opposite the resort. Even though the water is high and the regular shoreline is underwater, Simrell says many home sites on that side of the lake are starting to let people gather on their property.
Simrell suggests bringing plenty of sunscreen, and water for hydration. He says to watch out for floating debris, and wear life jackets. He also emphasizes that people be careful and courteous to their fellow boater. “We understand there will be over 20 U.S. Coast Guard on patrol during the show, so if anyone needs something there will be someone close by.” The required ambulance and fire trucks will also be on hand.
“July 3 is the backup date in case of a rainout,” Simrell says.
Ventris Trail’s End Resort is a family run business. Part of the reason the Simrells started the fireworks show 10 years ago was to make a name for the resort. They also thought it would be a terrific community event. “I went to Disney and I saw the Epcott Center show and I was so overwhelmed by that. I thought if I could bring this to northwest Arkansas it would be so fantastic.”
In the beginning there were just a couple of people setting off fireworks that amounted to a few pops, says Simrell. Maybe 50 boats were in attendance. “They were very enthusiastic, cheering us on.”
“We have had people propose to their girlfriends during a certain song,” he adds. Over the years, several people have called to ask for the repertoire of music in advance in order to choose a song and moment for the proposal. “This year we have a heart mortar just in case there’s someone out there,” Simrell says.
Family, friends and volunteer help have been a big part of the event’s growth. “We will have about five gentlemen here from the U.S. Navy volunteering this year,” adds Simrell.
Trail’s End Resort consists of more than 20 wooded acres, furnished cedar log cabins, barbecue grills, picnic tables, a playground, vending machines, a modern laundry facility, and a restaurant. There are an abundance of deer, wild turkey and other wildlife in the area to watch and photograph. The covered and lighted boat dock has a fish cleaning station. There is also an open dock for large boats, sailboats, or just for fishing. Various boats are available to rent -- paddle boats, pontoon boats, and even a bass boat. The resort is open year round.
It is located on the main channel of Beaver Lake, just a short distance from the POINT "8" marker. The land address is 9484 Simrell Dr. From Rogers, take Ark. 62 to Garfield. From Garfield, take Ark. 127 toward Lost Bridge. Just past "Across the Creek Restaurant," turn right on Ventris Road. Follow Ventris Road 6.3 miles to Trail's End Road. Turn left on Trail's End Road to Simrell Drive. Follow Simrell Drive through the gate. There is plenty of signage.
For more information, visit Beaverlakeresorts.com. You can reach the resort by phone at 479-359-3912 or 479-359-3497.