Summer on the Trinity 7

Trinity River Vision Authority has an action-packed slate of summer activities centered on Panther Island Pavilion.

Regardless of your age, the word “summer” never loses its luster. As children, we look forward to the end of the school year and what feels like an eternity of freedom. The child who enters summer is never quite the same that steps forth again into fall. Young lives get measured in the subsequent milestones of summer breaks, with all their adventures, irreplaceable experiences, and endowed liberty.

Of course, that’s the idea. In reality, many kids spend summer prepping for the next school year, while parents can dread the onset of June and its requirements for sitters or daily activities. Despite this, summer can still feel perfect in small moments: an afternoon at the zoo, or a lazy Saturday in the backyard; a matinee blockbuster, followed by a stop for ice cream; or a day spent at the river or lake, with good friends and fun on the water.

Those of us who live in Fort Worth associate this last image especially closely with summer — after all, we have the Trinity River and its expansive lake system right in our backyards. For years, the Trinity River Vision Authority has sought to develop the river as a premier destination for summertime entertainment. As July signals the full onset of the season — and its heat — you can thank TRVA for a full complement of reasons to cool off, enjoy the outdoors, and reacquaint yourself with the Trinity.

Many of Fort Worth’s biggest summer events are centered around Panther Island, the TRVA’s waterfront development project located just north of downtown. Shanna Cate, the programming and development manager for TRVA, explains the organization’s goals and efforts along the Trinity:

“The TRVA was basically created to oversee the construction and implementation of Panther Island. On the one hand, we focus on the construction of infrastructure to allow for waterfront development; on the other, we oversee any private development that comes into the district. We also do community outreach and seek to engage people with programming and events.”

The most visible of these efforts — literally — is TRVA’s Fort Worth’s Fourth, which is the city’s single largest one-day event. Last year, Fort Worth’s Fourth attracted 70,000 attendees, all of whom were invited to enjoy the event’s programming, entertainment and fireworks free-of-charge. The event’s fireworks show has become a hallmark attraction, as it lights up the skies over downtown and the Trinity River with North Texas’s largest pyrotechnic display. This year, the TRVA welcomes everyone to view the show from within the festival grounds.

“The biggest thing we want to encourage this year is to go ahead and come into the festival grounds,” says Shanna. “We have some effects planned that will make it very special for people who are actually inside the festival’s perimeter.”

In addition to free admission, Fort Worth’s Fourth attendees can take advantage of free kids activities such as face painting, horseback riding, bounce houses and water slides. The adults can enjoy drinks from the festival bar, food vendors, and live music from Gary P. Nunn. Other performances include a flyover from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base’s 301st Fighter Wing and an evening concert from high-energy cover band Party Machine.

This year’s VIP options, available with purchase of a $40 ticket, include a private shaded area with bar, bathrooms, and fireworks viewing from the festival’s grandstand. The VIP tickets promise to sell out, so if you’d like this deluxe experience, make sure to buy in advance. Tickets and general event information are available online at

The size and scope of Fort Worth’s Fourth would make it forgivable if TRVA took the rest of the summer off. The organization and its dedicated team works hard so Fort Worth can play hard, however, and the rest of the summer comes jam-packed with reasons to visit Panther Island.

“Our big summer series is called Rockin’ the River,” says Shanna. “It’s a Thursday night tubing and music series that starts on June 16th and runs for nine weeks. Each night is free admission, and you can rent a tube or bring your own to watch the band on the waterfront stage.”

If you don’t want to get in the water, you’re welcome to bring a chair or blanket and stretch out on the bank. Once the sun goes down, everyone leaves the water before a second act plays on shore. Each Thursday’s festivities get capped with a fireworks show, and featured bands for 2016 will include the Damn Quails, Zane Williams, the Dirty River Boys and Cooder Graw.

If the Rockin’ the River series provides the perfect kick-off for a summer weekend, TRVA’s Sunday Funday programs offer an ideal capstone.  This free family event kicks off on June 12th, and attendees can enjoy fun in the water, food trucks, music, and a variety of scheduled activities. Backwoods Paddle Sports offers kayaks, tubes, paddle-boards and pedal-boat rentals, while Panther Island Brewing will serve up hometown brews. If you’d like to get centered in preparation for the workweek, Indigo Yoga offers waterfront yoga at the Panther Island Pavilion.

“Sunday Funday is catered toward families and is totally free,” says Shanna. “People can come out and play in the water, or join one of several groups that meet in the morning.  People will get together to fish off their kayaks, and we’ll also have a disc golf during the series.”

If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, but still want to enjoy some fun, water-centric activities, Backwoods Paddle Sports has you covered. Its rental service, located at Panther Island Pavilion, is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9AM to 7PM. Patrons can hop in a kayak or share a canoe, and explore the calm, tranquil waters of the Trinity up the Clear or West Forks. Even for longtime residents, this experience promises to reveal Fort Worth in a whole new light.

As with all of the TRVA’s efforts, the summer schedule and regular activities at Panther Island Pavilion seek to benefit and promote the city as a whole. The Trinity River has historically been a lifeline for Fort Worth; and now, thanks to the efforts of the TRVA, it promises to chart the journey toward a whole new chapter in the city’s development.

“Our goal is to cultivate the active, outdoor lifestyle, and make people aware of the river and its recreational potential,” says Shanna. “It’s critical for the growth of Fort Worth to attract people who want to live, work and play in an urban community. When you support Panther Island, you help cultivate this demographic and grow our city.”

For more information on Panther Island Pavilion and its full slate of summer offerings, visit