Getaway on the Gulf
A publication by Aransas Pass Progress & Ingleside Index
FUN & ENTERTAINMENT SPORT FISHING
5 FLIGHT OF FANCY Page 10 LOCAL OUTDOOR FUN Page 22
F i s h i n g F a m i l y F u n B i r d i n g
Just on the Southeast tip of San Patricio County, with panoramic views of Corpus Christi Bay, this hometown gem is the center of all that's good !!
Welcome to the Coastal Bend. Whether you are a winter Texan, a visitor on vacation or live and work here full time we are so happy that you’ve taken the time to skim through our Visitor’s Guide and we hope that you will take advantage of the many positive events and delightful attractions, restaurants and businesses that serve Aransas Pass, Ingleside, and Ingleside on the Bay.
As a Detroit native and recent New York transplant, I have learned to use my skills as a journalist to be inquisitive, opening my eyes to many talented individuals and groups here that contribute a wealth of knowledge and expressions of warmth and kindness. There is no real ‘hustle and bustle’ here, and that’s truly how the community seems to like it. Whether the people you encounter are here seasonally or year-round you’ll find them engaged, optimistic and resolute.
Shrimping is no longer a major economic driver in the region, but no matter where you go, you’ll encounter a fascination with the remnants from that bygone era, especially in the annual ‘Shrimporee’ this summer that celebrates its 74th year commemorating and honoring those who helped put our area on the map globally. The event is one of the largest public festivals in south Texas and attracts thousands who enjoy carnival attractions and tasty meals – all focused-on shrimp.
Whether you like sport or recreational fishing, a
kayak ride in a tranquil setting, observing hundreds of species of marine and bird life during their migratory travels, or just want a water view with your cocktail and dinner – you’ve come to the right spot.
This is also a family-friendly area with options that include bowling, roller skating, Gulf Coast excursions to see dolphins or live entertainment or the most recent film releases – our three communities offer something for everyone –including history.
A hidden gem tucked away at our local airport is the Maxine Flournoy 3rd Coast Commemorative Air Force Museum, a treasure trove of military memorabilia and artifacts that include a Youth Cadet program for kids and teens who want to learn how to fly! And, starting this summer the non-profit will also begin offering public flights about one of its vintage aircraft, sure to be a thrilling once-inlifetime experience.
Don’t forget to check out our many unique artisans, craftsmen and entrepreneurial businesses that offer unique products and one=of-a-kind gifts for your home, office or an upcoming special event or celebration. Our residents have come from near and far, but all chose to be here for a reason. We know that you did, too.
Enjoy your stay. We hope that in some small way we’ve helped to make it a pleasant one.
Mark Silberstein Editor
ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023 3 430 Ransom Road | Aransas Pass 361-758-1562 | Fax 361-758-0752 www.mickeysgrill-ap.com
11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Welcome
Thursday 11 a.m. - 10
Friday - Saturday
Cover Photo Credit: Benjamin Tucker
4 ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023 508 ½ BIGELOW ST CONN BROWN HARBOR • ARANSAS PASS (361) 226-0100 361) MARINE SERVICE & REPAIR OF INBOARD GAS & DIESEL ENGINES • Apparel • Safety Equipment • Boat Parts • Fenders, Dock Line & Anchors • Batteries • Cleaning Supplies and more “THE LITTLE STORE WITH ALL YOUR FISHING & BOATING NEEDS” “THE LITTLE STORE WITH ALL YOUR FISHING & BOATING NEEDS” LIKE US ON FACEBOOK • Fishing charters –bay & offshore • Beer • Snacks • Soft Drinks • Ice • Apparel • Anything for a day on the water Conn Brown Harbor (361) 758-RIDE 518 Bigelow ACCESS FROM STREET OR WATER! Dolphin Watches and Private Parties YOUR Coastal Bend GM Headquarters! HOME OF THE 2352 West Wheeler • Aransas Pass 361-758-3206 • 800-750-0491 www.ARANSASAUTOPLEX.COM
Ingleside and Aransas Pass are premier locations
Many things make our location here on the central gulf coast one of the premier fishing destinations for amateur and professional sport fishing.
Our bays, Redfish Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, South Bay, and Aransas Bay are directly fed a continuous flow of clean salt water straight from the Gulf of Mexico. The seasonal south, east and east-southeast wind of the spring and summer blow the nutrient rich water from the gulf straight into our beautiful bay systems. Every winter the North, Northwest and Northeast winds along with a strong winter tidal flow takes out nutrient rich water from our Bays and flushes it directly into the Gulf of Mexico and in this way each one feeds off of the other in a symbiotic way that only nature can explain.
ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023 5
Gulf waters off the coast of Aransas Pass and Ingleside are particularly rich grounds for sportfishing enthusiasts. The ecosystem is ideal for producing a wide range of species that continue to be bountiful.
Our barrier islands provide protection to our bay systems and allow our natural sea grasses and oyster reefs to grow and prosper. In combination with the vast size of our bays like Aransas and Corpus Bay and our central location on the gulf coast along with our temperate climate and seasonal winds our bays provide the perfect conditions to allow a healthy ecological system that enhances the growth and sustainability of our fisheries.
We have miles and miles and miles of the perfect shallow water wetlands and shallow water flats that maintain many
kinds of bait fish and crustaceans that provide the necessary food for these fisheries such as the highly sought after red and black drum, spotted sea trout as well as flounder, sheephead, and other species.
There are many places on our shallow water bay systems that have the most beautiful clear water that boggles the mind of even the most experienced fishermen.
The sunrises and sunsets over our wonderful bay systems are some of the most beautiful visual experiences any fishermen anywhere will ever have.
I could go on and on but just take my word for it, the fishing in our Aransas Pass and Ingleside area is outstanding to say the least. So, let’s take advantage of this natural resource that our area provides and let’s all take time to go fishing and enjoy our beautiful bays.
It’s a visual experience you will never forget, the most exciting fishing you will ever do, memories that last a lifetime.
6 ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023
“It’s a visual experience you will never forget, the most exciting fishing you will ever do, memories that last a lifetime.”
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Conn Brown Harbor
Offers Abundance of Recreational Opportunities
Conn Brown Harbor is a summertime hotspot for Aransas Pass.
From the sunrises saying good morning to the city, to the pure joy people have at the park during the day, to the nighttime fishing along the water’s edge, and more, Conn brown Harbor offers an abundance of opportunities for fun, relaxation, and downhome hospitality. Whether visitors wish to drive around to check out the natural landscape of the Flats, which neighbors the harbor; utilize the biking/walking path for leisure time or visit the bait shops to find out the good fishing spots, there is something for everyone in the family to soak up.
“The local shrimp industry dates back to 1913 when Bill Minter shipped a barrel of shrimp to a San Antonio fish market for resale as fish bait but when he found they were good eats, he began to promote the delicious seafood and both his business, and the shrimp industry blossomed from there.”
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Aransas Pass Progress
Warmer weather attracts several boaters to Conn Brown Harbor, where there’s ample parking for boat trailers and vehicles.
Also rich in history, Conn Brown Harbor is home to a renowned shrimping community where hundreds of shrimp boats at one time called the harbor their home. While times have changed and the harbor now offers many recreational uses, shrimping will always live on in the harbor through stories and good eats. Erickson & Jensen Seafood Packers is the sole survivor. On a self-walking tour of the harbor, visitors may stop near the fishing pier where there is an historical plaque which details the local shrimping history. The local shrimp industry dates back to 1913 when Bill Minter shipped a barrel of shrimp to a San Antonio fish market for resale as fish bait but when he found they were good eats, he began to promote the delicious seafood and both his business, and the shrimp industry blossomed from there.
Shrimp, other seafood, burgers, and more are offered at Coaster’s, a waterside eatery which opened in 2021. Boaters may cruise on in from a day’s fishing the South Texas waters and tie up to the dock just outside of the food establishment. Coaster’s is flanked by Capt. Cady’s Bait Shop and Redfish Bay Boat House. A small substation to the Aransas Pass Police Department for water patrol, marine shops, additional bait shops, such as Harbor City Bait, bring added life to the harbor.
Another harbor attraction is Seamen’s Memorial, an 80-foot tower which stands at the harbor’s entrance, and honors those lost at sea.
Conn Brown Harbor is used as a gateway to the coastal waters, as visitors may visit Chandler’s Landing for last-minute fishing trip needs or to book a fishing guide adventure. A quick visit down the road to Handsome Sailor Yacht Charters will also provide Conn Brown Harbor guests with ample opportunities to enjoy the beautiful views and to fish the waters for some reds, black drum and other species.
There’s something for everyone at the harbor, and with acres of undeveloped land the potential for growth is exponential.
ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023 9
Aransas Pass Progress
Fish cleaning stations may be found along the water’s edge in Conn Brown Harbor.
Aransas Pass Progress
A child enjoys fishing on the pier at Conn Brown Harbor, as his father tries a nearby spot in the background. Ample opportunities for fishing are found throughout the general harbor area.
Courtesy: Frank McKay
I had to experience what a flight would be like and boarded the Stearman, too, for a 30-minute adventure that took me 1,500 feet above Ingleside, Aransas Pass, and into Rockport, with Port Aransas visible, too, courtesy of retired U.S. Navy Captain Tom Wimberly with the CAF Museum.
Flight of Fancy a Trip Through Local History
ter hour early to complete a safety debriefing and sign a waiver of liability, meaning that if a crash should occur, the organization’s insurance policy couldn’t be tapped by surviving relatives. I got there right at 11:00 a.m., failing to meet the prescribed window ahead of schedule. But it worked out in the end. The Stearman’s second flight of the day had just wrapped up, and Houston-based pilot, Colonel Matt Brzostowski landed moments earlier.
Brzostowski isn’t a Colonel in real life and has never served in any branch of the Armed Forces. But like many CAF participants, the rank is ceremonial, based on the member’s level of contributions to the non-profit.
An avid flyer and retired scientist, Brzostowski was recruited by museum leadership to become the units first certified Stearman pilot, not an easy undertaking given that in its heyday as a training aircraft for the U.S. Navy and the Army Air Corps there was a high rate of student failure because the plane was purposely hard to learn with. It bore the nickname ‘yellow peril’ as a result. Plenty of would-be combat airmen washed out as they got behind its controls. Those who succeeded moved rapidly into larger
The thrill of being able to climb into the heavens and look down on God’s creation has for the majority of the populace been through commercial airline travel. Few have had the option to avail themselves of a custom aeronautical venture that most would consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That’s finally come to a local historical attraction a healthy percentage of Texans may not even know exists. But as of February 4, the Maxine Flournoy 3rd Coast Squadron Commemorative Air Force Museum on the perimeter or the McCampbell-Porter Municipal Airport, spanning both
Ingleside and Aransas Pass, excursion flights for paying passengers have begun aboard their centerpiece attraction, a 1940’s vintage Boeing Stearman biplane.
I had to experience it for myself, to see why the museum is banking on a more than 80-year-old aircraft to lift it out from the lingering red ink of an operational deficit and into the black, reaching positive financial territory. On mid-February I got that chance, courtesy of CAF member and retired U.S. Navy Captain Tom Wimberly.
Guests who book flights that range from 15-minutes or longer (typically, no more than an hour at a time), are asked to arrive a quar-
Col. Matt Brzostowski of Houston is the first and currently only qualified pilot to fly a vintage 1940’s Boeing Stearman biplane with the Maxine Flournoy 3rd Coast Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force, located at the McCampbell-Porter Municipal Airport bordering Ingleside and Aransas Pass. In mid-February he prepared a log before departing for an excursion flight. The World War II museum of “war birds” as the historic aircraft are known hopes these flights will be a major fundraising source to keep the exhibit open for generations to come.
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Man has always wanted to fly like the birds. Through ingenuity and inventiveness, he has soared to even greater heights, not just through the air, but outer space, too.
and more sophisticated planes, most of those carrier-based, their military pilots helping to speed the end of World War II.
Built like a tank, and durable, the biplane painted yellow, with black, red, and white accents has been completely restored by museum volunteers, a painstaking process after it hung from the ceiling of a motorcycle dealership for two decades as part of a sales floor exhibit. CAF officials know it’s rare to find one in its present condition, one of only three Stearman’s still flying in the immediate area, the other two privately owned.
Before departure last Tuesday, Brzostowski completes a logbook for the Federal Aviation Administration detailing who he’ll be carrying aboard as a passenger. It’s a manifest that becomes a permanent record. Each person who flies in the Stearman joins history if you will.
Next comes a safety briefing. In the air, pilot and passenger can communicate via intercom. Both wear headsets with adjustable microphones. But since it’s also an open cockpit flight, noise may impact volume levels, so Brzostowski also goes step-by-step over a series of hand signals, like a thumbs up if everything is OK, thumbs down if there’s a problem. A small mirror positioned above the passenger seat in front of the plane allows them to see the person at the controls in the rear seat.
Anxiety mounts, just a little, as Brzostowski goes over ‘fire control’ with his second passenger of the morning, 26-year-old restaurant server and Portland resident, Sam Hernandez. He’s not served in the military either, but Hernandez, who works in Rockport, said he’s getting ready to join either the U.S. Navy or Air Force, hoping to get into Officer Candidate
Just after takeoff from McCampbell-Porter Municipal Airport (right). There is minimal vibration from a single engine. But the pilot can’t see over the nose of the aircraft, so he makes a continuous ‘S’ pattern steering the plane left and then right from the ramp to the taxiway, to the runway, repeating lessons taught World War II pilots who flew the “yellow peril”, as it was known. The plane was built like a tank – durable. But it was hard to fly. Pilots who could, though, moved up to larger and faster planes that were designed to attack and destroy the enemy. The Rockport Terminals rail yard can be seen below (right).
School (OCS). Brzostowski explained a series of hand signals to Hernandez and walked him through how to respond if the Stearman should catch fire, explaining it’s possible the engine could begin to smoke, or flames appear since extra fuel is pumped into the starter mechanism – ‘priming’ – given the age and design of the aircraft. Fortunately for everyone involved, there were no such mishaps.
Boarding the Stearman is not an easy task. Most people, like me, will want a step stool. But the museum will make accommodations for anyone, including the elderly or someone with special needs. They just need to know in advance.
An historic aircraft, climbing aboard means stepping on a portion of the wing, in this case the left side. The safe area to step on is marked off with a black strip. You’ll grab hold of the fuselage, and two handrails above the wing over the cockpit assist with lifting your weight, and legs, up and over into the open seat and back out again when you land.
Human anatomy was different in the 1940’s, so the seat size and personal space is much smaller, though not overly cramped. A full safety harness is attached, with assistance from the pilot, making certain you’re secured at the shoulder and hips. Brzostowski explains the controls and gauges in front of you and on the floor, including two pedals that manipulate the rudder. It’s a tight fit and the joystick moves forward and back in tandem with the pilots’ maneuvers. There is also a throttle lever controlling air speed. None of these devices is activated by the passenger. But those seeking to test their aeronautical skills can choose to fly the plane with the understanding the licensed pilot is always in control.
While the Stearman slowly lumbers along
a taxiway, the view in the distance appears hazy. It will be even more evident when we’re in the sky. Approaching runway 13, Brzostowski pauses to check an automated weather broadcast provided by McCampbell-Porter Airport operations.
“It’s not so important where the wind has been than where it’s going,” he advises. It’s a little blustery in the open field as we continue to approach the airstrip when the pilot hears a transmission from a descending aircraft that it’s his intent to use the same runway we were taking off on.
“That’s why we talk to each other,” said Brzostowski, noting that McCampbell-Porter has no air traffic control tower. It’s fully automated, including landing lights that can be triggered by each pilot on approach. What happens on the ground here, or in the air, depends on the courtesy of plane owners and operators.
Given the runway he selected was in use, and the wind direction was not ideal for the vintage biplane, Brzostowski turned the Stearman around and headed to the opposite end of the airstrip to runway 31 instead. A small two-seater Piper aircraft followed our lead.
“Are you ready?” Brzostowski asked his nervous passenger. I gave him a thumbs up and he began to throttle up, the engine roaring, the Stearman gaining speed. In seconds, the plane, which was at an angle, the tail at the lowest point and the nose tipped up, became horizontal – much like the old propeller warbirds would have looked on takeoff in decades past.
Airborne, Brzostowski slowly banked the plane up and around, turning away from Hwy. 35 towards the Gulf coast. There was a distinct sense of weightlessness. As the air raced past you picked up a slight odor of emissions.
12 ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023
Courtesy: Matt Brzostowski
Conn Brown Harbor in Aransas Pass as seen from the passenger seat of the Boeing Stearman. A wind screen protects both flyer and pilot. It was a warm and sunny day; the cool rush of air flowing past made the trip even more enjoyable.
It’s an open cockpit and you’re staring at the motor that is the source of power.
Routinely, Brzostowski checks in on the automated weather reports, making certain our brief flight is not interrupted by any potential threats from a storm front or other inclement conditions.
As we climb to a maximum altitude of 1,500 feet, the pilot acts as a guide, too, pointing out landmarks to the right or left of the wingspan. Many are obvious, like Conn Brown Harbor and the Redfish Bay Boat House and Marina in Aransas Pass, Kiewit Offshore Services massive cranes and oil drilling platforms under construction in Ingleside, the Enbridge Energy Center tank farm in neighboring Ingleside on the Bay. From this height you experience the grandeur of this part of Texas many can’t appreciate otherwise. Vast, open pastures. Grazing livestock. Large homes with inground swimming pools. Canals filled with small private boats. The intercoastal waterway and the bridge leading to the Port Aransas ferry docks. You get a whole different perspective from the air. And there’s little sense that you are even moving. The feeling is more like you are gliding.
Conditions for the flight were perfect, other than a strong wing that made navigating the World War II-era aircraft a bit more challenging. But Brzostowski was clearly up for it.
Taking pictures from the cockpit is risky, only because of the windstream. There’s the potential your smartphone can be sucked right from the grip of your fingers if not cautious, and the view is also partially obscured by wing struts, but Brzostowski and I both find ways to carefully snap a few images in order to preserve these moments.
“Are you ready to go back?” the pilot asks. Another thumbs up and Brzostowski radios to traffic in or near the area of his planned descent back to McCampbell-Porter. When the wheels touch down, they make that classic rubber meets the pavement sound heard over and again when aircraft land and the ‘S’ turns, left and right, resume as we taxi back to the hangar.
“Did you like it?” Brzostowski wanted to know when he shuts off the engine and I’m able to release the harness and lift myself up and out of the cockpit. I say I did, my legs were a little shaky from the adrenaline rush. Hernandez, who stuck around to watch, and CAF member and volunteer Frank McKay join the pilot to physically push the Stearman back inside the hangar, placing chocks to keep the wheels in place.
I’ve been inside other vintage planes, including the B 52 bomber, a Vietnam-era behemoth rarely seen unless another World War should – God forbid – come our way. It was during a media tour at Barksdale AFB in
Bossier City, LA, home of the historic 8th Air Force. To get inside the aircraft you had to climb up a narrow ladder, so tight you were afraid of getting stuck. Once inside the plane is relatively spartan. There are no luxuries in such weapons of mass destruction.
To climb into a much older aircraft, the Stearman, may help some realize how challenging the role of being in the Armed Services must have been for Navy and Army pilots when the world was in chaos, and the freedoms of every civilized person were at risk from enemy forces in Germany, Italy, and Japan.
But a bigger takeaway is that the vintage yellow biplane is among the last of its kind in existence. It’s part of American history, one that is being preserved and maintained at a high cost, too. Fortunately, for south Texas, this Stearman is open and accessible to the public. Even if you don’t invest in the flight itself, the CAF Museum offers self-guided tours each Saturday.
Editor’s note: Learn more about the Maxine Flournoy 3rd Coast Squadron Commemorative Air Force Museum through their website, www.ThirdCoastCAF.org. To inquire about membership/volunteering, or to book a flight aboard the Stearman contact their Unit Leader, Ken Carel at (361) 717-1220, or (361) 356-4918.
ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023 13
Aransas Pass Aquatic Center
Offers Fun for the Whole Family
The Aransas Pass Aquatic Center made waves of fun for families throughout its 2022 season.
Water aerobics, water walking and other exercise programs which are gentle on the joints were offered from 8 to 11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, as a means to offer a more semi-private time outside of busy open-swim sessions, family nights or weekends.
It was a busy season for swim lessons for people of all ages. Although lessons are most often comprised of younger children, all are welcome. Safety in and around water will continue to be a top priority at the aquatic center.
“Being at the aquatic center is a place for families to have new experiences, and a huge piece of that is education and safety training which is made a huge priority with our lifeguards,” said Kaylynn Paxson, Aransas Pass Director of Community Enrichment. “That ripples into the community. We encourage people to perfect their
swimming and be active in the water. It helps us enjoy it and enjoy it safely.”
Paxson said was happy with the center’s “amazing” 2022 season, which had kicked off wonderfully with morning exercise classes, weekend swim and plenty of future offerings and plans.
When guests arrived at the center, they may have seen an updated retail area, spruced up concession area, two beautiful murals of the flats which surround the aquatic center, and poolside games for people to enjoy who may want a
quick break from the water.
One highlight Paxson said she was thrilled about was the addition of one more family night. Family nights were offered from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays throughout the 2022 season. The additional night was added, she said, based on feedback from consumers in 2021.
The aquatic center offers a kiddie pool, water slides and large pool with two diving boards in the deep end, among additional amenities and opportunities for fun. Open swim was offered
from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, as well as from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Also offered were picnic parties, private parties, private and group swim lessons, lifeguard classes, and the invitation for all to participate in the June 23 Guinness Book of World Records World’s Largest Swim Lesson attempt.
The center opened in 2004 and Paxson said she hopes the most prosperous season is yet to come.
There is no admission charge for children ages two and younger, non-swimmers are admitted for a $3 fee, children ages three to 17 are $5 to get in, and the fee for adults ages 18 to 54 is $8. Senior citizens ages 55 and up may enter the center for a $5 fee, as well as military members with a proper identification card. For more information, including other fee structures and a list of acceptable items for guests to bring to the facility, people may call the center at (361) 758-7770, or visit aptx.gov/pool. The aquatic center is located at 400 E. Johnson Ave., Aransas Pass.
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Aransas Pass Progress Aransas Pass Aquatic Center guests enjoy the kiddie pool area during the soft opening of the 2022 season. The facility also offers several water slides, large pools with two diving boards, poolside games, locker and restrooms, a concession stand and ample seating for relaxation.
Guests who climb the stairs to the Aransas Pass Aquatic Center’s water slides are able to look down on several of the facility’s additional amenities, as well as the beautiful flatlands which border the center.
ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023 15
Dolphin Ingleside Connection
By Mark Silberstein
Now 65 the San Antonio native calls Ingleside on the Bay home where she owns and operates Dolphin Connection Ingleside, her 6-passenger boat docked at Bahia Marina on Bayshore Dr.
‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,’ Burnett quotes from the Bible in 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, verse 9. Raised an atheist, ‘Captain Kelley’ – as she is known these days – has embraced spirituality over time and even attends services at Summit Church in Corpus Christi – the group professing to be ‘non-denominational’.
But the Biblical passage has a very personal meaning for Burnett who spent 20 years as an English teacher in a ‘base-
ment’ and never expected to retire to a part-time business that got her and her customers so close to ocean mammals and nature.
‘I had no idea that God had a boat or a Captain in my future, Burnett remarked, adding that some people sarcastically spout ‘they’re living the dream’, adding with sincerity, ‘I’m living the dream.’
Nineteen of her 20 years in a classroom for Burnett were spent at Claudia Taylor Johnson High School in San Antonio, named after the former First Lady, most knew or can remember as ‘Lady Bird’. But Burnett’s first-floor teaching quarters had no windows, and she vowed that whatever she did next in life ‘it would be outdoors’. A
16 ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023
Courtesy: Capt. Kelley Burnett Dolphins love ‘play’, says Burnett, often racing ahead of supertankers that navigate the La Quinta shipping channel. Many of the marine mammals have become so familiar with Burnett’s boat they will come within arm’s reach of visitors she brings to see them.
Her career spent as an educator taught Kelley Burnett a valuable lesson, to spend her retirement outdoors.
committed educator, Kelley said she worked 70 to 75 hours a week in her profession, but the lack of sunlight was taking its toll.
‘I went to school in the dark and I came home in the dark,’ she lamented of those first 19 years in education.
‘I needed a connection with the outside world,’ Burnett explained, recalling her childhood where her family traveled each summer to Corpus Christi, vacationing on N. Padre Island. Just before Burnett retired from teaching, she transferred to the Corpus Christi ISD and began looking for a home near the Gulf coast.
Along with a Realtor she had retained for the search, Burnett scouted everywhere – including the island, but found the cost of owning a condominium far exceeded her financial resources at the time. So, she kept looking in Flour Bluff, Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, and Rockport when she found herself turning on to Starlight Dr. in Ingleside on the Bay by pure circumstance.
‘I didn’t even realize Ingleside on the Bay existed,’ Burnett acknowledged and one of the first things she spotted was a purple house. There, she noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign stuck up underneath a garbage can, wrote the number down and made a phone call.
‘It was like a hostile takeover,’ she laughed, recalling the odd conversation which followed. The woman who owned the house was being convinced by her sisters she should move, but clearly wasn’t happy about it. Twelve days into the negotiating process about the sale, Burnett said the owner blurted out, ‘Well, I guess you’re going to want the boat, too?’
Surprised, but intrigued, Burnett bit – hook, line, and sinker. She ended up acquiring an existing dolphin excursion business and hired Capt. Pat Fitzgerald to pilot her boat
until she could obtain her own license.
That chore still makes Burnett laugh. Required to spend 360 days on the water and complete a full-time class to obtain her mariner’s credentials, Kelley said she spent many days with ‘old salts’ – all men – most with bad attitudes towards women and foul mouths to match.
‘I have to admit, it was intimidating,’ she recalled, reminded of the ‘dirty jokes’ the older guys shared publicly, all she declined to repeat because they were too ‘spicey’.
‘I made it,’ Kelley said. ‘I made it through,’ she laughed, relieved to have succeeded despite the challenges of the male-dominated program.
‘The boat lives under the house,’ Burnett explained of the 24-foot vessel she uses for the 90-minute trips that begin in Ingleside Cove and continue into the La Quinta boat channel. Fares are $65 for each adult and $45 for every child – deposits are required in advance and full payment upon arrival. Both rates are $5 above what they had been due to inflationary expenses.
17 years at Commercial
ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023 17
There’s no schedule, per se. Captain Kelley explained her business is dependent on weather – no one wants to sail on choppy seas. And the peak period is June, July and August after dolphin mating season, one of the more fascinating times Burnett enjoys most because the newborn mammals are more prevalent now through May. Since hers is a ‘boutique business’, as Kelley called it, she customizes each trip out based on her customer’s Motor
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“I had no idea that God had a boat or a Captain in my future, Burnett remarked...”
Courtesy: Capt. Kelley Burnett
Capt. Kelley Burnett pilots her charter for ‘Dolphin Connections Ingleside’, based out of Bahia Marina in Ingleside on the Bay. She can take up to 6 passengers at a time on a local excursion to see marine mammals up close.
That personalized service has won Burnett continued praise and positive reviews with online search engines, including Google maps – she offered.
Now in her fourth year, Burnett remains confident she’ll continue Dolphin Connection Ingleside even though the pandemic has proved the biggest challenge to its sustainability.
‘Since Covid, it’s gone down,’ she lamented of the numbers of passengers she’s carried and ‘inflation isn’t helping.’
There’s no voicemail in Burnett’s business model. If you call (361) 776-2887 you’ll hear her answer. When a trip is booked, she reminds passengers in advance via text message of their expect-
ed arrival and departure times. Everyone gets a safety briefing, and children aged 12 and under are required to wear life jackets.
Travelers also receive training on how to spot and identify dolphins, Burnett explained. While she pilots the boat, towards the stern (back), passengers are in the bow (front) and her pretrip educational briefing allows riders to help Captain Kelley navigate towards the dolphin’s her passengers discover.
Known as a ‘pod’, dolphins –Kelley said – ‘love to play’, recalling how it’s a common sight to
spot them racing ahead of giant super tankers in the La Quinta Channel.
Of course, there are passenger ‘favorites’, Burnett acknowledged, dolphins who are seen again and again because of their distinctive markings. ‘Rodeo’, is one, she said, named because of a noticeable ‘rope scar’. There’s also ‘Mortal Combat’ because it appears someone tried to slice the dolphin in half.
Unlike other excursion businesses that just take passengers out to sea for what some might describe as a ‘show and tell’, Bur-
nett stops her boat and allows for interaction between dolphins and her guests. The species, she explained, are highly intelligent and because she bought the business from another operator, her vessel is actually recognized by the mammals who stop, too, watching and observing – still with a sense of reserve and caution. But it may be the pinnacle of any voyage because passengers see nature up close as perhaps never before in their lives.
‘I’m also an artist. I do fish painting,’ Burnett revealed of her off hours hobby, replicating the work known as ‘gyotaku’ that originated in Japan. Using (dead) fish, she paints them and then makes a ‘print’ of the image on a canvas. Unusual at it may sound, her artwork has been noticed in local circles and art galleries.
Editor’s note: Dolphin Connection Ingleside has a Facebook page, or you can also visit her website: www.dolphinconnectioningleside.com
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Courtesy: Capt. Kelley Burnett
A retired English teacher, Burnett moved here from San Antonio to live close to the water. Her hobby is ‘gyotaku’, a Japanese art form of fish painting made into prints, some that the former educator has shown in local galleries.
Fares are $65 for each adult and $45 for every child –deposits are required in advance and full payment upon arrival. Both rates are $5 above what they had been due to inflationary expenses.”
History Comes Alive at Coastal Bend
By Mark Silberstein
Tucked away in one corner of the property, off a service road that leads to San Patricio County’s McCampbell-Porter Airport is a hidden gem filled with local and U.S. history.
Inside, it’s a time capsule of American might and know how, a treasure trove of priceless and irreplaceable artifacts, some dating as far back as nearly a century ago. The Maxine Flournoy 3rd Coast Squadron Commemorative Air Force Museum is family friendly and a must see when visiting the Coastal Bend.
‘I had no idea it was here,’ admitted Colonel Rick Butler, the title only a ceremonial one associated with his role as head of operations for the non-profit C.A.F. facility, located on land that borders Ingleside and Aransas Pass. He only discovered the museum through circumstance, flying in and out of the airport – something he still does – having retired as a Lieutenant Commander with the U.S. Navy, last serving as head of a training wing for the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.
From FM 1069, just before the El Original Mexican restaurant, travelers will find a green Texas DOT placard pointing towards the service drive to the airport.
The C.A.F. hosts a pancake breakfast the first Saturday of every month, outdoors if the weather permits. Funds raised from the $8 a plate event from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. helps pay for ongoing aircraft restoration and educational
outreach. Starting this summer, the museum begins carrying passengers aboard their signature historical aircraft, a World War 2 vintage Boeing Stearman, with prices starting at $200 per person and up – literally – depending on the length of the customized flight. In its era the biplane was a mainstay of training for military aviators. Visitors will ride in the open-air seat, goggles, and all – and be carried above the Gulf coastline for a once-in-a-lifetime exciting adventure.
The museum runs tours with the aid of volunteers and youth are strongly encouraged to become part of their Cadet program to learn about historic aircraft restoration and participate in related activities.
Butler isn’t just interested in aviation; he’s inspired by it. And his passion for flying reaches even greater heights than the clouds. As a child, he’s wanted to travel to outer space and the reaches of the galaxy.
‘Ever since Star Wars came out in 1977,’ Butler said with a broad smile. ‘I wanted to be ‘Han Solo’. I wanted to fly the ‘Millennium Falcon’, he added.
A fascination with ‘tinkering’ is what helped motivate Butler to learn how things worked. In the Navy, becoming a highly profi-
cient pilot, he even considered entering the military’s program that drew potential astronaut candidates from various branches of service.
‘That career path didn’t work out for me,’ Butler said, still proud of what he’s achieved otherwise.
Orofino, Idaho is a long way from the ‘final frontier’ of travel beyond the heavens. But it’s where Butler called home and was raised until he enlisted in the Navy, eventually settling in Portland, Texas with his second wide and seven children, two girls and five boys. He shared that his aspirations keep him engaged with the idea of wearing a space suit, one day, where he’s dreamed of piloting the space shuttle, America’s first reusable space-
craft program that has since been abandoned.
‘Maybe, one day going back to the Moon, or Mars,’ Butler hoped, acknowledging that he will always be fascinated by the possibility. Elon Musk and the billionaire’s Space-X company still helps him keep that dream alive.
In the meantime, Butler’s leadership is commanding the introduction of new programs and hopes of raising awareness, participation, and most of all –financial support for the C.A.F.
Two of Butler’s sons are already signed up to join the new Cadet Program. Open to anyone who becomes a member aged 14 to 23, cadets will be allowed to participate in activities, including flying, without the need for
20 ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023
The museum offers high tech features to accommodate visitors including self-guided audio and/or video tours so each person can be their own ‘docent.’
Military enthusiast, veterans and kids of all ages will enjoy the museums vast collection of memorabilia and artifacts including scale models of aircraft. A museum store offers visitors a wide selection of aviation-related toys, military vehicles, patches, and pins for purchase.
Part of the new attraction of the museum’s first Saturday of the month pancake breakfast is a car show that features both contemporary classics as well as vintage models where visitors can meet the owners and checkout great American engineering at its finest.
a new, high-tech program installed at the museum offering visitors a self-guided audio and visual tour using a smartphone App.
the public, citing a recent event hosted by the Ingleside Chamber of Commerce.
Full military uniforms and the inspiring stories behind the men and women that wore them in service to their country also make a fascinating attraction to spend time to visit and learn about our American history.
Col, Rick Butler, Manager of Operations for the Maxine Flournoy 3rd Coast Squadron Commemorative Air Force Museum sits in the open cockpit of their signature attraction, a World War 2 vintage Boeing Stearman biplane. The aircraft was once a mainstay for military aviator training and will soon fly again above the Coastal Bend when the museum starts visitor excursions this summer.
parental chaperones. Those aged 14 or younger, with membership and parental consent, would be considered for active roles on a case-by-case basis according to Butler. The absolute minimum age for flying is 12, and a paid sponsorship and accompanying uniforms are required by all. But it’s the ‘mission’ of the $200 a year Cadet Program, Butler stressed, that is less about membership costs and appearance. He outlined the new initiative is designed to, ‘inspire our youth through flight and living history experiences, including restoring to flying condition and preserving historic military aircraft. To instill pride and patriotism in our youth through our museum and these living history experiences. To perpetuate in their memory and in their hearts the commitment and sacrifice endured by our local men and women who designed, built, maintained, and flew these aircraft in defense of this great nation. To reinforce the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history’, he shared via email.
Maxine Floury, the C.A.F.’s Texas namesake is now 100 years old and is a former W.A.S.P. (Women’s Airforce Service Pilot) who flew during World War 2. Her military history is now accessible through
Exhibits throughout the expansive facility are awe inspiring. Dozens of handmade scale model military aircraft hang from wires protruding from the ceiling, rest on stands inside of showcases or on top of display cases. The museum pays tribute to aircraft used in all 5 military branches, features vintage uniforms and even stateof-the-art technologies – for their times – like bomb sights used by aviators in campaigns against the Nazis or the Japanese. To help raise money, the museum offers a large selection of collectible items, from embroidered patches to replica aircraft kits and lapel pins. There’s even a flight simulator that can be programmed to recreate the cockpit experience of almost any aircraft.
A hangar with examples of vintage aircraft the museum preserves, and flies also doubles as a special events venue Butler explained is available for rental by
Butler, excited by the opportunity of offering a customized tour of the facility, remained committed to its survival – and the C.A.F.’s growth. With his two dogs in tow, Butler’s engagement with the subject at hand was never distracted by the pet’s attention, following him every step of the way.
‘I think kids is where it’s at,’ Butler said, hopefully. He looked at the Cadet Program as a catalyst that he believed would help, ‘keep the history alive.’
Editor’s note: The C.A.F. Maxine Flournoy 3rd Coast Squadron Museum is located at 3201 FM 3512, in Hangar 11 at the McCampbell-Porter Airport. They are open to the public every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Col. Rick Butler will always be happy to help you plan your next visit or book your flight aboard the historic Boeing Stearman biplane. You may contact him at (361) 596-3490.
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Ingleside Family Fun Parks Offers
By Rebecca Madden
Locals and visitors to the Coastal Bend area looking for added family nighttime fun have enjoyed monthly Movies in the Park and the new Music in the Park series at N. O. Simmons Park, at State Highway 361 and Avenue J.
Movies began at sunset, and featured titles for the whole family, from “Encanto” to “Dirty Dancing” to “Jurassic Park” and more, while the new Music in the Park Series featured solo performers and musical groups from throughout the Gulf area who offered rock, tejano and pop genres, among a slew of others. The efforts were brought forth by Ingleside Community Events, which has sought to be more engaging with the community and provide reasons for locals to have fun close to home and for guests to make their stay a little longer.
For all such community events, guests may arrive at the parks early and lay out blankets or chairs and enjoy the park’s amenities as they await the start of each movie.
N.O. Simmons Park offers a basketball pavilion, 15,000-square-foot skate park, walking trails, sports fields, an interactive playground, splash pad, ample seating and restroom facilities.
Ingleside also offers additional park facilities throughout the city. Cove Park, nestled between Ingleside and Ingleside on the Bay off of Highway 1069, is five acres of a fisherman’s dream, complete with boat ramps, a fishing pier and plenty of shoreline casting
opportunities. Visitors may relax with plenty of seating in picnic areas, cook summertime favorite foods on provided grills, utilize the hiking and biking trail, and soak in the scenic coastal views.
Other opportunities for fun will be found at Live Oak Park, a 90-acre park full of the namesake oak trees, plenty of open fields, baseball fields, picnic areas, barbecue pits, an 18-hole disc golf course, tennis courts, a basketball court, a playground, miles of trails and a freshwater lake perfect for catching glimpses of coastal birds.
Coming up is one of the largest and engaging celebrations in the City of Ingleside, and it’s housed right at Live Oak Park. The annual “Light Up Live Oak” event will be held Dec. 2 and 3 at Live Oak Park, and will feature Christmas light displays and decor to help get the community in the holiday spirit. Attendees will be able to drive through the park to see a variety of displays, and enjoy several fun-filled family activities, such as the Saturday morning breakfast with Santa, which is free to the first 150 people. A green eggs and ham breakfast will be served, and The Grinch will make a guest appearance.
Additional features for the event include: Santa’s workshop, a petting zoo complete
with pony rides, musical entertainment, craft vendors, food trucks, a holiday ugly sweater contest, and build-and-take gingerbread houses. Saturday’s festivities will conclude with cookies and hot cocoa with Santa, as he reads a story to children.
The community will be encouraged, not required, to donate items for Blue Santa and the Ingleside Fire Department, which will help local children have a Merry Christmas. Light Up Live Oak is a joint effort of the Ingleside Chamber of Commerce, the City of Ingleside, Ingleside Independent School District and the Ingleside Police Department.
Meanwhile, additional Ingleside Parks highlights include: Oak Terrace Park on Eighth Street is a semi-residential park with a small playground area, seating and much shade. Whitney Lake is 70 acres of protected wetlands and upland buffer areas designed to offer recreation opportunities and environmental education.
Faith Park has undergone extensive renovations, which have been featured throughout the summer and fall months. The six-acre park will feature a swimming pool, garden center, playground area, walking trails, ample seating, picnic areas and barbecue pits, baseball fields, a basketball court and more.
22 ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023
24 ARANSAS PASS/INGLESIDE VISITOR’S GUIDE · SUMMER 2023 ChrisMarineBoats.com 1213 W. Wheeler • Aransas Pass • 361-758-8486 MERCURY SALES • PARTS • SERVICE BOATS • MOTORS • TRAILERS Full-Line Marine Dealership