Fort Worth Frontier Centennial

From July 18 through November 14, 1936, the City of Fort Worth hosted 986,128 visitors at its Texas Centennial celebration, the Fort Worth Frontier Centennial. The event was planned by the Fort Worth Centennial Board of Control, a group of prominent local businessmen including Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher Amon G. Carter. The centennial grounds were located on the old K. M. Van Zandt farm, and now comprise the sites of the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum, and the Will Rogers complex located in the vicinity of University and Lancaster streets. Pictured here is a rendering of the proposed Frontier Centennial site, drawn by Fort Worth architect, Joseph R. Pelich, in 1936. Construction of Pelich's design began in April of that year. The major buildings included a 2,800 seat circular theater designed to hold Billy Rose's production of Jumbo; an outdoor pavilion for the Wild West pageant The Last Frontier; and Casa Mañana, a 4,000 seat outdoor amphitheater with a revolving stage to house the centerpiece production Frontier Follies. Broadway showman Billy Rose was hired to produce the Frontier Follies, which starred Paul Whiteman and Sally Rand.

Opening ceremonies began at 3 p.m. on July 18th when honored guests were met at the Texas & Pacific Railroad Station by a Wells Fargo stage coach. Thirty minutes later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pressed a wireless key on a U.S. Navy cruiser off the coast of Maine and by radio and telegraph clipped the lariat stretched across the entrance, officially opening the Fort Worth Frontier Centennial. Camp Bowie Boulevard was decorated with the "six flags over Texas." The gaily spinning pinwheels on Pinwheel Boulevard pointed the way to the Frontier Centennial. Visitors entered the festival grounds under a sign reading "Where the West Begins." They followed the Sunset Trail through a western style village on to the midway, Casa Mañana and other festival venues. The Fort Worth Frontier Centennial. Prairie schooner rickshas were even available to transport festival goers.

The official Texas Centennial celebration, held concurrently at Fair Park in Dallas, drew over 6 million visitors. Both expositions attracted world-wide attention. Billy Rose advised, "Go to Dallas for education; come to Fort Worth for entertainment."

Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington