In 1890, Waco, Texas was larger than Dallas, Fort Worth and El Paso due in part to the Waco Suspension Bridge, the largest single span bridge in the United States. Also contributing to Waco 's large population was the Waco Tap Railroad which tapped into the Houston and Texas Central Railroad from Houston to Dallas.
Cotton became the most important factor in determining Waco 's future. The invention of the steel breaking plow allowed planting in the rich Blackland prairie. Farmers from a hundred miles away brought their "white gold" to Waco to be ginned. Consequently, cotton buyers by the dozens opened offices in Waco and shipped Waco's cotton by rail to Galveston and New Orleans, to be shipped to Europe, South America and India.
Waco aspired to have a Fall Festival which would promote the city. In 1894 Waco residents raised the money to build an exposition hall with seating for 5,000. On November 8, 1894, Governor James Hogg was guest of honor on opening day of the month-long Cotton Palace. The event included a parade, agricultural exhibit, amusement area, orators, and musicians. The first Cotton Palace Exhibition was a grand successn bringing visitors from all over the state but six weeks later the building burned.
In 1910 the Texas Cotton Palace was re-established and the building re-built. It became more elaborate each year until 1930, when the "rain came" the crowd was small and the Depression had taken its toll on the Exhibition.
In 1970, the Texas Cotton Palace was revived by residents of Waco. Today, The Waco Cotton Palace is an energetic stage production that recounts the history of Waco. The colorful two-hour stage show features local residents who use drama, song and dance to chronicle the history of Cotton Palace.
The 47th Annual Waco Cotton Palace Production is Friday, April 28, 2017, at 8:00 p.m. at Waco Hall on the campus of Baylor University. Tickets are $15, $35 and $50.
To purchase tickets e-mail CottonPalaceTickets@gmail.com, download and print a ticket order form or phone (254) 652-0242.
Watch the 2011 PSA here.