Michael Bushnell

This week, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Worlds of Fun on May 26, 1973, we offer this Chrome-era postcard of the Cotton Blossom, one of the park’s most popular attractions.
Purchased at an MGM Studio auction of old props and models by park owner Lamar Hunt in 1970, the Cotton Blossom, along with other props and models, including a ship model called The Victrix, were bought for the winning bid of $15,000.

Originally built in 1948 for the hit musical Showboat, the Cotton Blossom took eight months to build and cost MGM Studios $375,000. Following Showboat, it was used in other feature films and as a backdrop in a number of TV commercials.

As is the case with almost anything bought at auction, getting it home then put back together correctly is the tough part. The Cotton Blossom proved no different, despite being painstakingly disassembled and numbered prior to being loaded onto six railcars for shipment back to the Hunt-Midwest complex under the amusement park itself.

In 1972, in preparation for the opening of Worlds of Fun, the Cotton Blossom, or should we say its parts, were carted out for re-assembly. Questions and concerns began to arise almost immediately as some parts weren’t labeled or labeled correctly, which led to some creative engineering to pull off reconstruction.

The engineers and a small army of carpenters and tradesmen all worked together to get the Cotton Blossom into ship-shape by opening day, as she was the main backdrop for the grand opening festivities on May 26, 1973. Dignitaries from all over the region were on board the Cotton Blossom when Lamar Hunt and business partner Jack Steadman cut the ribbon, opening the 140-acre amusement park built on the Clay County bluffs overlooking the Missouri River.

The Cotton Blossom, as an attraction at Worlds of Fun, lasted 23 seasons and was visible from almost anywhere in the park. A Dixieland jazz band played on the upper deck for a number of seasons and it was home to numerous shops and a small café.

During its 23-year career, it received at least one renovation in the 1980’s. The 1990’s weren’t so kind and the attraction faced an increasingly deteriorating condition. Following the 1995 season, it was dismantled and scrapped, replaced by a parachute attraction called The Ripcord.

The postcard was mailed to Lisbon, Conn., in July of 1977. The personal message reads: “Dear Charles and Sylvia, We are here at Jeannie’s having a nice time. The trip up was long but pleasant. Charles feels pretty good, still talking about his party which he was surprised and happy about. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, about two or three weeks at least. It’s over 90 degrees. Thank God the house is air conditioned, he wouldn’t be able to put up with the heat. Hope to see you when we go back. As always, Gladys and Charles.”