The centerpiece for this extravaganza was the dinner theater, Casa Mañana, with the world's largest revolving stage surrounded by a tank of water on which it seemed to float, over twenty fountains, and geysers of water that shot into the air at strategic intervals. The building featured over thirty Spanish-style arches, was 320 feet in length, and contained the world’s longest bar, a fact of which Rose was inordinately proud.
But it was the revue on this magnificent stage that truly made theatrical history. On opening night, Paul Whiteman raised his baton and two bands swung into the fanfare. There were interpretations of the St. Louis World’s Fair, the Paris Exposition of 1925, and Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress Exposition. Texas “Sweetheart Number One” wore a $5,000 gold-mesh gown, and Sally Rand wore only a huge opaline balloon. On opening night when the orchestra played “The Eyes of Texas,” the audience rose to its feet singing, whistling, and cheering. “Texans,” wrote one critic, “are not given to polite applause.”
The Frontier Centennial and its sequel, the Frontier Fiesta, closed after only two brief seasons (1936 and 1937), the second season cut short by controversy and lawsuits. Rose left Fort Worth under a cloud, informed by city fathers that his services were no longer needed. Undaunted, he went on to become a multimillionaire with almost legendary status as a theatrical producer.
But Fort Worth was never again the same after the Frontier Centennial . . . and memories of that festival linger today, even though the buildings were long ago razed.
Today a permanent theater-in-the-round, appropriately named Casa Mañana, is located on the centennial grounds. Popular with Fort Worthians, it can only echo the splendor of the original.
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Published by Texas Christian University Press