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Winter Haven News Chief

May 18, 2003
February 28, 2000
Beneath the Chinaberry Tree
Big dates in Cypress Garden's history

This week we present great moments in Cypress Garden's history
and other hallmarks of "America's Tropical Wonderland."
For now, here are some of the significant:
1936 Cypress Gardens opens on January 2. Admission 25 cents
1939 Electric boats introduced.
Flower festivals took place almost weekly.
The "crowning of queens" became a popular feature."
1940 A freeze in December damages the flame vine that marks the Garden's entrance.
Quick thinking Julie dresses a female employee in an
"old fashioned" antebellum dress to stand at the entrance,
mask the damage and inform the guests that the park was still quite beautiful inside.
This began the Cypress Garden's southern belle ...
a symbol of gracious southern hospitality.
1941 While most American tourist attractions closed due to gas rationing during WWII,
Cypress Gardens remained open.
Dick was involved in the war effort and Julie was left to operate the park.
She sent an attractive floral photograph to the Orlando Sentinel.
It featured water skiers in the background.
The next day, soldiers from Orlando arrived at the park
and asked what time the "ski show" would take place.
Again, Julie acted fast and replied, "3:30 p.m."
She encouraged the men to enjoy the park until that time.
She immediately called the school and asked son, Dick Jr.
to round up friends for the "show."
She picked them up at 3 p.m. and the show began promptly at 3:30.
Dick, Jr., 11; sister, Adrienne 8, and friends Ruth Ricker,9 Buddy Boyle, 13
and Trammel Pickit, 14 (who drove the boat) performed that day
and began the world famous Water Ski Show.
1943 Dick Pope returns from the service and promotions
begin to market to men in military training.
Skiing lessons are offered to the service men.
1945 Movie shorts with patriotic themes are produced at the park.
1947 Water ski shows at the Gardens began to be presented on a daily basis.
First feature length motion picture, "
On An Island With You"
is filmed in the original botanical gardens.
It stars Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams.
1948 Dick Pope Jr., then 18, is featured on television -- barefoot skiing.
1952 Pope is formally named "Mr. Florida" by Orlando Sentinel publisher Martin Anderson.
1953 "Easy to Love" is filmed at Cypress Gardens. Esther Williams stars.
Florida Pool is constructed for movie.
1954 Thousands of pictures distributed by Cypress Gardens
produce an average of 100 newspaper photos per day of skiers,
bathing beauties and other Gardens scenes.
More than 1,000 newsreels of skiing and other activities were made this year as well.
1960 Esther Williams at Cypress Gardens television special. Aquarama pool constructed.
1965 Dick Pope rescues the ailing Florida Pavilion at the 1965 World's Fair in New York.
By year's end, the Florida Ski Show had made the pavilion the fair's most popular.
Late '60s Johnny Carson and Mike Douglas broadcast specials
from the "islands" area on Lake Summit.
1974 Park expanded through acquisition of the Snively property.
Rides, zoo, Crossroads area added.
1983 Island in the Sky installed.
1985 Park is purchased by Harcourt, Brace Yavonovich Publishers.
1989 Park is purchased by Busch Entertainment.
1995 Park is purchased by management team led by Wm. Reynolds.
2001 Wacky Water Park opens.
2003 Park is closed April 13, 2003.

The creativity, magic and hard work of Dick and Julie Pope created Florida Cypress Gardens.
No other event in the history of the Winter Haven community
has produced a greater impact on Winter Haven.
Prior to the opening of Disney World in 1971,
the promotional genius of Dick Pope focused attention
from around the world on Florida and ultimately, Cypress Gardens.

Information sources include Cypress Gardens 60th Anniversary publication (1996)
compiled and written by Bert Lacey.

Old news from the Winter Haven News Chief

Developer buys into Cypress Gardens
Lakeland developer
Larry Maxwell
has purchased an equity interest in the 180-acre facility
WHNC October 19, 2001

Bob Kehoe, 67 is retiring today after 52 years!
WHNC August 31, 2001

Dick Pope named as Great Floridian
WHNC  Sep 14, 2000

A Tribute to Dick Pope,
Founder of Cypress Gardens

WHNC April 18, 2000

Important Dates in Cypress Gardens' History
WHNC February 28, 2000

1936: Cypress Gardens opens on Jan. 2.
Admission 25 cents

Dick Pope -- Before he took up "gardening"
WHNC  January 17, 2000

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