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Water-skiers in "pyramid" formation
"Pyramid" traditional show-closer was first performed in 1947, but with only three water-skiers! Photo; Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens: The Most Beautiful Day Around

Located in central Florida on 200 acres with sparkling lakes and ancient cypress trees, Cypress Gardens showcases more than 8,000 varieties of plants and flowers from more than 90 countries. Founders Dick and Julie Pope carved the park's original 16 acres of subtropical and tropical flora out of a cypress swamp.

The gardens gained renown as the water ski capital of the world, following a newspaper photo in 1943 that featured water skiers being pulled by a boat in Cypress Gardens. Several soldiers showed up the next day to see the water show. Although the park did not have a show, Julie Pope rounded up her children and friends to stage the park's first water ski show. The following weekend, 800 soldiers came to see the "new" water show.

Dick Pope had hatched his plan to create Cypress Park during the Depression by using funds from a division of the Works Progress Administration and the canal commission for the Florida Lake region. Local opposition eventually caused the original funding to be canceled and paid back, and deed the property to the Florida Cypress Gardens Association. Working side by side with laborers, Pope began constructing his dream garden in a marsh. The press called him "Maharaja of the Muck" and "Swami of the Swamp." Pope persevered and the park opened in 1936.

Its romantic gazebo, shimmering bougainvillea curtain, and lovely Southern belles graced countless magazine covers, newspapers, and newsreels worldwide, quickly becoming Cypress Gardens symbols. Over the years, the park has been a setting for several movies, which included Moon Over Miami, Easy to Love and Cinerama. Stars Arthur Godfrey, Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, and Jim Stafford have also broadcast from the park. During the 1970s and 1980s, the park expanded and added more themed areas to compete with new theme parks in central Florida. After being sold several times to large corporations, the park was acquired by local owners in 1995.

Documentation includes a press kit, newspaper clippings, 18 slides, promotional material, 12 historic photos, two videos, and promotional literature.

Originally submitted by: Charles T. Canady, Representative (12th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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