For many ’Cane fans, Miami Orange Bowl nostalgia comes with the territory of football season. But this year is special—marking ten years since the team kicked off their final season at the original home field. With the help of the archives, two UM undergraduate students have been gearing up for the anniversary.
Over the course of ten months, Andrew Wodrich, ’17, and Francesca Ciuffo, ’19, conducted research using the rarely seen records of the Orange Bowl Committee held by the University of Miami Special Collections. Their efforts have culminated in the first public display of the organization’s papers, titled Miami Celebrates: The Orange Bowl Festival, 1930s-1990s.
Now on view on the first floor of the Otto G. Richter Library, the exhibition features original photographs, letters, and memorabilia, among other materials, donated to the University in 2012, highlighting six decades of Orange Bowl Festival events and many memorable moments at the iconic stadium.
The students co-curated the exhibition under the mentorship of UM librarians as part of the new Library Research Scholars Program, which promotes student engagement with the University of Miami Libraries’ research collections and service programs.
“I was really interested in researching Coral Gables and Miami history, and that led me to the work of the Orange Bowl Committee,” explains Wodrich, a neuroscience and history major from Michigan. “Immediately I became fascinated by the story of people, so many decades ago, working together to create something out of nothing.”
Wodrich and Ciuffo’s discoveries actually date back to even before the founding of the Orange Bowl Festival (which continues today as the Capital One Orange Bowl). One featured poster advertises the precursor bowl known as the Festival of Palms, held on New Year’s Day, 1932. The Hurricanes faced Manhattan College at downtown Miami’s Moore Park, winning 7-0. “It was an idea to attract tourists for the holidays, which the city desperately needed, economically speaking,” Wodrich says.
That game, they explain, set the stage for the Orange Bowl—its annual match-ups as well as the surrounding festivities. Burdine Stadium, later named the Miami Orange Bowl (and today’s site of Marlins Park) opened in 1937, just five years following the Palm Festival. But the elaborate pageantry, flamboyant parades, and slough of events now iconic to the Orange Bowl brand spread out far beyond the stadium walls.
The parade is a prominent exhibition highlight, with large-scale illustrations of original float designs over its walls showing off a substantial creative investment matched by a variety of corporate sponsorships, from Busch Gardens to Eastern Airlines, Barnett Bank, and Coppertone. “It was a major undertaking. Earnie Seiler, today considered the ‘father of the Orange Bowl,’ selected the participants and established the lineup,” Ciuffo explains.
“The festival just took over the city,” says Ciuffo, a public relations and broadcast journalism major from New York. “People from all over the country and world were suddenly coming in droves for the attractions. There were tennis tournaments at Flamingo and Salvadore Parks, a regatta that started at the Pelican Harbor Marina, and of course there was the parade, which was held on Biscayne Boulevard.”
The final parade, held in 2001, capped off a 66-year tradition that still shines in the legacy of Seiler, who as City of Miami’s director is remembered as a creative and technical driving force in all areas of the festival. “He was a local football coach who just through persistence got this thing off the ground,” Wodrich says. “Originally he was out there on the street just waving down cars to get people to fill the stands.”
The exhibition additionally highlights some of the original members of the Orange Bowl Committee, including UM trustees Oscar E. Dooly and Arthur A. Unger, which Wodrich points out as a meaningful connection. “There is a strong UM tie throughout the history of the Orange Bowl that we really wanted to come through.”
Miami Celebrates: The Orange Bowl Festival, 1930s-1990s is on view through December 2016. The exhibition is sponsored by the Lynda and Michael Gordon Exhibition Program.
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