Probably more than almost any original worlds of Fun attraction, excepting possibly the Zambezi Zinger, Cotton Blossom ranks as one of the most missed and most beloved. Cotton Blossom was a 172-foot long, three-story, sternwheeler paddleboat model, built originally in 1951 for the MGM hit "Show Boat" at a cost to MGM studios of $375,000, it took eight months to originally build. Following its use in "Show Boat", Cotton Blossom was used for several other feature films including "Raintree County", and several commercials. When originally built, Cotton Blossom could technically "float" as it was built onto steel pontoons but was powered not by steam but by two diesel engines, and controlled by cables and winches. It, like thousands of other props both large and small, was put up for auction in the famous MGM Backlot Auction of 1970. There along with Victrix, and multiple other small ships and props was bought by Lamar Hunt for a winning bid of $15,000. The hard part wasn't so much the purchasing or dismantling of Cotton Blossom, but the reassembly. Technically, as the story goes, each piece was numbered and recorded on the original blueprints so that it could be reassembled. It took six railcars to ship Cotton Blossom, in pieces, back to Kansas City, and it was stored in underground facilities until 1972. Reconstruction began in July 1972, but soon there proved to be problems, as not every piece was labeled, or even labeled correctly, and there were questions as to the feasibility of even being able to reassemble such large ships.
We all know how that story ended, and on May 26, 1973, festooned with dignitaries, and locals alike, Cotton Blossom was the site of the grand opening ceremonies for Worlds of Fun. For 23 years, it stood as an attraction at the park Cotton Blossom was visible towering regally over the park and its entrance from almost any vantage point, it was one of the first attractions visible to guests entering the park, and it provided a grand opening act as anyone could have hoped. Beyond being simply a visible attraction, Cotton Blossom was also home to multiple shops, restaurants, and shows throughout its years.
The Dixieland band was located on its stern for several seasons and included various melodrama skits over the first few seasons as well. A large boutique was located on the ships main deck, and the antique photoshop was also located on the Cotton Blossom until its last season at the park in 1995. If you wanted a bite to eat you could even grab lunch at the Paddlewheel Cafe located third-deck, stern until 1987.
Made of wood, and designed only as a temporary prop for a movie, Cotton Blossom was never designed originally to live forever. However, at least initially, Hunt Midwest saw it as a prized possession and treated it as such with Cotton Blossom receiving a full-scale renovation at least once in the 1980's. Sadly, the decade of the 90's told a whole different story. By then both Victrix and Cotton Blossom where suffering from disrepair, Victrix was the first to go in 1993, pulled out of the park by Hunt Midwest themselves. Cotton Blossom stayed though and languished on, but it was clear that its days were numbered as many park ambassadors began giving it the sad nickname of "rotten blossom". Though decaying from the inside out, Cotton Blossom still maintained its regal outward appearance until its last day in October 1995. It was removed following the 1995 season and replaced by a new pay-extra attraction Ripcord that still stands in its place, over the pond originally built for Cotton Blossom.
Relevant Links and Sources
Showboat "Cotton Blossom" (Hollywood Guy):http://www.hollywoodgoldenguy.com/MGM_Cotton_Blossom.html
Cotton Blossom, MGM Backlot Auction Video
1951 MGM "Show Boat" introduction featuring Cotton Blossom