Featuring images from the heyday of the University of Houston’s annual Frontier Fiesta event, the digital collection captures all the Western-themed revelry surrounding “Fiesta City” in the 1950s. The collection contains more than 50 black and white photographs, 13 programs (1941, 1947, 1949-1959), the contents of a 35-page scrapbook, and one short silent film.
The photographs highlight all aspects of the festivities, from stage performances and students posing in Western costume to parade floats and the wooden structures making up the Wild West town of Fiesta City each year. Programs from the 50s and 60s present the calendar of events and maps of the grounds as well as name event organizers and friends, board of directors, and contest winners. Especially noteworthy are two items: the scrapbook and the silent film. The beautifully crafted cowhide scrapbook was compiled in 1954 and includes 35 pages of colorful illustrations, descriptive narrative, and dozens of photographs of the event. Titled The Great Bank Heist, the black and white silent film depicts an Old West-style bank robbery perpetrated by gunslingers who ride into town on horseback. Complete with title cards in place of dialogue, the two-minute film was recently produced from 1953 Frontier Fiesta footage.
A combination of musical and theatrical performances, cook-offs, carnival booths, and concessions set in a Western frontier-style town, Frontier Fiesta began in 1940 but was almost immediately interrupted by World War II and suspended from 1942-1945. Frontier Fiesta’s second run (from 1946-1959) saw the event grow to its greatest popularity and achieve national acclaim; Life Magazine proclaimed it the “Greatest College Show on Earth.”
The student-run, community-minded festival was revived in 1992. Every year the Frontier Fiesta Association awards 10 scholarships to deserving incoming freshman and current UH students; these scholarships reward both academic achievement and outstanding efforts in community service.