December 22, 2011 — Coral Gables — After 62 years of colorful, themed floats and high-stepping marching bands, Miami’s Orange Bowl Parade marched into history in 2002.
But its legacy—captured and chronicled in photographs and drawings of floats, maps of the parade route, and even an oversized head of mascot Obie—lives on at the University of Miami’s Richter Library.
UM is now home to the Orange Bowl Committee Archives, a rich collection of documents, objects, and memorabilia related not only to the famous parade that attracted some 500,000 people to Biscayne Boulevard during its heyday but also the college bowl game of the same name and the many ancillary events—from golf and tennis tournaments to a marathon—that went along with it.
The collection is a trove of all things Orange Bowl: The minutes of Orange Bowl Committee meetings. Photographs of bands and corporate floats. A large wooden figure from the 1930s of Reddy Kilowatt, FPL’s cartoon-like corporate mascot that appeared on the company’s parade float. Scrapbooks containing Orange Bowl-related newspaper clippings. Even an Orange Bowl cookbook.
“This collection is a significant addition to the Library’s rich primary-source documentation of Miami, and it records the people and events that have made Miami such a special and exciting city. The University’s Special Collections are a treasure trove of Miami photographs and images, and the Orange Bowl Committee Collection is a jewel in the crown,” said William Walker, dean and University librarian.
Favretto and Skokan stand next to the oversized head of Orange Bowl mascot Obie, one of the many items in the Orange Bowl Committee Archives.
“The Orange Bowl as an event, a business, and a phenomenon” is how Cristina Favretto, head of the Richter Library’s Special Collections, describes the new acquisition.
Included are thousands of items, many of which are still packed away in about 60 boxes kept in Special Collections’ locked stacks, where they await to be sorted and classified by archival professionals.
Special Collections librarian Beatrice Skokan has already performed a cursory examination of the materials, going through each box and examining the contents to get a better idea of what needs to be preserved. With so many materials, it will take at least a year to sift through, examine, and organize everything, she estimates.
After the collection is processed and its items repaired and preserved, it will be open to the public for use in the Special Collections Department, allowing visitors to get an in-depth look at what went into planning and preparing for the parade, Orange Bowl game halftime show, and other events.
“It’s a collection that’s going to be of interest to historians of Miami and sports buffs but also business majors, designers, musicians, and people interested in popular culture and a discipline in academia now called 'material culture,' which is the study of everyday life,” said Favretto.
“As a former Orange Bowl queen, I am truly moved that the Orange Bowl will forever be remembered not only in our hearts but also on the University of Miami campus,” said Jackie Nespral, multiple Emmy-winning anchor of NBC6 Miami and a UM alumna. “What an appropriate home for the collection.”
UM’s acquisition of the materials comes as this year’s Orange Bowl events are in full swing and with the Discover Orange Bowl game—a matchup between Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson and Big East winner West Virginia—only days away.
Arva Moore Parks, a noted South Florida historian, said UM is the perfect home for the collection, given the institution’s close connection with the event. “They’re joined at the hip,” said Parks, a UM trustee and longtime Orange Bowl Committee member whose steadfast efforts helped the University acquire the materials.
She noted that UM won its first national championship in football in the 1984 Orange Bowl. But the school and the event had been entwined long before that, she explained. The Palm Festival, the forerunner of the Orange Bowl, was created in 1933 to provide a boost to a South Florida economy hit hard by the Depression. Organizers staged Palm Festival bowl games in 1933 and 1934, matching UM against different opponents each year. The Hurricanes defeated Manhattan College 7-0 in the first game, played on January 2, 1933, and lost to Duquesne 33-7 on New Year’s Day 1934. The game became the Orange Bowl in 1935.
The accompanying parade eventually became a popular draw. Parks, who participated in three parades as an Edison High School student, always felt the event built a strong sense of community. “You could sit on the curb for free,” she recalled.
Parks was one of the first women to serve on the Orange Bowl Committee. Early on, she realized the importance of its work, not just in attracting tourists to the region but in supporting local youth programs. She began to save items and memorabilia, storing them away for safekeeping. Some of these irreplaceable materials have found a home at the Smithsonian Institution. The bulk of the collection, however, is housed at UM Libraries, which makes Parks ecstatic.
“The contribution of the Orange Bowl Committee to the development of Miami is substantial,” she said. “We’ve been trying to get this into the University of Miami for many, many years, and at last it’s happened.”
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