Tuesday, January 20, 2015

'My Expo Rose,' song of Cleveland's 1930s Great Lakes Exposition, lives again

The Streets of the World

In 1937, the Great Lakes Exposition filled Cleveland's lakefront with carnival barkers, art deco landmarks, a giant water-dance extravaganza, an international village of pagodas and Alpine architecture, sexy dancers, elephants and lions, trapeze artists and a first-class freak show.

In the second year of our almost-World's Fair, Cleveland set a standard for the energy and fun and wonder possible on our lakefront — an ideal we've been trying to reach ever since.

Dudley Blossom Sr.
Dudley Blossom Sr., a businessman, philanthropist and heir to an oil and real estate fortune, served as the fair's chairman. He wasn't content just to be the moneyed guy who kept the midway rides and the front gate turnstiles turning.  In 1937, he penned a song, "My Expo Rose," a sweet and sweeping tribute to the thrills and wonders of the exposition.

In 2006, when I wrote my history of the Great Lakes Expo, "Sex, Celebrity and Carnival Charm," I asked the Cleveland Institute of Music to record a version of "My Expo Rose" off the original sheet music. Soprano Andrea Bargabos and pianist Mark George obliged. We briefly included it on our website along with photos from the expo. But it appeared during a stormy hour in our website's history and was soon lost.

The Midway

Recently, I found the recording again and had it reposted online.

Its soaring melody lifts nostalgic, dreamy lyrics that evoke a long-ago time on Lake Erie. The lines paint a picture of the singer's carefree journey across the expo grounds: the midway, "toy balloons and big festoons," barkers in full cry, the Streets of the World's "peasant girls so fair to see," summertime skaters in "cold Winterland," and the Goodyear blimp hovering overhead. Blossom also name-drops Billy Rose, the famed Broadway showman who staged the Aquacade at the 1937 fair.

Blossom's song can take your imagination back to the Cleveland of 78 years ago.  Please visit my story's page on our website to listen to "My Expo Rose." 

Blimps above the Streets of the World.

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