On Friday, April 22, 2016, Austin Wade Gurney will participate in the 2016 Waco Cotton Palace, an energetic stage production that recounts the history of Waco. Each year, approximately 60 outstanding high school seniors are selected to be members of the Waco Cotton Palace Court, an honored tradition that Waco has hosted since 1971. The Waco Cotton Palace gives local scholarships to fine arts students at MCC and Baylor University each year and brings over $600,000 to the Waco Community in just one weekend!
Austin Wade Gurney is the son of Jeffrey and Caralee Gurney from Plano. His mother was a Cotton Palace Princess in 1987. Austin is the grandson of Gerald and Charlene Gurney of Plano and Cleveland and Martha Witt of Waco. He attends Trinity Christian Academy, where he is a member of National Honor Society, Magna Cum Laude and starting Safety for the Varsity Football Team. He participates in Young Men’s Service League, is a Miracle League Network mentor and volunteers in several other charity organizations. Austin enjoys spending time with friends and hunting with his father. He plans to attend the University of Arkansas this fall.
History of Waco Cotton Palace
The Texas Cotton Palace originally began in 1894 when Waco, Texas, became known as an inland cotton center. Larger than Dallas, Ft. Worth and El Paso, Waco’s appeal to farmers was due in part to the Waco Suspension Bridge, the largest single span bridge in the U.S. Also contributing to Waco’s large population was the Waco Tap Railroad that tapped into the Houston and Texas Central Railroad from Houston to Dallas. To honor the cotton city, Waco residents established the Texas Cotton Palace Exposition.
The first exhibition was a grand success, bringing visitors from all over the state, but six weeks later the building burned. In 1910, the Texas Cotton Palace was re-established and the building re-built. It became more elaborate each year, until 1930, when the “rain came,” the crowd was small and the Depression was telling on the Exhibition. In 1971, the Texas Cotton Palace was revived by residents of Waco.