World's Fairs

April 18, 1986

Report Outline
Hail and Farewell
Lure of the Fair
Fair Appraisals
Special Focus

Hail and Farewell

Canada's Expo '86, Latest in a Long Line

It is the year 1940, in E. L. Doctorow's recent novel, and nine-year-old Edgar comes at last to the New York World's Fair and the beckoning World of Tomorrow. He espies the fabled Try Ion and Perisphere, pure white spire and sphere, mystic symbol of the fair, and he trembles with joy. Soon he is inside the General Motors exhibit, the fair's most popular: “We ran and took seats, each of us in a chair with high sides and loudspeakers built into them, they faced the same direction and were on a track. The lights went down. Music played and the chairs lurched and began to move sideways. In front of us a whole world lit up, as if we were flying over it, the most fantastic sight I had ever seen, an entire city of the future….” That fair may have been, as many think, the best world's fair ever. But it was not the last.

After a long break for World War II and its aftermath, world's fairs returned, first to Brussels in 1958, Then there was Seattle (“Century 21 Exposition”) in 1962, and New York again in 1964–65 (“Peace Through Understanding”). After that came Montreal (Expo '67), San Antonio (HemisFair '68), and in 1970, Osaka, Japan. They were followed by Spokane (Expo '74) and Okinawa (Expo 75), Knoxville (Expo '82), New Orleans (Expo '84), and Tsukuba, Japan (Expo '85), not to mention Plovdiv, Bulgaria. And now, beginning May 2 and running through Oct. 13, there is Expo '86 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The centennial of Canada's big Pacific port city is being celebrated this year in a big way.

Still other world's fairs are scheduled for the years ahead: Brisbane, Australia, in 1988, and Seville, Spain, in 1992. And if fairgoers should grow restless during the intervening years, there is always the permanent, “world's fair” that opened near Orlando, Florida, in 1982—Disney World's Epcot Center. With the “Magic Kingdom” nearby, Epcot Center has a 10-nation “World Showcase” and, in pavilions sponsored by Exxon, AT&T, General Motors, and other corporations, a “Future World.”

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