Today, downtown Spokane, Washington, USA, includes beautiful Riverfront Park— place for fairs, picnics, family reunions, a walk during lunch break.
But once it looked like this:
The leaders of the Spokane community had a vision– and actively worked to make it happen. Spokane is still the smallest city to host a world fair.
You can see the clock tower in all three images, which was saved from the old railway yard to show the possibilities of “Progress Without Pollution,” the Expo 74 motto. Its theme was “Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh New Environment.” The fair was part of the Bureau International des Expositions [IEB], but the hard work to make it happen belongs to the civic leaders of the city at that time, which you can read about here, historylink.org. Scroll down on the page for specific information about the Expo74 World Fair itself. And PBS has a 1997 video review of the event. Another review of the Expo links it to a further extension of the hope for Earth Day, which started April 22, 1970, and on which the leaders hooked their theme: Expo74 and Earth Day.
A huge attraction was one of the first independent Imax Theatre’s, which was located in the US Pavilion. The video was so realistic on that huge screen that motion sickness bags had to be provided. Here’s a smaller sized version: “Man Belongs to Earth.”
I was there !
I was in my 20s and a young mother living in Spokane during Expo74. I was so excited, reading about the plans in the paper, and the struggle to make it happen — I so wanted it to succeed.
I’m sure I visited every week — excited to learn about each country, and to see things I would never have contact with otherwise, since this was before the day of the Internet and I could not hop online and visit any of the countries from home on my computer.
Although there were lines to wait in, it wasn’t too much trouble. Spokane can be hot in the summer, so it was nice to have benches and places along the river to walk. One of the best parts was the multicultural food fair in one section of the park. Mmmmm.
What I remember most were the Canadian exhibit and the Russian exhibit.
Canada is our gracious neighbor to the north, bordering my state. My grandfather was from Canada and I’ve friends and relatives from there. The exhibit was on the island in the middle of the Spokane River. The exhibit blended in with the natural formation of the area, with an open amphitheater for picnics and presentations of song and dance from Canada. The exhibit focused on their native peoples and included totem pole carving. My two year old son and I rested there often.
I was especially excited for the Russian Pavilion. Remember that this was still in the period of the “Cold War,” so distrust of one another, Americans and Russians, was high. Many older people, especially, worried about entering the pavilion. That fear can be found in some of the historical pages about Expo74.
For myself, it was one of the first exhibits I entered. I’ve always tried to imagine a real person from other countries — real people with their own families whom they love, which is just as I do. That gives me a reference point of understanding.
There were displays built of cities, where you could read about and see the design to keep out the cold winds in the far north, for instance. That’s one I remember most. Oodles of pictures and displays showed the ingenuity of the people in solving many problems [like safe water and air] and sharing the cultures of the huge country. The Russian exhibit was the largest of all exhibits, and served to highlight the country’s best. I saw my first Matroshka nesting dolls — I’d never heard of them before– the ones there were lovely.
I would have loved to have purchased a set, but on my young family’s budget, that would not happen.
The fair helped all visitors understand the need to care for our environment. Many policies and regulations began to pop up to keep “green areas” near the business districts and malls being built in Spokane. And the small city of Spokane kept up that promise by maintaining and building on the Riverfront Park created by Expo74.
It may not have inspired all that needed to be done, considering the state of “climate change” today, but it was a start from which we could learn.
Thanks for the Memories
We were surprised to know that EXPO has a long history. We wonder, what the main theme of EXPO 74 was? What were people interested in so many years ago?
It was very fun to dig into the past and remember my favorite parts. I hope the information helps you to understand 1974. Thanks for the great question!
Isn’t it interesting that the World’s Fair in Kazakhstan is tied to caring for the environment too? Expo 2017 in your country was focused on “green” energy and “climate change” with the theme, “Energy of the Future.”
I wonder what effect Expo 2017 had on your country or your city?
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Cross-posted at WhatElse
Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker