Today marks the 25th anniversary of opening day at the 1982 World's Fair and Energy Expo.
The Knoxville News Sentinel has this multimedia website with stories, photos, video, and interviews.
WATE has this page with memories and an interview with then Mayor Randy Tyree.
Metro Pulse has this Jack Neely retrospective, with links to other articles.
My recollections and some restored photos from the archives after the jump...
We had season tickets, that I believe my Mom and Dad gave us as a present. The main thing I remember was that it was virtually impossible to get into the China Pavilion, the most popular exhibit. I believe we finally got in on the last day, as we made a frantic last round to try to see all the things we missed.
I also remember everyone trying to figure out an angle to make money on the fair. Lots of folks planned to rent extra rooms or houses or condos to visitors. My Mom and Dad had a house on Sevier Ave. that they had been renting to U.T. students. They fixed it up for the fair. I think they rented it a few times, but I don't believe anyone made a windfall from fair rentals, and nobody got the premium rates promoters were promising.
Some friends had a pub in one of the Victorian Houses in the artist district (I think, we never actually went there for some reason -- maybe it was too rowdy or something). One of them told me stories about hassles with the city and the beer license people and inspectors. I seem to recall him saying they didn't really make any money, probably due to paying themselves out of inventory.
We didn't see every exhibit at the fair, but at least we went up in the Sunsphere and rode the chair lift and saw some shows at the Amphitheater (the two I seem to remember enjoying the most were John Hartford and the Jeff Lorber Fusion, which unfortunately made Kenny G. famous) and had many beers at the Strohaus and at the Australian pavilion (our favorite watering hole). We also went to see the fireworks often, and had a great spot staked out on what was I believe the TVA exhibit barge.
We didn't go as often as one might expect. I guess we had to work, unlike folks who planned their vacation around the fair. Along with many others, we hightailed it out of town just after the World's Fair, owing mainly to the ripple effect of the Butcher banking empire collapse. I had job offers in Memphis and Orlando. We chose Orlando. Probably the best move I ever made.
View from the chair lift
Crowds at the Korean pavilion
View of the park in front of the then Convention and Expo center.
The Saudi pavilion
The fair drew huge crowds
Tennessee flags, base of the Sunsphere, and "Jake's Mistake" in the background.
The L&N Railroad building where Ruby Tuesday's was
The Candy Factory
The popular Antigua and Barbados Gemonites Steel Band
The Strohaus Beergarten
Flags of many nations
The Court of Flags
The river was a central feature. Here's the then new Calhouns.
Lots of big boats along the river.
The floating restaurant, where the enormous carp popcorn feeding frenzy was a huge attraction. The smaller barge over to the left was, I believe, the TVA floating exhibit. We would go around back where you see that railing to watch the fireworks, which were launched from a barge not too far away. It was awesome.
Jake Butcher at the last day Closing Ceremony
Balloons at the Closing Ceremony
My favorite Sunsphere photo from the fair
All Photos (C) 1982 by R. Neal
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