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Expo 74 Spokane World's Fair opens on May 4, 1974.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5133 : Printer-Friendly Format

On May 4, 1974, Expo 74, the Spokane World's Fair opens on two islands in the Spokane River for a six-month run. The exposition theme is "Celebrating Tomorrow's Fresh New Environment" (Bowers). Ten nations have exhibitions that will be visited by 5.6 million people. After the fair closes, Spokane will be left with a convention center, an opera house, and a park.

In 1959, Spokane's downtown had declined because of suburbanization and industrial development. Business leaders formed Spokane Unlimited to rejuvenate the central business district. In 1963, King F. Cole was appointed the executive secretary. The organization purchased industrial Havermale Island with federal assistance for use as an open space and as the focus of a makeover of downtown.

In 1970, Spokane wanted to celebrate its centennial and a consultant suggested that Spokane try for a worldwide event. At that same time, concerns over the pollution of the Spokane River surfaced and mining companies were convinced to stop discharges into the water. The two movements came together in an environmental theme for the fair. In December 1970, the project became Expo '74. King Cole became president in 1971.

The Union Pacific, Burlington Northern, and Milwaukee Road railroads deeded real estate to Spokane for the fairgrounds. Spokane satisfied all the requirements for staging a World's Fair including federal law and politics. The Bureau of International Expositions approved Spokane for a Category II Exposition, the smallest city ever to be so honored. Canada was the first country to sign up and would later be joined by the United States, the Soviet Union, Korea, Germany, Japan, and others. The plan for the fair expanded to Canon Island, which became Canada Island.

President Richard M. Nixon opened the fair and its environmental theme. The exhibition closed on November 3, 1974. The fair structures were converted to a convention center, an amphitheater, and an opera house. The grounds became part of Riverfront Park.

Sources:
Dawn Bowers, Expo '74: World's Fair Spokane, (Spokane, WA: Expo '74 Corporation, 1974). See Also: J. William T. Youngs, The Fair and the Falls: Spokane's Expo '74 (Cheney: Eastern Washington University Press, 1996).


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Related Topics: Fairs & Festivals | Industry |

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Expo '74 Logo
Courtesy UW Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest


Main entrance, Spokane World's Fair, 1974
Postcard


Soviet Pavilion, Expo '74 Spokane World's Fair, 1974
Courtesy UW Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest


 
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