The New York World’s Fair, in Flushing Meadows, NY, was themed, “Peace Through Understanding.” It ran for two six-month seasons, from April 22 through October 18, 1964 and April 21 through October 17, 1965, so technically, we’re about to celebrate the second season’s fiftieth anniversary in two days. Adult admission was $2.00 in 1964 and $2.50 in 1965. I attended twice … once with my family, and once during my high school’s senior class trip. More than 51 million others visited the fair, but that was less than the 70 million visitors that were anticipated, and the fair lost significant money.
The extremely optimistic and positively oriented New York World’s Fair was the second (along with the 1939/1940 fair) area event to not be officially sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE). The BIE had previously sanctioned Seattle’s World’s Fair that had happened only two years before. Without the BIE sanction, many nations, including Canada, Australia and most of the major European nations, were absent. Smaller countries, like Spain, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Thailand, Philippines, Greece, Pakistan and Vatican City were present. The Vatican exhibited Michelangelo’s Pieta (465 years old in 1964). That display became one of the fair’s most popular exhibits. America showed off its culture and technology, especially space-age items.
Notable American corporate exhibits General Electric’s “Progressland,” Pepsi Cola’s “It’s a Small World – A Salute to UNICEF,” developed by Disney Studios, Chrysler’s “Pop Art Pavilion,” and Ford Motor Company’s “Ford’s Magic Skyway.” Ford’s pavilion was the second most popular exhibit at the fair. It featured fifty convertible Ford vehicles on a “people mover” ride through scenes including dinosaurs and cavemen. The “Small World” exhibit is still featured in Disney parks throughout the world.
There were one hundred twelve restaurants in the fairgrounds that featured international cuisine. Three of the best were in the Spanish pavilion. The Belgium pavilion introduced its “Bel-Gem” waffle, a flat, fluffy waffle piled high with strawberries and whipped cream.
The New York World’s Fair finally closed in October 1975, almost at the same time as the turbulence of the Vietnam War, civil rights turmoil and significant cultural changes were happening in America. If you were there, you were lucky, and you’ll never forget it.