Monday, January 6, 2014

Will the 40th Anniversary of Expo 74 Pass Unnoticed?

One of my favorite stories about Spokane involves a friend in Missouri and the film Smoke Signals. This wonderful movie, about two Spokane Indians on a road trip, features some scenes shot in our city. When I lived in Missouri I lent it out to a friend. Afterwards I asked what he thought. 

"It was pretty good," he said, "except for that one ridiculous scene. You know, the one that makes it look like there is this huge waterfall right in downtown Spokane."

The falls have been there for centuries, but the ability to view them was lost for several generations of Spokanites. What brought the river back into view was arguably the most significant event to happen to Spokane in the late 20th century: Expo '74, Spokane's worlds fair. The above news report from a local station gives a nice overview of the way the fair remade the city. A polluted river, hemmed in by railroad tracks and hobos, was cleaned up and revealed. When the fair was over we were left with a magnificent urban park. It was a great victory of civic planning and visionary leadership. And it happened 40 years ago.

So what are we doing to celebrate? So far as I know, nothing. Our local history museum is busy building what looks to an ambitious new exhibit, but Expo 74 is just one of their 100 stories. I am not aware of any other commemorations planned.

We have the resources to do more. My colleague Bill Youngs wrote the book on Expo 74 (and a great book it is). There are some great photographs of Expo. Many, many residents have fond memories of the fair. We have a number of Expo 74 items on Spokane Historical, the smart phone app for local history. There is so much local pride, still, in the fact that we are the smallest city ever to host a world's fair. Heck, Expo even gets a shout out in our unofficial anthem Spokane Song by the band Trailer Park Girls:

          We once had an Expo / 
          I think it is time we got over it.

Does anyone know of any commemorations or celebrations of Expo 74 that are in the works? Anyone want to put something together?

Original Expo 74 Sky Ride car on Display at Riverfront Square


Charles Hansen said...

Channel 5 had an excellent program on Expo called Lessons from EXPO on in December and they talked about the need for a celebration this year. I have some pictures I am going to post on my blog soon. I did not take a lot but I also have some my dad took.

Suzanne Fischer said...

Maybe everyone's waiting for the 50th?

Anonymous said...

Actually there is a huge event in the works! On May 3 the Spokane Parks Fdn is hosting a kick-off event and Gala to celebrate 40 years. Then the entire summer will be filled with events large and small to celebrate all that Expo did for our community - especially the creation of Riverfront Park! New website coming soon with all details at Thanks!

Larry Cebula said...

Hey, great to hear it Spokane Parks Foundation!

Larry Cebula said...

Here is a recent local TV interview thing with Bill Youngs and others about the history of Expo '74:

Richard Goodwin said...

The staff of the Australian Pavilion at Expo '74 are holing a 40th anniversary reunion on 12-13 April in Canberra.

Anonymous said...

No one told the elderly gentleman he was supposed to say the Union Station was "ugly and needed to be razed to the ground."