I didn’t keep up this blog to celebrate last year’s 25th Anniversary like I wanted, so at least let me with all those associated with, and visitors to, the 1982 World’s Fair a happy 26th Anniversary!
When you first walked through the Henley Street gates at the World’s Fair, I was always impressed that there were never really that many long lines. Now, in hindsight that might mean there just weren’t that many people interested in coming. But truly each gate had a number of turnstiles and a healthy number of ticket takers, so – no waiting!
As I mentioned in my previous post the first sense that is assaulted is your sense of smell from the Buddy’s stand. That’s true, but close on the heels of that is the sight of the Sunsphere towering over your head, directly in front. In those days the base was painted blue so it looks a bit different than today.
When you glance up at the golden sphere, you see a number of different reflections. You may see a bright flash of sunshine, a ripple of water, people moving – maybe a cloud or something that could be anything. The gold-flecked windows were mounted at such angles as to catch reflections from all around. Even today it can be a bit mesmerizing.
I went up in the Sunsphere I believe twice during the course of the Fair – once was actually a day or two previously, when they hosted a “Pre-Fair Preview” or whatever it was called. Knoxville and area residents were invited to the Fair site to walk around, get to know the layout, etc before it actually opened. Of course, to a 14-yr-old I thought they were just being nice but I’m sure it was more to help generate some opening week publicity. Imagine all those ladies coming home that evening after walking around the park and calling their sister Mabel in Vonore, “No, don’t go to Opryland this weekend – come here and see the opening of the World’s Fair! Afterwards George’ll throw on some hot dogs and the kids can run through the sprinkler…” It was a good idea.
One of my best friends was named Tim. He was a year older than me and, lucky dog, was able to get a job working at the fair and be there all the time. When you first walked in the Henley Street entrance, two smells assaulted your senses (don’t worry, they were good). The first was the Buddys Bar-b-cue kiosk, which was a new dining experience to many non-East Tennessee’ers. The other was the Fresh Fruit Works sponsored by Big Brothers Association and I believe Krogers.
Tim’s mom was divorced when he was small, so he’d had a Big Brother named Allen for many years. Through that association, Tim was able to work in the fruit stand. I recall many, many times opening my day at the fair at that stand. Nice, cold fruit – perfect for a hot summer’s day.
Just above the two stands was a giant neon mural – if anyone has a better photo I’d love to place it. You can see part of it in the photo below, along with my 14-yr-old self and my younger brother:
The little brother gets married in less than a month. Finally
The best summer of my life started this day in 1982.
Thank you, everyone who participated in the 1982 World’s Fair, for a lifetime of memories.
MAY 1: I was one of the scads of high school marching band kids in the great mass band that played in front of President Reagan and all the dignitaries. I stood fairly close to him in my formation. All I remember specifically is being amazed that the temperature was in the 70’s!!!! In May!!!! Now the 80’s are not uncommon in April. So much for energy conservation.
My parents bought us season passes and I still have mine. In total I believe I visited about 45 times over the course of the summer of ’82, the summer between my sophomore and junior years at Central High School. I’d wanted to find a job there, but was just barely too young. Teri, the mom of one of my friends, worked in one of the offices and tried to find me something but 14 didn’t make the cut.
I’m sure I stayed all day that first day. The first day of many, many to come exploring such things a 14-yr-old could only dream of.
Tomorrow is May 1, twenty-five years to the day that the 1982 World’s Fair opened.
What’s Knoxville doing on May 1 to commemorate it?
Nothing. Well, except apparently a news conference on Tuesday to announce what they’re going to do.
The Knoxville News Sentinel and several of the local television stations have taken up some of the slack, however. On Sunday, the Sentinel published a special insert retrospective, with lots of detailed referenced material on their website. There’s not much on the TV station websites, though I’ve seen some things on the channels themselves. WBIR in particular will be running several special reports during the week, including Live at Five broadcasting from the Fair site Tuesday.
Hey! Petro’s is running a nice promotion, 2 “special sized” Petros for $2.00 in honor of the World’s Fair 25th Anniversary. As you can read here, Petro’s were first introduced at the Fair – in the little Fritos bags, filled with chili and cheese and other stuff. Good on ya, Petro’s!
I’m just happy for all the memories. What I’d like to do is try and post as many of my own personal recollections on this site during the next 6 months, as well as mention several events that occurred during the run. Any other stories anyone would like to submit would be welcome..
Southern Graces to reopen Sunsphere (Knoxville News Sentinel, 04/13/07)
Southern Graces Catering & Events of Knoxville has signed a sublease for two floors within the Sunsphere, developers Brian Conley of Knoxville-based Cardinal Enterprises and Jon Kinsey of Chattanooga-based Kinsey Probasco Hays announced today.
Southern Graces plans to launch its Sunsphere operation in September. The “Café Floor” will be open to the public and serve lunch and snacks and provide bar service in the evening, Southern Graces president Bob Sukenik said in a statement.
The “Event Floor” will provide catering services for a variety of business and social events.
This is great news for Knoxville, as its most recognizable landmark will finally become functional again. I can’t wait for my kids to be able to travel up into it and take a look out like I did, 25 years ago.
Also in today’s News Sentinel, columnist Sam Venable relates a story someone sent him about some long-ago World’s Fair souvenirs:
Because next month marks the silver anniversary of the 1982 World’s Fair, the following message from Bill Waldrop of Tellico Village is quite timely:
“I have in my wine cellar (aka basement garage) a six-pack of World’s Fair beer I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Do you think it is significant that the cans have swollen into a profile shaped like Phil Fulmer?”
This is funny because I think my dad still has a couple of 6-packs of World’s Fair beer stored in our basement. I think we should take it out and open it on May 1st, and see what’s become of it.
I am glad, however, than another media person recognizes the 25th Anniversary of the World’s Fair opening is less than 18 days away.
WATE-TV and Gene Patterson seem to be aware of the pending anniversary:
In just a few weeks, Knoxville will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the start of the Knoxville International Energy Exposition. You may remember it as the 1982 World’s Fair.
I’m interested in your stories about the Fair. I may use them in some upcoming stories on the anniversary. Think about it.. Write in…
It’s interesting he mentions that Knoxville will soon be celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the World’s Fair. Does he mean the City of Knoxville has something planned? Or Knoxvillians in general, and by extension the media, will be the ones actually doing the commemorating?
A quick scan of the Knoxville City Government website doesn’t mention any kind of celebration or commemoration pending, and the events calendar lists nothing for May 1st except an unrelated event on Market Square and a golf tournament….