One Month

Yesterday was April 1, 2007.

In one month it will be May 1, the 25th Anniversary of the grand opening of the 1982 World’s Fair here in Knoxville, TN.

What is Knoxville planning to commemorate this silver anniversary of arguably the biggest, most important event to happen to this city?

As far as I can tell, nothing.

If anyone has heard of anything – anything at all – being done to honor or remember this date and occasion, please let me know and I’ll publicize it here.

Otherwise I guess we’ll all just have to celebrate quietly at home with friends….


April 2, 2007 at 2:27 pm 3 comments

Brother, Can You Spare $200,000?

Former US Rep. Kenneth Gray of Illinois bought the World’s Fair Energy Express train years ago and is now selling it on Ebay:


After the Knoxville International Energy Exhibition closed, Gray spent more than $150,000 on the Chinese, Egyptian and Philippines pavilions, the Federal Express theater, the front gate and the fair’s $375,000 train, the Energy Express.


But Gray, now 82, recently suffered a stroke. Now he can’t see himself driving the train to town for any more holiday displays. So he is selling it.

Interestingly, Rep. Gray left a comment on a recent post offering to sell me the train at what he says was his cost of $50,100:

I was there in 1982 at the World’s Fair and was do enthralledwith the World’s Fair Energy Express Train that I bought it at the end of the Fair along with some of the buildings.
I have had the train stored for all of these years with the exception of loaning it to our park during Christmas for the light expo.
I bought the train for $50,100.00 and will be wiilling to sell it back to you at no profit. if you are interested, call me at…

There is a phone number after that point, but I never called it – nor is there an email address attached the the name so I have no way of knowing if this was really him or not. But since it was commented weeks before this article, I have no reason to think anyone would hoax it or even know about it.

Well, if someone buys it for close to the asking price of $200,000 on Ebay, I’ll kick myself for passing up a $149,900 profit…

On another note, it says he also bought the Federal Express Pavilion at the same time he bought the train. I’d love to set that baby up in my back yard.


I wonder if it still has the movie(s) that ran in it? I must have watched those shows 100 times during the run of the fair – it was far and away my favorite pavilion during the fair. The music and images were memorable – I still remember some of the words to the songs, and for 1982 the laser shows (inside and outside) were spectacular. What I wouldn’t give to have a copy of that show on DVD….


January 3, 2007 at 12:40 pm

For The Cause

Chris runs another 25th Anniversary site at

Be sure and visit his site too!  Every little bit helps, and we need all the publicity for a 25th Anniversary celebration of the 1982 World’s Fair that we can get.

December 30, 2006 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

When We Were There – Part 1

I’m preparing to post a number of photos we took during the World’s Fair. Click on the thumbnails for larger versions.

As always, if you were there sometime during the 6-month run in 1982, please post a memory in comments.

Saudi Arabian pavilion
Saudi Arabian pavilion – if we knew then what we knew now…

Some awnings I believe near the Panamanian pavilion. Panama was the last nation to join, actually not arriving and opening their pavilion until after the Fair opened.

View of Tennessee Amphitheater from the skybuckets
View of Tennessee Amphitheater from the skybuckets

Federal Republic of Germany
The West German pavilion, or the pavilion of the Federal Republic of Germany. Interesting from an anachronistic point of view, but in reality one of the weakest of all the World’s Fair pavilions in terms of quality of show. No real artifacts or cultural presentations to speak of, but lots of boasting about energy progress.
The Mexican Pavilion
The Mexican Pavilion

The French Pavilion
The outside of the French Pavilion. On the whole, the pavilions from what they then called the EU (European Union) were fairly boring. Even for a techno geek like my 15-yr-old self, there was only so much an electronic diagram of energy consumption in the outlying surburbs of Nice could hold my attention…

Sheila outside the Fruit Stand, with US Pavilion
This is our family friend Sheila in front of the US Pavilion. Behind the photographer is the fruit stand where her son Tim worked, that was sponsored by Kroger foods and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

My brother and I outside the Kroger Fruit Stand
My brother and I outside the Kroger Fruit Stand. This stand sold fresh, cool fruit that was a Godsend on hot summer days and my traditional first stop when arriving at the fair in of my 42 trips. It was located on the deck just beneath the Sunsphere and inside the Henley Street Gate. There was an intricate neon mural on the wall above the Fruit Stand that stayed up and lit for a while after the Fair was over. I miss it.

I’ll leave it to you to guess which one is me and which is my brother.

Performers at the Elm Tree Theatre
The Elm Tree Theatre was nestled between some of the European pavilions, near the site of where today stands the Knoxville Museum of Art. The Elm Tree had stood for many, many years in that spot and rather than chop it down to build the Fair, they built around it and made it into a cool outdoor theatre. One of the many innovative approaches the designers made. Notice the Buddy’s BBQ stand in the back – you can imagine what it smelled like sitting there watching a show…

I saw Jimmie “J.J.” Walker perform there one night where he made his famous “Falkland Islands” joke. Ask me.

The top of the Elm Tree Theatre
View from the top of the Elm Tree Theatre. Mmmm…smell that barbecue!

Windmills outside the Australian Pavilion
Ah, the famous Australian windmills. The Aussies had one of the coolest pavilions at the Fair and there was even a “back door” pub serving Aussie beer. The specific memories have faded about what was inside – what I wouldn’t give to go back and walk through it all again…

American Flag at the US Pavilion
One of my favorite shots. The Sunsphere framed by a giant hanging American flag from the US Pavilion. Just gorgeous.

Outside the EU Pavilion
A generic catch-all pavilion for the European Union. I’m not sure what this person is doing in front – probably the traditional, “Oops!” duck when someone walks in front of a camera taking a photo.

Outside the Candy Factory
Walking outside the (then) newly renovated and restored Candy Factory. One of the several restoration projects on old buildings at the Fair site, the Candy Factory still remains. It’s getting ready to be re-re-renovated into condos now.

Funny, this view’s not much different than it is today. Except for the giant mutant lollipops, of course.

Cloggers on the Court of Flags
The 1982 World’s Fair meant Knoxville, and Knoxville means cloggers. Can’t have one without the other, so here they are on the Court of Flags – the central performance space of the Fair. This area hung around for several years after the Fair, before it was finally torn up and rebuilt into…well, nothing really.


December 22, 2006 at 9:18 am 2 comments

Tennessee Amphitheater Repair Update

Creator’s plan may save Tennessee Amphitheater without breaking bank (Knoxville News Sentinel – 12/14/06)

In between the all-or-nothing options presented to Knoxville City Council last month, a more affordable fix now is being considered for the aging Tennessee Amphitheater at World’s Fair Park.

With some free assistance from local architect Doug McCarty, who designed the one-of-kind tent structure in 1980, city officials say the replacement of its rusting steel trusses could be enough to resurrect the site as a viable performance venue.

Council members reviewed four options at a November workshop, ranging from the most expensive option, a $3.4 million full renovation, to complete demolition for about $655,000.

The latest idea is to replace the four flawed trusses that support the main tent, along with a few smaller improvements to meet building codes, which could cost about $850,000, said Jeff Galyon, senior project manager for the Public Building Authority, which manages the site.

I think this is a great idea. If you’re going to spend a minimum of $655,000 to demolish the structure anyway, why not tack on the extra $200,000 and fix the part of the amphitheater that actually needs fixing?

It’s a shame almost a whole generation of people in Knoxville have never seen a show at theTennessee Amphitheater. I’ve actually performed there a few times, mostly when I was still at UT. It’s really a fun venue, although it can get a little dicey when storms start coming through (been there).

I once posted about watching Red Skelton perform there back during the World’s Fair – just today Brad Zinn, the Skelton impressionist that inspired that post, commented with some interesting information about Red Skelton. If you’re a Skelton fan, go back and read the post and read his comment.

Here are some shots we took of the Amphitheater during the Fair:

A show being performed in the Tennessee Amphitheater during the World’s Fair
A performance at the Amphitheater during the Fair – either Up With People! or “Sing Tennessee” (the signature show)

The Tennessee Amphitheater flanked by the U.S. Pavilion.
The Tennessee Amphitheater flanked by the U.S. Pavilion. Note the skylifts that traveled from one end of the park to the other.

December 14, 2006 at 10:02 am 3 comments

Back to the Beginning… Part 3

Here’s Part 3 of WBIR-TV10’s feature on the beginning of the World’s Fair.

I was there that day, in the mass marching band assembled from various high school bands all over the area.  From where I stood, I could clearly see Ronald Reagan behind his podium (and bullet-proof glass, having taken one the year before) and deliver his speech.

September 13, 2006 at 11:39 pm 2 comments

Red Skelton

Red SkeltonYesterday I was in attendance at the Covenant Platinum Awards at the Knoxville Convention Center, an event honoring area seniors. The entertainment was provided by Brad Zinn, who did a tribute to comedians of the past with impressions, songs, and good humor.

One of the comedians he paid tribute to was Red Skelton. I realized as I sat and watched that almost 25 years ago I had sat in almost the exact general location and seen the real Red Skelton perform at the Tennessee Ampitheatre.

It was a night near the end of the run of the 1982 World’s Fair, and as dusk fell many, many people began pouring into the area surrounding the Waters of the World. I found a place with my family on the other side of the manmade lake from the Ampitheatre, near the Power Substation that was used simultaneously as a power grid and an exhibit for the energy-themed fair. The managers of the Ampitheatre opened up the removable back wall so everyone could see Mr. Skelton perform, almost in the round.

He held the audience in thrall for a good while, and not only entertained us with his clowning, mimicry and general silliness, if I recall correctly he recited his inspirational one-word-at-a-time explanation of the Pledge of Allegiance. If you’ve never heard Red Skelton perform this bit, you should try to find a recording somewhere because it makes you think about the Pledge as you never have before.

That was one of the highlights of that summer at the fair to me, and I was glad for the memories the performer brought back to me yesterday as he, too, did Skelton doing the Pledge of Allegiance.

Was anybody else at that original Red Skelton performance 25 years ago?

UPDATE (12/14/06) : The comedian who performed his Red Skelton impression commented on this post – read what he says about Skelton’s life, it’s very interesting.

He also provided a link to hear Red Skelton recite his “Pledge of Allegiance”:

September 1, 2006 at 3:09 pm 12 comments

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Remember the Date

The 25th Anniversary of the 1982 World's Fair is on May 1, 2007. Mark your calendars!

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