World’s Fair enthusiasts or those simply curious about what the 1982 event was all about have a six-month plethora of ways to learn about the event – about 300 all told, Visit Knoxville’s Kim Bumpas says.
Front and center is “You Should’ve Been There,” an interactive exhibit at the Museum of East Tennessee History, where memorabilia and more can be found.
“We’ve tried to be the flagship to help Knoxville celebrate,” says Dr. Warren Dockter, president and CEO of the East Tennessee Historical Society, which operates the museum. “It’s a really important historical moment in time, and one that’s particularly interesting because of its impact on East Tennessee. A lot of things were there, such as the wind turbines at the Australia Pavilion, that were new then and very commonplace now.”
The exhibit focuses on the run-up to the fair as one enters the door and includes touchscreens from sponsor Elo – a technology that was introduced at the fair. Interactive screens take visitors through the various pavilions and exhibits. Along the way, wall panels show and tell about events leading up to the fair, and recollections from some of its creators and major supporters about how they went about getting the financing and approvals needed to make it happen.
There’s also a selfie wall, fair-themed outfits and the many, many types of souvenirs one could purchase.
“We have a pretty significant collection of materials in terms of documents and artifacts,” Dockter says. “We also had help from a lot of people, such as sports director and Olympic medalist Bill Schmidt, who gave us a tremendous collection of posters. Many people don’t remember all the sporting activity that went on during the fair, the competitions.
“We have one poster for a swimming relay that still has the USSR as a participant on it, even though they boycotted the fair after the United States boycotted their Olympics after they invaded Afghanistan in 1980.’’
The chicken dance is there, complete with instructional video. So is World’s Fair Beer.
“You can learn how to do the dance, but there’s none of the original beer to drink,” Dockter says. “We only have a lot of empty cans. But we did have a beer expo in April where 25 breweries all around Knoxville each came up with a beer inspired by one of the countries that was at the fair.
“We did find some of the original, and I drank some of it on live television.”
“It was pretty awful, like some of the music that was created for the fair. We have that, too.”
— Joe Morris