ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Decline and Renewal of World's Fairs

Updated on January 16, 2022
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

The Sunsphere in Downtown Knoxville, retained after the fair.
The Sunsphere in Downtown Knoxville, retained after the fair. | Source

The 1982 Knoxville Fair in Tennessee

The 1982 Knoxville World's Fair was somewhat well advertised on television, but poorly organized and disappointing.

Food concessions, were poorly stocked and manned: Many of the waitstaff seemed to be untrained; they stood and stared at you instead of taking your order. After two days at the fair, I found good service and good food only at the Korean Pavilion, where I also saw attractive advertisements for their upcoming turn at hosting a world's fair. Since that time, advertising for the fair dropped off considerably, as did media attention.

The Knoxville fair was dedicated to energy and sustainability, but fell flat, because the uproar of advertising for sustainability in the 1970s and Earth Day, began to wane until the 1990s in this part of the country.

The energy and cultural exhibits seemed unfinished and long lines to gain admission were even more frustrating after a disappointing experience in each venue. In one glaring example, the Panama pavilion was totally unoccupied, although I heard later that Caribbean Islanders took over the space.

As the ExpoMuseum website tells us, the 1982 World's Fair did not even have a mascot.

This was a miss of a good advertising opportunity. Six cartoon-like characters supposedly walked around the fair to pose for photographs, but we don't even know their names today.The rounded red flame that is the logo of the 1982 exposition has been seen on lapel buttons, sporting eyes and a big smile and this leads me to think that perhaps this "Burnie", as he was called, might have been a mascot.

Speaking of walkabouts, the fair was to host several strolling musical acts to entertain the crowds and I never saw a single one of them in two days. Neither did other visitors to the fair with whom I spoke.

The site of the fair covered over 70 acres, but the best thing about it was a trip across the bridge over the Tennessee River to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Thirty years later, that school and its grounds are still one of the best attractions in the city.

Another good thing about the Knoxville exposition is that is required the old rail yards in Downtown Knoxville to be reconstructed as other venues and this began an ongoing thrust toward urban revitalization and sustainability.

World's Fair Park and Festival, Knoxville TN:
World's Fair Park & Festival, 525 Henley St, Knoxville, TN 37902, USA

get directions

Bankruptcy and Prison

Mr. Jake Butcher had the idea for a World's Fair in Knoxville, and he was both CEO of United American Bank and the Chair of the Knoxville International Energy Exposition.

His bank went bankrupt, presumably from financing the fair, and he later went to prison. He was released from servitude on April 30, 1992 and became a car salesman for a time.

Lodging For the Fair

This was the early 1980s, well before the Internet and Price Line with William Shatner as The Negotiator.

Lodging for the millions of visitors to the Knoxville events was not well thought-out in the first month of the fair. Hotels and motels in the suburbs and downtown were booked quickly and the hotel on the fairgrounds itself was packed. In addition, the lobby of the fairgrounds hotel was always full of loitering non-guests, making it impossible to walk through it.

On Mackinac Island, that problem was solved very quickly by charging people $20.00 to come in and enjoy a seat in the lobby of the largest resort hotel or on the wraparound porch for the day.

Telephoning for rooms near Knoxville was an unpleasant chore, because I found many reservation operators rude, giving me completely inappropriate comments and using profanity. I kept calling and found a nice location about an hour away and my stay was quite pleasant there.

Future Advertising

After Knoxville, I never heard or saw another advertisement for a World's Fair. Advertising operated, but not to the extend as formerly promoted for earlier fairs, such as those in Seattle or even earlier in Montreal. Older friends still talk about those great expositions.

Knoxville World's Fair:
World's Fair Park Lawn, University of Tennessee, 1600 Worlds Fair Park Dr, Knoxville, TN 37916, USA

get directions

University of Tennessee:
University of Tennessee, 2407 River Dr, Knoxville, TN 37998, USA

get directions

In 2005, World's Fair Expositions have concentrated more heavily on sustainability and energy. There were no fairs in 2001, 2002, 2003, or 2004.

Moving Forward with World's Fairs 1982 - 2025

Data from Ohio State University archives.

  • 1982 Knoxville. 72 acres; Energy. Held May 1 (May Day) through October 31 (Halloween), 1982 and accumulated 11,000,000 visitors. I attended this fair during the first week of July.
  • 1984 New Orleans. 81.4 acres; "The World of Rivers - Fresh Water as a Source of Life." Records show 7.3 million guests. The architecture was said to be especially brilliant in its multi-use design and enjoyed by many visitors.
  • 1985 Tsukuba Science City outside Tokyo, Japan. 250 acres of science and technology designed to improve private dwellings in the future. Visitors I have spoken with found this fair very enjoyable and exciting; 20.3 million guests.
  • 1986 Vancouver, BC, Canada. 173 acres; "World in Motion - World in Touch"; 22.1 million guests.
  • 1988 Brisbane, Australia. "Leisure in the Age of Technology"; 11.1 million visitors.
  • 1992 Seville, Spain and Genoa, Italy (simultaneous fairs). "Discovery" and "Ships and the Sea." These fairs celebrated the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus having landed in the New World. We know that he was not the first non-native to discover it.
  • 1993 Taejon, South Korea. 62 acres; "The Challenge of a New Road of Development"; August 7 - November 7, 1993. 14,000,000 visitors.
  • 1998 Lisbon, Spain. 123 acres; "The Oceans, A Heritage for the Future"; 11 million guests.
  • 2000 Hanover, Germany. 395 acres. "Man, Nature, Technology"; 18.1 million visitors.
  • Five-Year Gap
  • 2005 Aichi Perfecture, Japan. 460 acres and 37 acres on two sites; "Nature's Wisdom"; 22 million visitors.
  • 2008 Zaragoza, Spain. 62 acres; "Water and Sustainable Development." "Only" 5.1 million guests.
  • 2010 Shanghai, China. 1305 acres. "Better City, Better Life." 73,000,000 visitors.
  • 2012 Yeosu, South Korea. 62 acres; "The Living Ocean and Coast: Diversity of Resources and Sustainable Activities." This fair was held for three months, from May through July. Attendance was 8, 203,956 visitors.
  • 2015 Milan, Italy. 272 acres; "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life." 22,200,000 visitors.
  • 2017 Astana Kazakhstan. The exposition will run three months with the theme "Energy of the Future." June 10 - September 10, 2017.
  • 2019 Beijing, China: Expo 2019
  • 2020, delayed to 2022 because of a pandemic. Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The theme is "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future", sub-themes being Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity.
  • 2023 Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 2025 Osaka, Japan

Decided in 2017, a World's Fair will be held every two years for either 3 months or 6 months. Smaller bid-winning cities will host smaller fairs, while large cities winning the fair will host much larger productions.

Korea World's Fair, Summer 2012

Dress Rehearsal, Opening Ceremony; By cmkhkd on Youtube; CC by 2.0

Yeosu, Korea; North of Jeju Island

Yeosu, Korea:
Yeosu-si, Jeollanam-do, South Korea

get directions

Jeju Island:
Jeju-do, South Korea

get directions


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)