It’s hard to believe there was a time that I didn’t think about theme park history. For so many years, I traveled to Walt Disney World and thought only about what it meant to me right then but not so much about how it fell into pop culture history, or how the actual attractions I would see from year to year actually were born somewhere else.
That’s why this community is so great. There are so many people who tirelessly research and publish books, blog posts, podcasts, etc., to educate even the newest Disney fan about this rich and interesting history. I had no idea that New York, specifically the World’s Fair, was a part of this. Up until last year, I had no idea that my dad had even attended the World’s Fair back in 1964-1965. (No wonder why he loves the Carousel of Progress so much.)
When we moved to Queens in the fall of 2012, I still hadn’t been to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the site of the World’s Fair in 1939 and 1964, even after years of passing the Unisphere on the Long Island Expressway on my way out to my first college and thinking how much it reminded me of Epcot. (It all makes sense now!)
So after years of this trip being on our to-do list, we finally made the trek out to Flushing this past Sunday during the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival. Truth be told, we didn’t know about this event until two weeks ago when James saw an ad at a bus stop. Even when we were researching, there wasn’t much info to be found — food trucks, fireworks, music, and tours. It sounded right up our alley and the perfect excuse to make our first trip out there. (Plus Sarah from Running at Disney was visiting — even better!)
It was a gorgeous day to “meet” the Unisphere.
Since we didn’t want to be there when it first opened, we decided to “beat the crowd”, have a laidback lunch, and head over on the 7 train afterwards. I guess this was our first mistake. Even though I had tried to look up any info I could before the event (I’m paranoid like that) nothing said there were “limited” tickets or “first come first serve” but sadly, the tour of the NY Pavilion was. Sarah, James, and I missed out on that but were able to take some pictures from the side.
The park was so bustling; we spent a good amount of time walking around and people watching. (Some people were dressed all dapper.) Finally, we decided to check out the Queens Museum. (This was the site of the NYC Pavilion from the 1939 World’s Fair.) There was a long line but we were told by a museum employee to walk around to the front and we would get right in. It was obvious they were not expecting this kind of crowd because the museum employees at the front desk looked shell-shocked and there were no pamphlets left. Also, there was a small admission fee (suggested: $8) which was not listed in the event itinerary.
The gem of the Queens Museum was the awesome Panorama of the City of New York. It was originally created for the World’s Fair of 1964-65 and went through various updates through the years. (The last one was in 1992.) Definitely intricate and interesting to see — it was worth the admission alone.
Upstairs, a World’s Fair exhibit contained tickets, souvenirs, and more. It was a small collection but fun to see. (I would have bought most of these items.) It was also amazing to see how much renderings from 1939 reminded me of Spaceship Earth. I couldn’t stop staring.
Afterwards, we failed at getting some snacks. (The Belgian waffle truck line had over an hour wait; where are the Magic Bands when you need them!) But we did catch Liverpool Shuffle, a Beatles tribute band, take the stage and I was instantly transported to the United Kingdom in Epcot. Since it was getting chillier and Sarah had to head back home, James and I decided to take the train back to our apartment to grab some heavier jackets and take a break before the fireworks that evening.
Despite some misses, we did have impeccable timing for one thing — the fountains springing to life around the Unisphere. (And also the lady who decided to bring her pet cat to enjoy the festivities.)
Super glad we decided to head back, even if it meant missing an amazing selection of tunes from the Queens Symphony Orchestra. I barely get to see organized fireworks outside of Disney trips so it was really fun to see them in the middle of the park, and also with some Disney friends. (You can always count on bumping into some of them at events like this!)
All in all, I’m really glad we went out to celebrate the World’s Fair Anniversary at the park. There wasn’t much coverage on the event (I’m surprised) but this article from BroadwayWorld says 60,000 people spent their Sunday hanging out and enjoying the activities. Isn’t that amazing? I hope those who organized realize the interest in the space and the history, and will coordinate more events in the future. (Perhaps with more disclosure on the events going on, and a bit more organization too.) Of course, the long term goal is to repair the dilapidated landmarks and give them some kind of purpose again. We will have to wait to see what happens with that.
In the meantime, there are a bunch of World’s Fair events happening in Queens throughout the summer. If you are in town, be sure to check out the calendar.