IN THE BEGINNING
Over the past century our nation hosted many World’s Fairs – in large cities like New York and San Francisco, and in dynamic regional ones – most recently in Spokane, Seattle, San Antonio, Knoxville and New Orleans. These global gatherings proved to be the preeminent place to introduce new technologies and to unveil exquisite art and culture. World’s Fairs enthralled millions of visitors with new ideas and innovations – connecting them to important global influences. Young visitors were forever changed by visions of the future that spawned new generations of scientists, engineers, and artists.
BUT THEN WE STOPPED
In 2001 the U.S. federal government decided to stop paying dues to the international coordination body, the Bureau of International Expositions and this ended our long history of hosting fairs – but they continued in other nations, Expos, as World’s Fairs are often called, occur every few years. Large ones are organized every five years with a smaller on in-between. In 2010, 70 million visitors came to Shanghai EXPO in China and the 2012 the Yeosu Expo in Korea attracted 8 million. In 2015, tens of millions will flock to Milan and in 2017 it’s in Kazakhstan.
MANY ARE WORKING TO BRING THE WORLD’S FAIR BACK TO THE UNITED STATES
Diverse groups across the country want our nation to host World’s Fairs again. Some believe this could greatly enhance efforts to promote STEM – the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. There are a number of cities and regions that want to capture the power of World’s Fairs to drive economic growth. Others are looking to “brand” their regions to attract new residents, tourists, students and businesses. Houston, for example, has developed a strong team prepared to be a host city. The Bay Area Council, a business association representing both Silicon Valley and San Francisco, believes that hosting a World’s Fair is an effective way to firmly anchor their global high tech leadership. Community leaders in Philadelphia have recently begun talking about hosting a World’s Fair.