Farragut Museum exhibit stirs World’s Fair memories

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

I remember the 1982 World’s Fair like it was … 40 years ago. I was 16 when the world came to Knoxville, so my memories were made before my brain was fully developed. I don’t recall much about the energy technology exhibited by the 22 countries represented at the fair, but I do remember the chicken dance.


If I had been three years older, the Strohaus might’ve been my favorite part of the fair, but instead, it was the midway, with its giant Ferris wheel. When friends and family visited to attend the fair, the midway was always the first stop.

My Oak Ridge dance company performed at the fair a couple of times, and we thought we were a big deal when we danced at the Tennessee Amphitheater.

I don’t know if I actually went inside the China pavilion, but I do know I fell in love with eggrolls at the fair. Other random memories are the world’s largest Rubik’s cube, the light-up musical spaceship that led the nightly parade and the excitement over unwrapping the mummy from Peru.

These recollections were rekindled this summer as Knoxville celebrated the 40th anniversary of the World’s Fair. Now, the Farragut Museum is getting into act with an exhibition of mementos from the fair. The collection of items, loaned by members of the Farragut Museum committee, includes World’s Fair beer, souvenir pins and newspaper articles. If you’re like me and you have fond but faded memories of the 1982 World’s Fair, this exhibit will help you remember.

Farragut Mayor Ron Williams loaned a souvenir Coca-Cola bowl that came with the purchase of a coupon book. He stopped by to share a few of his own fair memories. He traveled back and forth between California and the east coast in those days, and he bought a season pass so he could attend when he was in town for business.

His recollections primarily involve food. He enjoyed The Butcher Shop that allowed customers to choose and even cook their own meat. He also spent time at the Strohaus, although he never did the chicken dance. Stroh’s beer was popular then, with bit of cult following, he says.

He was single at the time, but recalls posing beside the water for a photo with his wife, T.C.

“It was a fun time,” he says of the fair. “Every time you went, you’d see something you hadn’t seen before.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing about looking back at the 1982 World’s Fair, the last successful World’s Fair to be held in the U.S., is remembering the technologic marvels that were showcased. The Ford Motor Co. exhibit had a Lincoln Town Car with a built-in car phone. ORNL had a computer with touch-screen technology. Texaco had an exhibit that let customers try out pay-at-the-pump technology.

It’s hard to believe these were new concepts when I was 16. At least the chicken dance hasn’t changed.

The Farragut Museum is located inside Farragut Town Hall at 11408 Municipal Center Drive. Hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Town of Farragut communications manager Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.

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