Sunday, May 1, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 5, No. 1936


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Thirty-four years ago today, May 1, 1982, the 1982 International Energy Exposition opened here in Knoxville.   President Ronald Wilson Reagan was in town to speak at the opening ceremonies directed by nationally known television personality, singer and Tennessee native Dinah Shore.

The President said...

"It is a special pleasure for me to be the shadow of the Sunsphere, a symbol of energy potential, near the banks of the Tennessee River.  All Americans can be proud of this World's Fair (which will be host) to the representatives of 22 nations.  Americans welcome the world to Tennessee."

The World's Fair site, located between downtown Knoxville and the campus of the University of Tennesseeincluded a 266 foot steel tower topped with a five story gold globe known as the Sunsphere*. The theme of the fair was "Energy Turns the World."

Participants in the 1982 World's Fair included the following nations...

Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United States & West Germany.

Exhibits included an unwrapped mummy at the Peru Exhibition and a giant size Rubik's  Cube outside the Hungarian Exhibition.  New inventions displayed at the fair included Coca-Cola's Cherry Coke, Petro's chili and chips, and thirty-three AccuTouch or touch screen television displays.

The touch screens, developed by Dr. Sam Hurst of nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, were forerunners of modern cell phone displays.  A cell phone was also on display at the fair.

The idea for the fair was presented by the president of the Downtown Knoxville Association and Mayor Kyle Testerman chose banker Jake Butcher to head a committee and became the driving force of the 1982 World's Fair. Unfortunately, Mr. Butcher, after making possible one of the most popular world's fairs in U.S. history, plead guilty to bank fraud in 1985 and served seven years in prison. 

The Knoxville World's Fair closed on October 31, 1982 after welcoming 11 million visitors.

*Sunsphere was designed by Community Tectonics of Knoxville.  The design was intended to symbolically represent the 865,000 mile diameter of the sun. It features glass panels layered in 24 karat gold dust.


"I Wouldn't Be Here Without the 1982 World's Fair," by Adam Clark Estes, Paleofuture,

The Sunsphere
 Knoxville, Tennessee
Photo by John White (1982)

1982 World's Fair
Knoxville, Tennessee
Photo by John White (1982)