Sunday, September 14, 2008

Scruffy Little City

Every community has its stories, its history. Just like in families, these bits and pieces come together to define the essence and character of a place. We tell these stories to new generations to strengthen that sense of belonging. We share these stories with others to give them a sense of what we're all about.
I often show you the details of this place that I call home, but today I'm pulling back to the bigger picture to tell you the story of the Scruffy Little City and the 1982 World's Fair.
In 1974, the president of the Downtown Knoxville Association proposed the idea of hosting a World's Fair in Knoxville. At first the idea was met with skepticism - after all, how could a small city in the Mid-South achieve such a huge goal?  But the idea caught on, and city movers and shakers of the time lined up financing and exhibitors. The city secured an abandoned railway switching yard along Second Creek to transform from an eyesore into a beautiful fair site.
Of course there were critics, the biggest being the Wall Street Journal. The Journal published an article calling Knoxville "a scruffy little city on the banks of the Tennessee River" and opined that this fair would never see the light of day. They might as well have thrown rocks at a hornet's nest. East Tennessseans got riled up, as they say around here, and went on to create a successful fair.
Twenty-six years later, we still call our town the "scruffy little city," mostly with affection. The Sunsphere, one of the few remaining structures from the fair, is often lampooned, most notably in the Simpson's episode "Bart on the Road." We have World's Fair Park, with large lawns and a new interactive fountain that attracts parents and kids in the summer months. You can see the fountain (with kids) and the Sunsphere in the photo I took there this past Thursday.
All in all, the fair created a good legacy for new generations to enjoy. Not bad for a scruffy little city.

13 comments:

Steffe said...

Nice with a little help from the Wall Street Journal :-)

Laurie said...

That snooty Wall Street Journal! Just like 'em to underestimate Tennessee's capabilities.

I never knew this about Knoxville -- and I think it's great. THanks for a great, informative post today Miss Knox.

Tanya said...

LOL, who cares what the Wall Street Journal thinks, how uppity of them ha!
What a nice read Knoxville :)

babooshka said...

That's a bit like the Times sticking their snobby nose into any town in the UK. Stuff the WS Journal up it's tight assed backside! Knovillle looks pretty good to me.

Virginia said...

Leave it to Babooshka to settle the issue. I am laughing so hard I can't type. Fountains and orange port a potties. What more can you ask for in a town??

marley said...

The power of 'We can do it' thinking! Great legacy and a great tale too :)

Jim said...

I love the foutains and the sphere looks like Reunion tower in Dallas.

Hilda said...

No, not bad at all!

Okay, I'm officially weird: your tale brought tears to my eyes. I've always rooted for the underdog — it's a personality flaw ;) — and I just love how Knoxville rose up to prove its critics wrong. Bravo!

Ming the Merciless said...

Good for Knoxville!

Just goes to show the Wall Street Journal isn't all that smart.

Ming the Merciless said...

To respond to your question: yes, Bryant Park is usually very crowded especially during lunch hour because it's in midtown where all the offices are located.

Plus the day I took this photo (last Wednesday) the weather was exceedingly beautiful -- sunny, cool and low humidity.

But the heat and humidity came back with a vengeance today.

Tash said...

Great story! A (scruffy) little city that COULD! What's great is that the place is still enjoyed - those little girls are having so much fun. Excellent photo of it too.
So RE the bag contents - I could not even imagine a unique combo like that! never, ever - I just love it!

Leedra said...

You have a great photo of the Sphere. I had been thinking about where I should photograph it from. I am around here late afternoon. Just have not decided yet. You did good.

crittoria said...

What a great story! It's so nice when people work together to create something, especially something as memorable as a World's Fair!!