Summer Guide 2024: Expo 50 Fun

There's still plenty of time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Expo '74 with these groovy events

click to enlarge Summer Guide 2024: Expo 50 Fun
James Richman photo
The Pavilion and Clock Tower are Spokane's most recognizable Expo '74 relics.

This May marked 50 years since Spokane hosted the 1974 World's Fair Exposition, a huge feat for a city of its size and a major turning point in regional history. New events celebrating the 50th anniversary are still popping up each week, with tons of local organizations getting involved in the festivities, and Expo-themed activities happening literally every day throughout the summer.

Whether you're looking to get outside and celebrate nature while walking through Riverfront Park, or you're hoping to learn more about potential environmental legislation that picks up where Expo's efforts left off 50 years ago, there's an activity to participate in.

SEE IT FOR YOURSELF

You can't have a 50th anniversary celebration without plenty of nostalgia. Thankfully, local institutions have been preparing for months to bring a blast of sentimentality and education via art shows, memorabilia showcases, exhibits and more.

Catch the River Ridge Association of Fine Arts' Expo '74 Show at Indaba Coffee's Riverside cafe through June 30. If history is your forté, swing by the Pavilion to see the Expo '74 Historic Timeline Outdoor Exhibit (through July 4). Each stop on the timeline marks a pivotal moment of Expo and its legacy of environmental consciousness.

Beginning in July, local artists Gina Freuen, Jo Fyfe, Tom Quinn, E.L. Stewart, Gordon Wilson and others showcase their Expo-themed art at Spokane Art School (July 5-26). Downtown Spokane record shop Entropy is also hosting an "Expo 50 Group Show" in July for a double-whammy of Expo goodness.

Spokane's Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture is the place to be for Expo buffs and out-of-towners alike. From the sparkly jumpsuit worn by Liberace to letters detailing concerns about having then-President Richard Nixon speak at the opening ceremonies amid the Watergate scandal, the collection showcased in "It Happened Here: Expo '74 Fifty Years Later" (up through Jan. 26, 2025) is nothing short of mind boggling. In the next room over, take a seat and watch about 30 minutes worth of archival fair footage in "Expo '74: Films from the Vault" (through Sept. 8).

Wanna see even more memorabilia? The Spokane County Library District is showcasing Expo '74 memorabilia through July to celebrate people's memories of the fair. Displays are open for viewing July 1-31 at the following county library branches: North Spokane, Medical Lake, Airway Heights, Deer Park, Otis Orchards and Moran Prairie. Visit scld.org for more information.

Spokane Valley Heritage Museum's "All Fairs Lead to Expo '74" exhibit runs through Sept. 2 and details the history of fairs in the region from 1886 up to the 1974 World's Fair with signs, original Expo gondola cars and more.

click to enlarge Summer Guide 2024: Expo 50 Fun
Young Kwak photo
There's plenty of Expo '74 nostalgia to be had this summer.

LIGHT UP THE NIGHT

The Great Northern Railroad Depot that once sat in Spokane's center was demolished to make way for Expo. All that remains today is the Great Northern Clocktower, an iconic fixture of the city's skyline. The Pavilion in Riverfront Park was a gift from the United States government, and housed the fair's U.S. exhibits. Its tent-like cable structure and flashing lights serve as an ever-present reminder of the World's Fair that changed our city for the better. These two landmarks with rich ties to Expo's history are lit up every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights culminating in a final light show on July 4 to round out the ongoing, nine-week calendar of Expo celebrations. More at visitspokane.com/expo-50.

MAKE A CHANGE

Expo '74 was the first-ever environmentally-themed world's fair. It was officially known as the International Exposition on the Environment and the theme was promoted through several events, such as a symposium on United Nations World Environment Day attended by many international representatives. Yet it was still said that not enough policymakers attended Expo, and as a result policies to combat global warming or climate change were never put into place during the fair's run.

The Expo '74 Legislative Summit (June 21) hosted by the Lands Council aims to pick up where Expo left off. At the summit, legislators and local experts plan to craft legislation on six locally important topics. The proposed bills will then be sponsored in the Washington Legislature's 2025 session and could become law if passed. For more information and to register, visit landscouncil.org.

The League of Women Voters of Spokane Area is partnering with the Spokane County Library District to host community conversations about the current climate crisis. The final discussion takes place on June 27 at the Deer Park Library. If you're interested in attending, check out the organization's recommended reading list, which includes books for children, teens and adults that aim to provide educational lessons about climate change. Become informed, talk with your community, and learn how to make real change with fellow environmentalists. Head to my.lwv.org/washington/spokane-area for more information.

click to enlarge Summer Guide 2024: Expo 50 Fun
Photo courtesy of the MAC
Expo completely transformed downtown Spokane's core.

HISTORIC JOURNEYS

Expo was all about protecting the environment and cherishing the beauty of the natural world. So the best way to celebrate Expo's 50th anniversary is to enjoy the nature that exists within the city and the region while learning how Expo changed the landscape forever.

Take a guided kayak tour hosted by Spokane Parks and Rec starting at Upriver Park and travel down to the Division Street Bridge while learning how Expo's beautification efforts changed the land around the river (June 28-29). Head to my.spokanecity.org to register.

The Sierra Club of Washington State is hosting Restoring Salmon (July 6), a three-hour carpool tour highlighting efforts to restore salmon in the Upper Columbia and Spokane rivers. Begin by revisiting Spokane's railroad history, then head to Nine Mile Dam and the confluence of the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers, and finish at Aquifer Springs below Dead Man's Hill to discuss the importance of the aquifer in providing clean, flowing water for salmon.

click to enlarge Summer Guide 2024: Expo 50 Fun
Young Kwak photo
The citywide celebration of Expo's legacy continues through the summer.

BOOGIE DOWN

The 1970s were an ideal time for an environmental world's fair because so much music about the climate crisis was coming out at the time: "A Day in the Life of a Tree" by the Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)" by Marvin Gaye.

Celebrate the music of the era at the Imagine Jazz Festival (June 23) when many local jazz bands and student groups perform '70s hits in Riverfront Park's Lilac Bowl.

Speaking of local talent, who doesn't love some healthy competition? Spokane's Got Talent: Expo '74 edition (June 20), produced in partnership with the Spokane Civic Theatre, promises to immerse the audience in groovy vibes as community members perform various talents in front of a panel of judges. Cheer on your favorite local musicians, singers and magicians as they participate in this '70s-themed showcase.

If you're the type of person who loves a theme, head to a Silent Disco on June 22 in the alley between Main and Wall streets. Each guest gets a pair of wireless headphones blasting disco hits. So practice your hustle, because it's time to get funky. For even more Expo 50 events, visit expo50spokane.com. ♦

Disability Pride Celebration @ Riverfront Park

Sat., July 27, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • or

Madison Pearson

Madison Pearson is the Inlander's Listings Editor, managing the calendar of events and covering everything from local mascots to mid-century modern home preservation for the Arts & Culture section of the paper. She joined the staff in 2022 after completing a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Washington...