World’s Fair celebration mimics the real World’s Fair — a great party followed by a stormy aftermath

1982 World’s Fair President Bo Roberts, left, with former Knoxville Mayor Randy Tyree, center, and Duane Grieve, executive director of the East Tennessee Community Design Center.

Forty years ago, I was a reporter for The Knoxville Journal. I covered business and city government, which meant, of course, that in 1982, I covered the World’s Fair.

The World’s Fair claims to have had 11 million visitors. That’s actually 11 million “visits.” I was at least 120 of those visits, as I was assigned to cover something there almost every day.

At the invitation of our great friends Duane and Marsha Grieve, we “returned” to the World’s Fair earlier this month as the East Tennessee Community Design Center, where Duane is executive director, hosted a very festive celebration of the World’s Fair — 40 years in the rear-view mirror.

The event was held on a sweltering Wednesday at the Amphitheater at World’s Fair Park. Our clever host cunningly commandeered a table directly in front of a “Big Ass Fan” — I swear, that’s really the name of it! And we enjoyed great live music, food from around the world and a short presentation featuring former Knoxville Mayor Randy Tyree and World’s Fair President Bo Roberts.

Fittingly, just as figurative legal clouds descended as the real World’s Fair drew to a close and the Feds raided and shut down the banks of Fair sponsors Jake and C.H. Butcher, actual rain clouds blew in near the end of our celebration. The silent auction was shut down early, bars closed and party-goers were told to get the heck out of there before lightning struck.

And just like at the real World’s Fair, we weathered the storm and looked back on it with fond memories despite the aftermath.

The evening started with a pre-party in the Sunsphere studio of photographer Bruce McCamish, left. He’s here with Jonn Craig who as a young man worked various jobs at the 1982 World’s Fair.

Here’s John’s name tag from back then!

McCamish saved a menu from the World’s Fair restaurant, which was in the Sunsphere. A close look shows that you could score a dinner of prime rib with Alaskan king crab legs for only $17.95!

Elsewhere in the Sunsphere, 1982 World’s Fair President Bo Roberts was signing copies of his book, “Forever Young.”

Vodka drinks from High Rock Vodka were served in glasses that looked like the Sunsphere!

Over at the amphitheater, caterer Holly Hambright was presiding over a sumptuous spread of international delights.

Hummus snacks from the Greece booth.

From left, Ronnie Collins, Knoxville Vice Mayor Andrew Roberto, City Councilmember Lynne Fugate, and Scott Fugate.

Egg rolls from the China booth.

Sharon Moore, left, and Kim Bumpas of Visit Knoxville.

Tacos from Mexico.

From left, Tim Hill, Nick Pavlis and Bill Pittman.

A bunch of other great nibbles from around the globe.

Scott Busby, president of the East Tennessee Community Design Center Board, and Margaret Butler.

And, of course, Petros, which were introduced to the world during the 1982 World’s Fair.

Fun, fun music was by Liquid Velvet.

What an outfit Lauren Kelley had!

Danielle Hemsley wore a LOT of 80s style makeup! Haha. Good job!

From left, Marcy Sanford, Cheryl Ball and Megan Venable.

Charles Smith, left, and Theotis Robinson. Both were involved with the 1982 World’s Fair: Smith as designer, Robinson as the Fair’s vice president of economic development.

Rick Blackburn with Samiyah Jubran, left, and Nada Kuchinic.

Alan Carmichael and our friend Fran Scheidt.

From lef, Micah Herren, Chip Barry and Travis Pyle.

Haha. Keith Richardson even found some deely bobbers — well, one at least! — from the World’s Fair.

Jon Cheek and Carrie Bearden were at the Grieves’ table, too.

Ellen Bebb and Alan Carmichael.

Here’s that “Big Ass Fan!”

Jenny Blackburn, left, and Ghada Eid.

From left, Grant Rosenberg, City Councilmember Lauren Rider, Lara Fleming, Cheryl Ball, Jamie Ballenger and Mike Holden.

Finbarr Saunders, left, Mary Fran Darwin and Ed Shouse.

Centerpieces featured Rubik’s cubes — and thumbprint cookies.

Some even had World’s Fair beer!

From left, Amy Styles, Carey Parker and Linda Billman.

From left, Bill Bruce, Sharon and Bruce Bossie.

Duane Grieve making remarks. Notice the big Rubik’s cubes! The 1982 World’s Fair claimed to have had the largest one ever.

Scott Busby making comments.

Bo Roberts, left, was presented with a commemorative picture of World’s Fair Park by Grieve and Busby.

They also presented Kim Bumpas of Visit Knoxville with a check for $36,000 for the Sunsphere’s restoration fund.

About that time, we heard an announcement that the bars and silent auction were closing immediately because a storm with heavy lightning was going to arrive at World’s Fair Park in about 15 minutes!

Here’s the sky as we ran past the Sunsphere on our way home! We barely made it!





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9 Responses to World’s Fair celebration mimics the real World’s Fair — a great party followed by a stormy aftermath

  1. Dawn Ford, on August 26th, 2022 at 11:11 am said:

    Unfortunately we were out of town and had to miss this party. I remember taking our son Christopher to dinner in the Sunsphere when he was just a kid! Such great memories.

  2. Alan Carmichael, on August 26th, 2022 at 3:35 pm said:

    Bo asked the crowd to say with him: “We’re not scruffy!” And they did.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on August 26th, 2022 at 3:38 pm said:

    Dawn: How special!

    Alan: I agree! We’re NOT scruffy. (At least not mostly!)

  4. Kathy Brennan, on August 26th, 2022 at 8:46 pm said:

    Thank you Cynthia for this reporting. Regrettably I was not able to attend the gathering.
    My mother was one of the seamstress’s for “Sing Tennessee”. She had a ball, the “kids” called her Mama Reynolds. They had a special bond, love and respect. I met them
    all, great kids! And then again as guests when we visited Opryland, where most performed after the Worlds Fair. I have her large box of Worlds Fair memorabilia.

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on August 27th, 2022 at 9:37 am said:

    Kathy: Wow! How special!

  6. Rusha Sams, on August 28th, 2022 at 11:46 am said:

    Lots of smiles from lots of happy people . . . even in the sweltering heat. Thanks for posting and reminding me of how much fun the World’s Fair was for us Knoxvillians.

  7. Marsha Grieve, on August 31st, 2022 at 11:45 am said:

    Great pictures, Cynthia. So glad you and Alan were there!

  8. Julian Forrester, on November 15th, 2022 at 3:34 pm said:

    I was in charge of the World Festival at the Fair. My memories are vivid and I miss the many friends I made in Knoxville. Great to see a reunion 40 years on.

  9. Bo Roberts, on December 13th, 2022 at 3:16 pm said:

    I just saw this Cynthia, Leigh forwarded it to me. It was a fun night, fun people, at a fun place. You did a great job presenting the flavor of the evening, thanks for doing that and I’m so glad I got to see it.

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