Expo ’74

Posted by - - 1970s, Revelers

In 1974, Spokane hosted the only major international exposition held in the U.S. during the ’70s. The World’s Fair, known as Expo ’74, attracted more than five million visitors to Spokane from May through October. The decade’s burgeoning environmental movement inspired the fair’s theme, “Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh, New Environment.”

In anticipation of the fair, Whitworth President Edward Lindaman addressed the campus community in a memo: “As you can readily understand, Whitworth College will make an impression on these thousands of visitors. That impression certainly will influence future patterns of enrollment, financial support of the college, and the attitude toward Whitworth in communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

Whitworthians seized on the opportunities the fair presented. Expo-On-Campus was a student-run service that hosted fairgoers on campus during the summer months. Students handled reservations, scheduling, planning, program and support services. Craig Grant, ’76, Ken Onstot, ’76, Teresa Emmons, ’75, and Dave Brown, ’75, administered the program and managed the students who were hired to greet and host visitors. By May 2, Whitworth had booked reservations for 35,000 guest nights. Visitors were housed in Arend, Baldwin-Jenkins, Stewart, Warren and the Village for $5 per bed the first night and $4.50 each additional night. The dining hall provided meals, and students offered on-campus activities for visitors, including an art exhibit and workshops in ballet, modern dance and ceramics. “Expo-On-Campus” netted $30,000 for the college.

In addition to hosting fairgoers on campus, Whitworth built a 200-seat children’s theatre at the fairgrounds in Riverfront Park. Whitworth secured the last available space and constructed a geodesic-dome structure through donations and loans from faculty, students, administrators and other donors. The theatre was operated by Al Gunderson, Whitworth’s speech and drama department chair, who worked with a team of student actors and technicians. The theatre charged $1 admission for children and $1.50 for adults for its thrice-daily, 50-minute shows. A less-than-ideal location and high operating costs forced the theatre to shut down in September to prevent additional financial loss.

During the summer of ’74, as Congress carried out impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Richard Nixon, Whitworth students engaged in political activism at the fair, demonstrating and presenting fairgoers with impeachment petitions to sign. Nixon resigned the presidency on Aug. 9. Students also sold “Exploit ’74” T-shirts in the campus bookstore, as a satirical jab at the commercialism behind the fair’s environmental focus.

Whitworth President Edward Lindaman, a futurist, was the featured presenter at Expo ’74’s final symposium, “Creating the Future: Agendas for Tomorrow.” He viewed the fair’s environmental theme with optimism, saying, “No one can begin to solve the world’s problems at a world level. We can only start where we are. Where we are now is Spokane. And Spokane is moving.”