Let’s Talk About….. Expo ’74

Did you attend Expo ’74 in Spokane? Do you realize that that was 50 years ago? I expect that there will be many activities and celebrations marking that anniversary during the coming year. 

How did Expo ’74 get started? And how come in Spokane?

A little booklet titled Spokane: Background to Expo ’74 by Dr. William B. Merriam, Professor Emeritus at WSU, provided lots of background to answer those questions.

In the early 1960s, Spokane began to undergo a change from a perceived “overgrown country town” into a city with the civic leadership, the resources, the courage and imagination to conceive and stage an Expo ’74. 

Through the 60s and into the 70s, plans to “make Spokane better” were snowballing. River bank beautification was a top priority. Back in 1913, the Olmstead Brothers had offered to design a Great Gorge Park to extend from the city center past the then Natatorium Park and Fort Wright. Obviously, their proposal was never acted upon. But rediscovered their report, and reading their words, helped push Expo ’74 along: “Nothing is so firmly impressed on the mind of the visitor to Spokane as the great gorge into which the river falls near the center of the city. The city should preserve what beauty and grandeur remains of its river gorge.” 

All the ideas, thoughts and plans came together by 1973 when promotion and construction feverishly began. Much demolition was required along with re-designing and landscaping. 

“By spring of 1974, Spokane was set for the opening, on time, of the biggest event in the city’s history…. Expo’74…conceived, planned, promoted and constructed in record time.”

Do you have a memory from Expo ’74 that you’d be willing to share? If so, let me know, please. My memory is of our 7-year-old son getting lost in the crowds and finding him, in tears,  being held and soothed by a handsome Black man who was selling cotton candy on the Washington street bridge.