Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Orleans Is A World's Fair Kind Of Town, 1884 & 1984 - Part 1

Blogger's Note:  Most of us can remember the 1984 New Orleans World's Fair.  Gigantic fiberglass mermaids alluring guests at the entrance; a monorail; a startlingly tall gondola lift that would take guests across the Mississippi River to the Westbank; and a pelican (the Louisiana State Bird) as Fair mascot, Seymore D. Fair.  What many may not remember, is this was not our city's first time hosting a World's Fair.  In 1884, the World Cotton Centennial was held in New Orleans at a time when nearly one third of all cotton produced in the United States was handled through her ports.  Plagued from the onset by scandal and 'dirty politics', both Fairs had their share of obstacles to overcome: one being the first ever to declare bankruptcy during its run; the other losing its nearly $2 million dollar operating budget before doors could open.  Compare these two World's Fairs and you will find a commonality, a rare spectacle of food, music, and culture, celebrating New Orleans on a national stage.

From the WYES website article A Fair to Remember:

(Above) Print Logo: A noted pelican, and Louisiana State Bird, Seymore D. Fair, was the official mascot of the 1984 New Orleans World's Fair.

"Filled with wonderful memories, the ... (World's Fair was a place of) ... endless amusement in the Amphitheatre; Aquacade; The Jazz and Gospel Tent; Fulton Street, an entertainment strip, The Great Hall, which after the fair became the New Orleans Convention Center; The Water Garden; Kiddie Wash; The Wonderwall, which was a half-mile long and camouflaged power lines, and the nightly fireworks displays.  Since New Orleanians don’t just eat to live, but live to eat — the fair provided ample venues where fairgoers could dine.

(Above) Photo: The Italian Pavilion was a popular dining destination for visitors and locals alike.

The Italian Village served delicious sausages and pizza; The Japanese Pavilion provided many people with their first taste of sushi; Pete Fountain’s Reunion Hall served local cuisine; The German Beer Garden provided lessons in the “chicken dance” and shots of Jagermeister®; Mango freezes and Belgian waffles were also huge favorites.

 (Above) Photo: Larger-than-life fiberglass alligators most definitely added the 'wow' factor to the New Orleans skyline, these as well as the 'King Neptune' aquatic tableau at  the entrance were provided by 'Mr. Mardi Gras' himself, Blaine Kern.
While the Louisiana World Exposition became the first world’s fair to declare bankruptcy, its attractions were popular with locals. The 1984’s World’s Fair had a positive impact on the city of New Orleans, aiding in the creation of the first residential development in the Warehouse District, The Riverwalk shopping center and the Convention Center."

 (Above) Fulton Street and the area around the Convention center are very much the same in their present condition, minus a few of the alligators.

The influx of new types of gourmet options, in a town historically enamored with exotic cuisine, had a lasting impact on the types of food you can find in New Orleans today.