Group Aims to Bring World’s Fair to L.A. in 2022

A new crowdfunding campaign would kick off the transit-themed project.

Image courtesy of Los Angeles World's Fair

To many of us, World’s Fairs might seem like something mythical, an antiquated convention from a pre-internet age where people actually had to be in the same place to show each other new inventions, cultural products, or designs. Maybe, like me, you heard about the fair in Queens, New York from your parents or grandparents, or read about the legendary Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, detailed in works of fiction like The Devil in the White City or Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. But now, according to the L.A. Business Journal, a group of “business owners, executives and county officials” have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for the first stages of a futuristic, transit-themed World’s Fair in Los Angeles in 2022.

A World’s Fair is supposed to bring the best ideas from around the globe together in a fun, interactive environment. The L.A. project’s fundraising page points out a number of important technologies—like the telephone, the Ferris Wheel, the IMAX, and touchscreens—that were first unveiled to the public at World’s Fairs past. According to the Los Angeles group, these fairs “leave shimmering memories on the minds of countless millions and leave in their wake legendary art, vast urban improvement and a stunning inventory of technical innovation.” Organizers claim the event, which promises a Hyperloop, “Jetsons-style SkyTran,” and “3D printed gourmet delicacies,” would be a boon for culture and technology, create jobs for Angelenos, and “bring more visitors to the greater L.A. area than an Olympics and World Cup combined.” If they pull it off, the L.A. 2022 event will be the first World’s Fair in the United States in more than 30 years. CityLab reports:

LAWF—which has the support of the L.A.County Board of Supervisors and METRO Los Angeles, as well as corporate backing from the engineering firm Psomas—wants to build the first "decentralized" world's fair, with venues scattered across all 88 cities in Los Angeles County. The region's growing transit network (the latest expansions of which are slated for a 2023 completion) would serve as the fair's infrastructural and thematic underpinning.

“It’s really going to be transformative,” LAWF backer Loren Sokolow, told the L.A. Business Journal. “The pavilions are going to be multipurpose and will be something for the fair, but then, hopefully, transformed into something for the community.”

While the fair would be a truly massive undertaking, and is still just a distant hope in many regards, Curbed L.A. points out that the proposed event would also have to secure the nod of the Bureau of International Expositions, the organization that sanctions and endorses official World’s Fairs. (Apparently, George W. Bush, who you would think would love a good fair, withdrew our membership in the international group, finding it too expensive. We would have to rejoin as a nation.)

1964 World's Fair in Queens, NY. Image by PLCjr via WikimediaCommons

The last official event in the United States was the New Orleans World Exposition in 1984, which became the first World’s Fair to go bankrupt during its run. The New York expo in 1964 was not endorsed, and though it was still successful in some respects, it was mired by controversy and allegations of financial mismanagement. Among their corporate-friendly, tech-oriented goals for the new project, an important lesson L.A. planners could probably learn from the fair in Queens comes from organizers’ refusal to consider having a midway featuring games and entertainment at the ’64 event, thinking it not classy enough for their high-minded, respectable project. The lack of good old-fashioned funtime led to an Epcot-style boredom that hurt crowd retention, and caused the event to suffer financially. And though public transportation is a pretty cool theme for a World’s Fair, LAWF would do well to remember that fairs are supposed to be funyou have to give us the chance to win a teddy bear or grab a hot dog, even if it’s some kind of 3D printed superwiener.

With 52 days left, LAWF has reached almost half of its $100,000 initial goal. You can donate here.

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