Hundreds of people in a celebratory mood gathered in front of the Mural Amphitheater at Seattle Center Saturday morning to remember the day the future came to Seattle – The 1962 World’s Fair.
Amid the bright sunshine, political and cultural dignitaries gathered together on the amphitheater stage to share their memories, tell a few funny and poignant stories and enjoy the pageantry of marching bands and drill teams.
The ceremonies were only the beginning of a six-month lineup of events and acts at Seattle Center to mark the 50th anniversary of the event that helped make Seattle a major American city.
Led by emcee, John Keister, the gathering officials reminisced about the fair, which opened 50 years ago that very day.
There was talk of celebrities such as Elvis and John Glenn, but mostly the discussion was personal stories and those attempting to grasp what the World’s Fair has meant to Seattle over the past 50 years.
Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams reminded the crowd how the 74-acre World’s Fair site has become Seattle’s great gathering place. It is among the most unique entertainment and cultural centers in the country that includes something for everyone, from drama to dance to movies to music to sports.
Nellams said Seattle Center Seattle residents together.
“It is a place that delights and inspires each of us,” Nellams said.
Keister, who is the former host of the “Almost Live” comedy television show, said he remembered watching pieces of the space needle being driven down the street. He talked about the excitement of the moment and the thrill of seeing such things as the Space Needle and the Monorail. He thought we’d all have jet packs and flying cars by now.
He joked about the referendums over the years aimed at expanding the Monorail and building a baseball stadium. He noted how city officials seemed to ignore the people asking for an extension of the Monorail while also ignoring the voters’ decision not to support a baseball stadium.
“We voted stadium – no, and monorail – yes. So, we built a stadium,” Keister said. “They came back to us and said, ‘Do you really want a Monorail? We said ‘yes.’ They said, ‘Do you really want a Monorail? Over the years the Monorail caught on fire and there was a collision. Now, how is it possible for the Monorail to be in a collision? I don’t understand. There’s only one on each track.”
Keister said that all kidding aside, he has always loved the Seattle Center and he remembers the sense of optimism that was such a part of the World’s Fair.
“We need to get back to that optimistic place,” Keister said.
Many in the crowd had an interesting tie to the World’s Fair. Jamie Williams, dubbed by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper the first baby born after the opening of the World’s Fair, was in attendance to celebrate her birthday with her mother, Marianne Sato.
Queen Anne resident John Gessner, 71, was in attendance wearing one of the original shiny gold suits that Bubbleator operators had to wear. Gessner said he was the youngest operator of the Bubbleator at the time of the fair. He tracked down one of the original uniforms at a company in Seattle and bought one.
Wearing a Space Needle hat and carrying an original Jim Beam Space Needle liquor decanter, Karen Choyce, 52, was certainly among the best-dressed residents celebrating the 50th anniversary.
“I was here, but in a stroller,” Choyce said of the original World’s Fair.