During three of the World's Fairs held in Paris mankind was introduced to the Statue of Liberty (1878), the Eiffel Tower (1889), and to such temperature-reuglating wonders as natural gas heat and the ice cream soda (both in 1867).
It was at the 1876 World's Fair in Philadelphia that Alexander Graham bell introduced a newfangled gadget called the telephone. The public first watched television at the 1939 New York exposition and rode on the largest ferris wheel of all time (seating 2,160 passengers) at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
So if history is any guide, something is bound to make an unforgettable debut at the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tenn., when it opens on May 1 of next year. More than 11 million visitors are expected to visit the six-month exposition, the first since the Spokane, Wash., fair in 1974 and the first in the Southeast.
Fair officials say they expect about 25 countries to participate, each sending exhibits on energy sources and national culture. Facilities are being geared toward encompassing the largest fair since the one in New York in 1939.
Most of the pavilions being constructed on a 70-acre site bordering the Tennessee River will be focused on the theme "Energy Turns the World." Among these will be a 17,000-square foot Solar Center, an umbrella for research compaiest to present a variety of workshops, demonstrations, and exhibits on harnessing the sun for both residential and industrial use.
Almost in the direct center of the fair site will be the United States Pavilion, a cantilevered structure which skims the water of a man-made lake before sloping upward to rise six stories. A 5,000-square-foot solar collector is being built to run the entire length of the pavilion's top edge, a means of using the sun to heat the pavilion's water and power its air-conditioning system.
Visitors entering the glass-fronted pavilion will do so by way of an escalator carrying them directly to the top level, a ride featuring a many-angled view of the fair below and the massive solar collector above. Touring the many energy-related exhibits means seeing some highly advanced scientific equipment in action. Among them will be holographic images, a solar power tower, geothermal devices, a device to demonstrate wind energy, a cloud chamber, an infrared thermovision monitor, and an electronic bulletin board spotlighting current energy conditions around the world.
Perhaps rivaling the pavillion as a landmark will be Knoxville's answer to the 1964 Seattle fair's Space Needle, a towering structure supporting a five-story bronze globular top called the Sunsphere. Rising to 266 feet, the Sunsphere will include a lounge, observation deck, and revolving restaurant taking diners past an ever-changing view of the festivities below.
Some of those festivities will take place at the Tennesse State Amphitheater, a 3,000-seat open-air theater built on the shore of the fair's seven-acre lake. Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, and the Israel Philharmonic are among the scheduled acts. Others include Broadway productions, ballet and opera companies, and headliners from aroudn the world. Fireworks and light shows will also be presented at the amphitheater, which is to provide entertainment for some 12 hours each day.
Less formal stages will be found on the fair's walkways, where strolling troubadours, mimes, and magicians will perform. For sports enthusiasts there will be exhibition football games, boat races in the Tennesse River, and international tournaments in soccer, rugby, basketball, swimming, golf, rowing, and other events.
The site is just an hour from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and organizers of the fair anticipate that many visitors will want to combine a trip to the park with one to the World's Fair. Knoxville is easily accessible by taking I-40 from the West Coast, I-81 from New York, I-75 from the Midwest, or by flying directly into the city's McGhee-Tyson Airport serviced by American, Delta, Republic, Piedmont, and United Airlines.
Information on accomodations is available from the Knoxville Convention and Tourist Bureau, PO Box 15012, Knoxville, Tenn. 37901.