Show's Over...But Memory Lingers On

Pride, Regret Mark Expo's End

By Peter Jackman, of The Ottawa Journal

The big sign boards Friday flashed out the thousands at Expo's attendance crept toward the much desired 50,000,000 mark.

And in a massive display of people power -- with all these children the future of French-Canada has to be secure -- Montréal pushed the count upward.

The Fair ends Sunday after 185 remarkable days but its legacy will be felt for years in every sphere of Canadian life.

When he opened it on a chill day last April, Prime Minister Pearson called it the most daring act of faith in Canadian enterprise and ability ever undertaken.

Friday, a venerable man moved to make room for a young couple at a pavilion table. "How," he asked in labored English, "do you like our Fair?"

"We're proud of it," the young woman replied.

Expo, more than any other Canadian event, has provoked the full gamut of emotions from this country. But pride and regret now mark its end.

It's just a year ago that a survey of residents in Lanark and Renfrew showed a majority had no intention of visiting the Fair.

But John Roberston, the daring young Arnprior water skier at La Ronde, recalled Friday that he saw almost every resident of his home town on the grounds over the summer.

Next to Montréal, Ottawa provided Expo with its most consistent customers. The day after Expo opened traffic on Highway 17 jumped 20 per cent. It continued at this pace all summer and the congestion of the road became a key issue of the fall's provincial election.

Kenneth Gallagher, a transportation worker from Ottawa, brought his family to the Fair for a final look earlier this week. "I hate to see it go -- to tell the truth," he said.

But it is over Sunday, despite the maneuvering of Montréal Mayor Jean Drapeau to preserve it in some future form.

The surge of holidaying school children into the grounds Friday lifted some of the air of sadness from the site, but it did not mask the signs of the impending end.

The walks and the grounds and the pavilions all show the impact of the 100,000,000 feet which have trod the 1,000-acre site.


La Ronde, the Fair's popular amusement area, is to continue at least two more years with the help of the federal and Québec governments.

Expo was planned as the center place of Canada's centennial celebrations and it was the chief attraction for the scores of kings, princes and statesmen who came this year to Canada.

They came down from Ottawa in regal style, but the Fair's most controversial visitor -- President de Gaulle of France -- was one of the few who did not make it to the Capital.

He flew out of here in a snit after Prime Minister Pearson's public reprimand for his apparent endorsement of Québec separation.

But the most telling criticism of the imperious president came from Mayor Drapeau, who more than any other Canadian is responsible for Expo.

It was his vision that initiated the fair and it was his abiding faith in it that nurtured it through successive federal and provincial governments.


The fair is expected to cost the public treasures of Canada, Québec and Montréal an estimated $250,000,000 to cover deficits.

And this does not include the millions spent by all the governments in the new and expanded public facilities needed to accommodate the fair and to millions who came to see it.

They came by every conceivable means of transportation known to man and from every corner of the North American continent and aboard.

It encouraged millions of tourists to come to Canada and it made Canadians move about more than they have ever done before.

It is here on these thousand acres of natural and man-made grounds that thousands of Canadians really found Canada for the first time -- young, experimental, bold, bilingual and inventive.

Experiments in housing and transportation which were initiated here are expected to have a profound effect on the way Canadian's live and travel in the next few decades.

It opened a whole new world of culture, art and music and introduced Canadians to the unique cuisine of more than 50 nations which established pavilions here for the fair.


Despite the international tension which flared up through the summer only tiny Kuwait pulled out of the fair in protest against Canada's stand in the Arab-Israel war. Other nations remained.

There were threats from anti-Castro forces that the Cuban pavilion would be destroyed, but it has so far survived and probably profited from their notoriety.

The Queen and President de Gaulle gave Expo security forces their most uncomfortable moments.

Original plans for the Queen's visit provided a security shield between her and other visitors, but these were abandoned and she was given an enthusiastic and warm reception when she toured the site on the minirail.

President de Gaulle's appearance triggered a series of demonstrations by Separatist groups, but the success of Expo together with the reaction in English-speaking Canada may have helped turn the province away from a separate course.

The most serious blow was delivered the fair by Montréal's 30-day transit strike which cut deeply into attendance and revenue as the fair was cruising comfortably to its conclusion.

But some of the loss was offset by the increased revenue from the Expo parking lots which were jammed with cars of fair visitors.

A full assessment of the financial benefits of Expo will not be known for several months when all the supporting industries and services have been assessed.


It was one of these, the lodging service, which brought the fair its only unhappy adventure.

Logexpo was established to direct fairgoers to accommodation in the Montréal area, but it became the scapegoat for all the shoddy practices of operators attempting to milk the tourists trade.

But most visitors found Expo an unbelievable bargain.

They spent an average $5.02 a day and their $2.50 ticket gave them free admission to all the riches of the pavilions and the galaxy of outdoor entertainment.

The theme was "Man and his World" and this provided both the fair and the participating nations enormous scope to market their messages and products.

The biggest shows were staged by the major nations along with Canada, but the star of the show was Czechoslovakia whose pavilion was the most popular on the grounds.

Expo brought the Christian denominations of Canada together in a unique joint pavilion and gave Canadian Indians the first major opportunity to assert themselves and air their historic grievances.

But above all it provided Canadians with a unique insight into Canada and helped shape her future.

- End of article. Copyright by The Ottawa Journal, October 28, 1967. All rights reserved.