Final Count - 50,306,648
Expo -- It's All Over After 185 Days, 50 Million Visitors
by Peter Jackman of The Ottawa Journal
MONTRÉAL - Expo is over.
It ended Sunday, but even in its death rites, with a fireworks display and air show, it turned Canadian eyes symbolically skyward.
"It has been," Prime Minister Pearson told a shivering closing day crowd, "the greatest of all Canadian centennial celebrations."
The big fair was given a back-slapping, hand-clapping farewell by dignitaries and visitors in a brief and moving ceremony.
Mayor Jean Drapeau, the darling of the day, held out a vision of future wonders on this 1,000-acre site where Canada caught a glimpse of the future. In some form, he promised, "Man and His World" will live on here. He may yet pull something off.
A strange, almost abnormal hush settled momentarily over this throbbing place when the flame which burned in Place des Nations these 185 days of Expo was ceremoniously doused.
Caught up in the spirit of the day, the Governor-General set aside his prepared speech for the archives of the fair and repeated only "It is with great regret that I declare that the Universal and International Exhibition of 1967 has come to an official end."
A short distance away on the big signboard in front of Expo theatre the French expletive "Ouf" -- best translated as "phew" -- summed up the workers' relief.
The closing program was, in some ways, anticlimactic because the fair's last big moment came at 7 p.m. Saturday when Mrs. Alexandre Racine of suburban Repentigny stopped the turnstiles at 50,000,000 and set an attendance record for world fairs. Final count was 50,306,648.
Attendance for the final day totaled 221,554.
But Expo, Premier Johnson said Sunday, was more than crowds. "It was," he said, "a magnificent demonstration of faith in the future of Québec and Canada."
A raw wind whipped across the St. Lawrence as the crowd huddled under overcast skies. It was almost ice that spewed from the fountains in Dolphin Lake where the swans clustered against the cold. Earlier there was a wisp of snow in Montréal.
Mayor Jean Drapeau has been marshalling support and properties to maintain some form of permanent exhibition on the site and he promised to open it next year.
But 200,000 crowded into the grounds for the abbreviated day -- as many to catch a final glimpse as to say farewell -- and the lines still stretched right around the Czechoslovakian pavilion, Labyrinth and telephone companies' building.
Participating nations and organizations were honored in the closing ceremonies when they were presented with gold and silver medallions by the Governor-General and prime minister.
It was a crisply-paced colorful program. As each medallion was presented the national flags were lowered in a reverse running of the Apr. 28 ceremony which opened Expo.
The theatre of Place des Nations was a riot of color from the historic military uniforms; the banks of flowers around the stage; the pert outfits of the national hostesses; mounted policemen and Boy Scouts.
When hundreds of the invited guests failed to take their reserved seats the gates were opened to fair visitors jammed around the perimeter and they provided the politicians with a good natured and frequently enthusiastic audience.
Typically, parts of the program were overpowered by the strange new noises of transportation which Expo introduced to millions of Canadians. There was the hushed whistle of the high speed express trains; the flutter of passenger-carrying helicopters and the powerful rumble of the hovercraft plunging up and down the St. Lawrence.
These, as much as the St. Lawrence River site, have been among the great legacy of Expo which pioneered, in Canada, new ideas and techniques in transportation, housing, recreation, communication, architecture, engineering, art and culture.
Six months ago most of these were completely foreign to Canadians.
In the interval, said Mr. Pearson, Expo assembled "one of the most impressive collections of man's works and man's ideas ever assembled in one place and in one of the most satisfying man-made environments ever constructed.
The cost of it is still being calculated but the deficit which must shared among the treasures of Canada. Québec and Montréal will total $350,000,000.
But it brought Canada incalculable benefits, Commissioner General Pierre Dupuy said in his Sunday speech when he recalled the parade of world rulers and statesmen here and the focus of international attention of Canadian achievement.
Montréal had a peculiarly paternal pride about the fair, which dominates its skyline and enriched its summer. Not surprisingly a young couple from suburban Chateauguay Saturday became parents of the first baby born on the fairgrounds.
But Ottawa and Eastern Ontario was Expo's second-largest market. A study of visitors showed the average one came by car within a 500-mile radius of Montréal and spent an average of $5.91 a day there.
There seemed little regret or remorse among the final 221,554 on the grounds and at the closing ceremony Sunday.
It says something for their attitude when they gave their most enthusiastic applause to Ange-Albert Vallee when he stepped up to accept a medallion for the Canadian Brewers Pavilion.
It was fun, but, like summer, it was gone.
But Canada was enriched -- and all the speakers insisted we were united too -- in its passage.
- End of article. Copyright by The Ottawa Journal, October 30, 1967. All rights reserved.