NYS Pavilion to launch 6-month World’s Fair fete

By Bill Parry

Borough President Melinda Katz has announced an ambitious six-month-long schedule of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park beginning later this month.

The 75th anniversary of 1939 World’s Fair will also be commemorated with film and lecture series at the Noguchi Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image.

“Both were seminal events that had wide impact locally, nationally and internationally,” Katz said last Friday. “It’s a symbol of the borough and we’re going to keep the spirit alive, especially among the young people who never saw it. We’ll rebrand Queens as a tourist destination with world-class cultural institutions and other attractions that people from around the city and the world should explore.”

Surrounded by members of the new World’s Fair Anniversary Committee in the cavernous lobby of Queens Museum, Katz said, “We are the world’s borough, the most ethnically diverse borough on the entire planet. It is our asset, it is our strength and the World’s Fair knew that all those generations ago.”

An official opening ceremony will take place at the New York State Pavilion April 22. The Pavilion, closed to the public since 1987, will be open for three hours beginning at 11 a.m. allowing for limited access for public viewing and photographs. Hard hats will be provided.

Other events are scheduled at Queens Theatre, the Queens Botanical Garden, the Museum of the Moving Image and the New York Hall of Science. Queens Museum President Tom Finkelpearl announced a summer-long series of exhibits beginning with an Andy Warhol showing April 27.

Warhol’s “13 Most Wanted Men” mural, which hung on what is now Queens Theatre in the Park, will be recreated. The original collection of mugshots was covered over by World’s Fair officials so as not to offend visitors to the 1964 event.

A full list of events throughout the borough can be found online at itsinqueens.com/worldsfair and it will be constantly updated during the entire six months of events, according to Rob MacKay, of the Queens Economic Development Corp.

State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), and co-chair of the Anniversary Committee with Katz, has a theory on why the 1964 World’s Fair’s 50th anniversary has created so much excitement around the borough.

“A lot of people from around the world that came to work at the Pavilion liked Queens so much they moved here. It’s one of the reasons this borough is as diverse as it is today,” she said.

Katz agreed, saying, “As borough president, there isn’t anybody I speak to about the World’s Fair that doesn’t have a story.”

Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association, told a favorite story of his late father’s, Frank O’Leary.

Before he owned the Old Barn pub in Jackson Heights, the senior O’Leary managed the Texas Pavilion at the World’s Fair, a favorite of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“The thing my dad remembered most was he had two dancers,” Brent O’Leary said. “One had talent. She could dance and sing. The other was Goldie Hawn.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260-4538.

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