Summertime is well and truly underway here in Florida, and people from all over the world are coming to enjoy what our state has to offer. In the summers of 1964 and 1965, however, Florida came to them as part of the World’s Fair, held in New York City’s Flushing Meadows Park.
Presided over by the iconic Unisphere, the fair ran for more than a year, from April 1964 to October 1965, with a break for the New York winter. With the theme “Peace Through Understanding,” the fair was a showcase of the latest and greatest; from cutting edge technology to works of art from all over the world. Dozens of other countries had a presence, along with many US states and several prominent corporations. Visitors could marvel at Bell Laboratories’ video phone technology, admire the Ford Mustang – unveiled to the world for the first time at the fair – or sample any number of foreign cuisines.
Florida’s pavilion, rather than looking forward to the wonders of a utopian future, was an exhibition of the progress being made and the pleasures to be had in Florida; potentially on the very same day. Indeed, visitors could even book a flight south right in the pavilion. As one promotional video put it, Florida’s pavilion had “pretty girls, orange juice, and jumping porpoises.” In addition, the exhibit boasted shops, works by Floridian artists, and other attractions; all topped by the enormous illuminated orange of the Citrus Tower.
There were numerous guest acts, including performances by several Florida high school bands. Also appearing was a group of Seminole alligator wrestlers who, according to Fair correspondence, “preferred to wrestle very large alligators” and were willing to bring their own to accommodate. Accounting for all the various exhibits, demonstrations, and shows, Florida’s pavilion was among the largest at the fair.
Florida’s exhibit eventually ranked as the seventh most popular out of more than 150 at the fair by its end. The Florida pavilion only placed behind the likes of General Motors or the Vatican, who had Michelangelo’s Pietà brought to the fair at great expense. The famous sculpture weighed some twenty thousand pounds including its marble base. All told, close to fourteen and a half million fairgoers visited the Florida pavilion in the 1964 and 1965 World’s Fair seasons. Were you or someone you know one of them? Let us know in a comment!