Global Ties KC recently hosted a Lunch & Learn for a community conversation about the history of World Fairs in the U.S. along with an engaging discussion about the youth ambassador’s experience at Expo 2020 in Dubai. Expos, also known as World’s Fairs, are the world’s oldest and largest mega events, held every 3 to 5 years in host cities around the world since its inception in 1851 in London. Past Expos have showcased innovations such as the mobile phone, the X-ray machine, cordless phone, touchscreen technology, Coca Cola Cherry, and so much more. The United States has held 11 Expos, including cities such as New York, St. Louis, Knoxville, Seattle, and New Orleans.

We were happy to have been selected as one of the U.S. cities hosting community conversations about the history of Expos in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities, Missouri Humanities Council, the Department of State International Expositions Unit and Global Ties U.S. Our speakers, Maggie Lemere, oral historian, Scott Sawaya, a Kansas local who was selected as a youth ambassador for Expo 2020 in Dubai and Ethan Stanton, Department of State Program Analyst for the International Expositions Unit, focused on the past, present and future of Expos both in the United States and aboard.

Ms.  Lemere co-authored an oral history project to explore the future of Expos and the United States’ role in them. For those who experienced the events within the United States and overseas over the last sixty years, the experiences impacted their worldviews and views of their communities, but the “felt” legacies are underexplored and powerful. Legacy landmarks such as the Space Needle in Seattle or the Sunsphere in Knoxville, TN transformed the cities into tourist destinations and put them on the map for innovation and urban growth; however, the process of hosting a World Fair exposed the city’s poverty and displaced neighborhoods, all of which were explored during the oral history project. We have an opportunity to rethink how we bring Expos back to the United States and do so in a more inclusive way that highlights our country’s diversity as a strength of our democracy.

Read the narrators stories based on their experience attending a World Fair in the U.S. or representing the U.S. as a youth ambassador abroad.

The United States aspires of bringing the Expo back on its soil in 2027 with a current bid for Minnesota to be the host State. The next World Expo will be in Osaka, Japan in 2025. More information about the Osaka Expo and the U.S. participation can be found