Celebrations and Festivals at World’s Fair Park This Weekend

Children’s Festival of Reading, World’s Fair Park, Knoxville, May 2016Children’s Festival of Reading

Two major events are happening at the World’s Fair Park this weekend. One of them, the Children’s Festival of Reading, is returning for its sixteenth year and will offer extended hours, from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday. Mayor Jacobs will lead the Parade of Books, and children and young adults will have the chance to sign up for his summer reading challenge. Children can mingle with characters from books and Big Bird and the Cookie Monster will be on site.

The stars of the day are the world-class writers and illustrators, both for children and for young adults. This years list includes Erin Entrada Kelly, 2018 Newbery Medalist, Kwame Mbalia, NYT bestselling author, Tad Hills, Jeffrey Brown, Laurel Snyder, and Knoxville’s own Daniel Wiseman, illustrator of sixteen children’s books.

Sparky Rucker, Children’s Festival of Reading, Knoxville, May 2015

Additionally, lots of great music and activities will be available and scheduled through the day. Children can take a stab at building a sunspher from books, and perennial favorites Sparky and Rhonda Rucker will be showcasing music and stories. Some of my favorite humans will be on hand to perform music, including Sarah Pirkle, Jody Manross and Sean McCollough who will bring his live Kid’s Stuff show to the festivities.

 World’s Fair 40th Anniversary Kick-Off Celebration

Simultaneous to the annual celebration above, the park will be alive once more with a celebration of how it all began — with the 1982 World’s Fair. Visit Knoxville will host the celebration from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm on the performance lawn at the northern end of the festival site.

You will find a range of related fun activities and events, with cultural and technology displays and exhibits. Performances will be programmed in the World’s Fair Amphitheater and a Maker’s Market will be included. Food trucks and beer and 40th Anniversary merchandise will be offered and the evening will end with a fireworks display programed to 80’s music. The merchandise includes six new European handcrafted glass ornaments designed by Joy to the World Collectibles, and founder, Knoxville native Lisa Kelechava, in conjunction with the celebration.

You’ll find exact times for performances and more here. A stage will be set on the performance lawn and the show will kick off with the always excellent Evie Andrus at noon, with music running from noon to 7:45. Meanwhile, on the Tennessee Amphitheatre stage, performances start at 11:00 am and run through 7:45. The schedule for this stage is at the same link, but the day starts with the always wonderful Go! Contemporary Arts and travels through the world with performances of African drumming, Japanese music, Flamenco dancing, Irish music and panels led by Jack Neely discussing the history of the fair.

Newly Redesigned Sunsphere Observation Deck, World’s Fair Park, Knoxville, February 2022

The Sunsphere’s 4th Floor Observation deck will also be open, but advance purchase of tickets is strongly encouraged. You will find those here.

The celebration continues on Sunday with a special, free concert by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, led by Music Director Aram Demirjian, at the Tennessee Amphitheatre at 7 pm. The concert will feature works by John Williams, Aaron Copland, Beethoven and more.

While we’re exploring all things World’s Fair, also be sure to drop by the Museum of East Tennessee History to see “You Should’ve Been There!” which is on display until October 9, 2022. “In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the 1982 World’s Fair, the exhibition’s theme is not only a nod to the international exposition’s marketing catchphrase, “You Have Got to Be There! The 1982 World’s Fair!”, but also an acknowledgement that four decades removed, there is a generation of East Tennesseans who were not alive to experience the historic event.”

I’ll leave you with a great clip from the opening ceremony of the 1982 World’s Fair. This improbable performance includes Knoxville native Brownie McGhee and his long-time partner Sonny Terry laying down some of their piedmont blues. It’s made perfectly 80’s bizarre by the addition of arrhythmically swaying, decidedly wholesome white kids surrounding them. I’d bet my next paycheck none of them knew who these guys were.