When the World Came to Knoxville
Remembering the 1982 World's Fair
In 1982, more than 11 million people came to Knoxville to experience the hospitality of East Tennessee and cultures from around the world. The 1982 World’s Fair, formally known as the Knoxville International Energy Exposition, ran May 1 through October 31 under the theme “Energy Turns Our World” and would become recognized as the last successful World’s Fair held in America.
More than 50 private organizations and companies took part in the Fair. Participating nations included Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States, and West Germany.
The amphitheater and Sunsphere, still standing on site today, hosted all official ceremonies and entertainment, including Broadway shows, world-renowned orchestras, ballet and opera companies. The list of entertainers and performers included Johnny and June Carter Cash, Japan’s acclaimed Grand Kabuki, Rudolf Nureyev, Red Skelton, Richie Havens, The London Symphony, and Bob Hope.
Today, Knoxville still draws visitors with history, music, food, culture and festivals that reflect many of the countries represented here years ago.
Thank you for celebrating with us!
Want to learn more what the park was like in 1982? Enjoy this self-guided walking tour featuring markers that tell a few of the many stories of places and events that took place throughout World's Fair Park.
Top Music of 1982
Big Rock, Country and R&B hits from 1982
Artists Who Performed at the 1982 World’s Fair
On July 28, 2008 the Sunsphere was both the site and the subject of a luncheon lecture by one of the architects who worked on creating the theme structure for the 1982 World's Fair. William Denton spoke about the challenges of constructing the world's first spherical building, and what he hoped Knoxville would do with it. Former mayor Randall Tyree spoke following Mr. Denton's remarks.