30 years later, World's Fair organizers look back on the expo's impact

30 years later, World's Fair organizers look back on the expo's impact

In 1984, the World's Fair delivered a six-month-long celebration to the New Orleans riverfront, but it was also plagued with issues.

For the expo's 30th anniversary, organizers and workers reunited at the event site Friday, where a commemorative plaque was unveiled.

Petr Spurney, CEO of the 1984 World's Fair, acknowledged the struggles, but mostly celebrated the achievements.

"It was the best of times and worst of times, but thanks to you, not many of the visitors knew it. Oh, the press did, but the people that came, oh, they had a ball," Spurney said, during an address to his former staffers.

The fair suffered through initial attendance problems, and even bankruptcy, but it's widely credited for the rebirth of a now-thriving section of town.

"It initiated the development and the rehabilitation of the Warehouse District -- at the time, home to little more than empty streets and abandoned warehouses," said architect Steve Dumez.

Now, 30 years later, the Warehouse District is home to world class restaurants, galleries and museums, and a growing residential community.

Mark Romig, who heads up the city's tourism marketing office, once served as Director of Protocol for the World's Fair.

"The story of the fair is many, there are many layers to it, but at the end of the day, it was a great show," Romig said. "I think the fair caused the development of this area at a much faster pace than would have happened if the fair had not occurred here. So, this was the impetus to make what we have happening now in the Warehouse District reality -- infrastructure, housing, the hotels, the retail, it's the World's Fair that did it."

Romig also points to the hand it played in the building of the convention center, which brings in a billion dollars a year in business.

This weekend, it's home to a meeting of 17,000 realtors from across the country. Marlin Palich, a convention attendee from Ohio, gave high marks to the city.

"We did a lot of things today, sightseeing and stuff. What a blast," he said.

From the city's successful tourism economy, to the redevelopment of the riverfront and Warehouse District, many of those who made the World's Fair happen, believe it served as a major catalyst.

"I mean, it couldn't have been better," said one expo worker.

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