On April 21, 1962, visitors from close by and around the world streamed through the gates of the Seattle World’s Fair to witness a future they’d never before imagined. It seemed that soon we’d all live in Plywood Homes of Living Light, commute by monorail and dine at revolving restaurants in various Space Needles piercing the sky. After months of anticipation leading up to the World’s Fair anniversary, the official six-month-long celebration of our former futuristic vision kicks off this month (4/21) with a slew of events at Seattle Center and the Space Needle (see below).
But it’s not all about the past. The “Next 50” project, which looks ahead to 2062, will present a modern-day glimpse of the future, including major changes coming to the Seattle Center grounds. Already in the works are the new Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit, an entirely revamped Center House (now renamed The Armory) and the proposed replacement of Memorial Stadium with a 9-acre park space. Head to the community celebration and prepare to be amazed—just as the crowds were 50 years ago.
Opening-day Community Celebration
The Next 50 festivities kick off with opening ceremonies (10:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m.) led by a host of distinguished guests, including acclaimed native artist Roger Fernandes with a traditional Coast Salish performance. Tom Skerrit will offer a reading from The Future Remembered and John Keister will lead the National Anthem. Other activties include a zipline along Thomas Street, mobile street vendors at Mural Amphitheatre, a beer garden near The Armory (formerly the Center House), 1962 TV broadcasts shown inside The Armory, and many more free, festive, and entertaining activities. Visit thenextfifty.org for updates.
4/21. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Free. Seattle Center grounds, 305 Harrison St.; 206.733.9599; thenextfifty.org
Join the Emerald City Search
Our city’s newest tradition returns with a city-wide treasure hunt, based on the World’s Fair, beginning April 21. A second hunt launches on the celebrations closing days, October 21. For details, visit emeraldcitysearch.com
Visit The Armory
First known as the Food Circus, then the more stately Food Court, the Center House and its open-air dining area is getting a major face-lift—and a new name. Slated to open near the end of May, the refurbished building, now known as The Armory after its original purpose as a National Guard Armory, will include interiors by Seattle design firm Graham Baba, an outdoor patio and many upscale new food offerings. Food is available throughout the renovation, but the overhaul is expected to be completed sometime in May. Visit next50.org for updates, and click here for the latest news on food offerings and restaurant tenants.
Take in the Exhibits
Celebrating Century 21
HistoryLink and the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) team up for this exhibit, which explores the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and considers its impact on the Seattle of today. It includes numerous artifacts, photographs and documents from the 1962 World’s Fair selected from the MOHAI collection. April 21-October 21, 2012 in the International Fountain Pavilion
Space Ages: A History of the Century 21 Exposition Grounds
An exhibit of photographs, maps and other visuals tracing the transformation of Seattle Center from its distant past to today.Through September 30; Downtown Seattle Public Library, 1000 Fourth Ave.; 206.386.4636; spl.org
Commemorative art installations
More than 25 juried visual, performing, literary and media art projects will be temporarily installed across the 74-acre Seattle Center campus. Learn more in the Next 50 guide, which you can download here at seattlecenter.com. Also, in partnership with the Seattle Center and various City of Seattle departments, a few featured artists, including Mandy Greer, Susan Robb and photographer Davis Freeman will present special art installations of their own. Details in the downloadable pdf (see above).
Get the Book
Space Needle: The Spirit of Seattle
A new book by Seattle magazine editor at large and Space Needle writer in residence Knute Berger. Join Seattle magazine, exclusive magazine partner for the Space Needle’s 50th-anniversary celebrations, at the Needle for a book signing and reading from author Knute Berger, who spent six months atop the Needle penning the history of our city’s iconic structure. Check back for date and more details.
Dine at the Space Needle
Six-course Chefs' Tasting Menu at Sky City Restaurant
Eat your way through the decades with a tasting menu that features dishes focusing on iconic local chefs of the past 50 years. For reservations and more information, visit spaceneedle.com.
Raise a Glass
SkyCity Restaurant wine steward Mido Benjdya has curated a locavore winelover’s dream list of more than 100 bottles—with 95 percent from Washington or Oregon—available year 'round. Mark the 50th with these celebratory local handcrafted drinks, made just for the occasion:
Official Beer: Pike Brewing Company's Space Needle Golden Anniversary Ale
In January, local breweries crafted brews and gathered at the Needle, each competing to have their entry be the official beer of the Space Needle 50th. The winner: Pike Brewing’s Space Needle Golden Ale (an IPA), available on tap at SkyCity Restaurant.
Official Bubbly: Chateau Ste. Michelle 50th-anniversary Brut 2005 Columbia Valley Sparkling Wine.
Learn the history
The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and Its Legacy
By Paula Becker, Alan J. Stein and the staff of HistoryLink.org. $39.95; HistoryLink. This commemorative book gives a detailed account of the Century 21 Exposition, with hundreds of vintage photos.
CityStream: Seattle World’s Fair Anniversary
The Seattle Channel’s weekly magazine show, CityStream, goes back to the future with this fun, nearly seven-minute-long video, featuring vintage footage. To view it, visit seattlechannel.org and type “splashback” into the “video search” box. Or travel even further back in time, to 1909, with a one-hour documentary, Alaska Yukon Pacific Expo: Seattle’s Forgotten World’s Fair; type “yukon” into the “video search” box.
When Seattle Invented the Future: The 1962 World’s Fair
KCTS' one-hour documentary brings to life the excitement and ambition the fair ignited. Premiering on March 24 and repeating Saturday, April 14 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 15 at 11 p.m. For additional show dates, and to buy the DVD, visit kcts9.org and channel9store.com.
Watch It on the Big Screen
Century 21 Celebration prime time live broadcast special
KOMO-TV, April 21, 8 p.m.
Fifty years ago, KOMO TV was there at the fair! Tune in for a look back featuring historic news footage, interviews with people who were there and exclusive coverage of a live light show at the Space Needle. komonews.com
Next 50 Film Series
Wednesdays, April 25–Oct. 17; SIFF Film Center and Uptown Cinema. A series of films that explore The Next Fifty focus areas. Seattlecenter.com
Future of Film Expo and Festival
April 27–28; Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. A two-day event presented by the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. Nffty.org
Download the Free Audio Tour
Seattle World's Fair Audio Tour
Available April 21–October 21.
Free, self-guided audio tours of the Seattle Center grounds that explore the history of the World’s Fair. Developed in partnership with Jack Straw Productions, MOHAI and HistoryLink, the tours are available to download at thenextfifty.org.
Century 21 Celebrations run through October 21; check back for an updated list of festivities.