KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Sunday afternoon, Visit Knoxville and the city of Knoxville invited the public to come see the Budweiser Clydesdales at World's Fair Park to kick off celebrations ahead of the 1982 World's Fair.
As East Tennessee emerges from the pandemic, World's Fair Park is expected to go into full-use mode in 2022, Visit Knoxville's president Kim Bumpas said.
Next year is the 40th anniversary of the 1982 World's Fair, when millions came to East Tennessee for a spectacle that continues to define what people know about Knoxville.
On Sunday, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Bumpas gave people a taste of what's to come in 2022, including unveiling the 40th anniversary logo, which uses the original 1982 flame logo to form the "40."
During the 1982 fair, the Clydesdales were on hand for many months and had their own temporary stable, and paraded around town beginning with the initial announcement in 1981 with celebrations leading up to the grand event the following year
The Clydesdales were a large part of the pageantry of the time, and were featured in World's Fair memorabilia from the era. The horses already were going to be in town for several parades and events in East Tennessee, so the timing worked out to feature them at World's Fair Park this weekend while also informing the public about anniversary plans, Bumpas said.
The last time the horse team was formally in Knoxville was during an event at World’s Fair Park in 2014, she said.
Another major announcement that has been long-awaited: The Sunsphere's observation deck will reopen to the public in the coming months. Bumpas said the observation deck will have a soft reopening on February 22, 2022 -- just shy of exactly two years after closed when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Former Knoxville mayor Randy Tyree, who served as mayor during the 1982 World's Fair, said he can't believe it's been almost 40 years since he helped organize it.
"We were unified as a community," Tyree said.
He said he remembers the fair being wholesome for a lot of people.
"There was something for everybody," Tyree said.
Knoxvillians can look for various events coinciding with the event's anniversary starting on May 1, 2022 through October 31, 2022
The Sunsphere Fund is another way the public can help keep the memory of the 1982 World's Fair alive and shining bright in the Knoxville skyline. Bumpas said visitors she meets are always keen about the 266-foot orb.
"Some of them (visitors) might not even know what the 1982 World’s Fair is, but they do see that big gold ball in Knoxville, Tennessee. I think that’s something we should all celebrate and get excited about helping with," Bumpas said.
Discussions have been held for years about lighting up the Sunsphere, but there was no money source to do it. Now there is.
"Whether that's the first project we tackle, I don't know," the tourism chief said.
People can keep up with what's planned next year as the 40th anniversary of the park draws closer on Visit Knoxville's website. You can also download the organization's app for alerts on area events.