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1967: Expo 67 dazzles at night on opening day

The Story

With the dazzle of lights on the midway, Expo 67 by night is a "carnival atmosphere with class." The world's fair in Montreal has thrown open its gates to the public, and visitors are thronging the site to get a first-hand glimpse of the pavilions and exhibits. But when the sun sets, the main attraction is the thrilling La Ronde amusement park. This CBC special goes live to La Ronde as opening day draws to a close.

Medium: Television
Program: Expo 67: An International Affair
Broadcast Date: April 28, 1967
Guests: Susan Alexander, Ali Bagani, Donald Dimitric
Host: Alan Millar, Libbie Christensen
Duration: 4:30

Did You know?

• A world's fair to celebrate Canada's Centennial in 1967 was originally proposed by Mark Drouin, a Conservative senator, in 1958 (though the idea had been floating around since 1956). Politicians in Toronto rejected the idea, but Montreal's mayor, Sarto Fournier, liked it.

• The Canadian government applied to the International Exhibitions Bureau for a world's fair in 1967, but its submission was rejected in favour of a proposal from the Soviet Union. In 1967 the USSR would celebrate its 50th anniversary.

• In 1962 the Soviets scrapped their world's fair due to financial constraints. Montreal's new mayor, Jean Drapeau, lobbied the Canadian government to try again, and on Nov. 13, 1962, the 1967 world's fair was granted to Canada.

• Mont Royal Park, overlooking Montreal, was considered as the site for Expo 67. But Drapeau's idea - to use Île Ste. Hélène in the St. Lawrence River and create a new island - ultimately won.

• Work on the site began on Aug. 13, 1963, when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson made a ceremonial start to construction by dumping a pile of soil onto the island.

• Canadian diplomat Pierre Dupuy, commissioner-general of Expo 67, convinced 62 countries to take part - the most ever to participate in a world's fair.

• The theme of Expo 67 was "Terre des Hommes," or "Man and His World." Besides all the national pavilions, the fair had theme pavilions: Man the Explorer, Man the Creator, Man the Producer and Man in the Community. Canadian provinces and regions also had their own pavilions.

• The amusement park portion of Expo 67 was called La Ronde. Its biggest ride was the $3 million Gyrotron, which resembled a giant pyramid from the outside. Inside, riders experienced a simulated space voyage before being plunged into the mouth of a mechanical monster named Fred. In his book This Was Expo, author Robert Fulford described the Gyrotron as "a sad flop," but didn't explain why.

• Visitors could experience the rides, restaurants and beer halls of La Ronde until 2:30 a.m. nightly. The rest of the Expo site closed down at 10:30 p.m. The Globe and Mail said La Ronde "combines the fun of Disneyland with the thrills of Coney Island and the sophisticated adult entertainment of Paris, Montreal or Toronto."

• An estimated 315,000 visitors toured Expo 67 on opening day. About 120,000 had been expected. One of the defining features of Expo 67 was its crowds. Organizers had expected 35 million visitors over the event's six-month run; 50 million came.

• People lined up for everything. One of the longest lines, which sometimes took four hours to get through, was for Labyrinth, a film projected to viewers in a five-storey building with three chambers.

• As of 2006, La Ronde remained an amusement park with over 40 rides. The newest ride for the 2006 season was the Goliath, Canada's largest and fastest roller coaster.

• Another Expo building, the former French pavilion, became a casino in 1993. Habitat '67, Expo's experiment in urban housing, also thrived and is now a chic Montreal address.

Also on April 28:
1996: A hockey era ends as the Winnipeg Jets lose their final game (until returning to the NHL in 2011). The visiting Detroit Red Wings beat the Jets 4-1 to win their Stanley Cup playoff series in five games. The Jets move to Phoenix and are renamed the Coyotes.


Expo 67: Montreal Welcomes the World more