When I was a kid, the World’s Fair held a certain mystical appeal for me.

I distinctly remember watching television in my grandmother’s living room as Walt Disney brought me all the highlights of the 1964 New York’s World’s Fair “in living color.” Of course, Grandma’s old Zenith was black-and-white, so at the time I didn’t quite know what “in living color” meant. The phrase added to the magical nature of it all.

Along with many my age, my earliest world view came from watching people from other nations dancing around in (presumably) colorful outfits as Uncle Walt narrated their charming customs on the Wonderful World of Disney. According to Walt, life around the globe was a joyful place where opportunity abounded, innovation seemed endless and everyone got along like the “It’s a Small World” ride introduced by Disney at the 1964 World’s Fair.

From Grandma’s living room, I envisioned the Bromley Street Fair with visitors from around the globe playing bingo, riding the tilt-a-whirl and eating fish sandwiches. I hoped to someday attend the happy gathering of the world’s citizens.

As I grew older, Walter Cronkite replaced Walt Disney in shaping my worldview. News clips of the war in Vietnam taught me the world wasn’t quite so happy. Still, I never lost my fascination with Disney’s clips of people walking around the concourse at the World’s Fair.

It’s a shame they don’t have the World’s Fair anymore. Or do they?

Northern Kentucky filmmaker, Jeffrey Ford became interested in the World’s Fair when he purchased a View-Master – my generation’s version of Google Images – that included discs on the World’s Fair. He became intrigued by 3-D images of the fair, similar to those Disney clips that got my attention as a kid.

Ford’s startling discovery that the World’s Fair had not gone the way of the View-Master and the Wonderful World of Disney, led him and Brad Bear into making an award-winning documentary entitled Where’s the Fair? that premiered recently in Cincinnati.

Apparently, the World’s Fair still exists. But by congressional fiat, the United States government is no longer able to spend any tax dollars participating. The viewers judgment on whether our nation’s withdraw is good or bad rests on the fact that the United States pavilion has become a shining monument to corporate sponsors, slick advertising and … well … nothing really about the spirit of American ingenuity.

Where’s the Fair? explores how America left the global gathering, allowed it to be taken over by seedy promoters and corporate pitch-men, and questions the nature of our nation’s future involvement. One particular interview in the movie stands out as sadly comical as the person who had the rights to develop the last U.S. pavilion tries to explain the effort’s dismal results. An open records request to the government on the recent failure yielded one document – entirely redacted.

An 84-minute journey into America’s future involvement in what remains the world’s largest global event, Ford and Bear’s documentary is an excellent opportunity for people on both sides of the political spectrum to question their own world view. And, more importantly, how we go about shaping the manner in which others in the world view us.

Where’s the Fair? won the Cape Fear Film Festival. Whether it will reignite a national dialogue on the issue remains to be seen. If you’d like to discuss this with me, drop by the Bromley Street Fair later this summer. I’ll be there playing bingo.


RICK ROBINSON IS A FORT MITCHELL LAWYER, AUTHOR AND POLITICIAN. HIS BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM.