Arcade Games Were King At The 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair!

Arcade Games Were King At The 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair!

Just feast your eyes on that beautiful vintage 1982 Pac-Man poster, friends. That was one of many video game related souvenirs you could have obtained at the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair. As the major focus for the fair was technology it only makes sense that video games were included, right? Although I was delightfully shocked by how many classic arcade games icons were featured at the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair!

Before I dive into a little history of how the fair took place in Knoxville, I want to direct your attention to that Pac-Man poster once again. Notice anything unusual about it? How about the fact that it is totally a flocked poster? Yes…it is indeed a blacklight Pac-Man souvenir. Which is the second most trippiest thing I have ever seen involving Namco’s legendary icon!

The World’s Fair came to Knoxville, Tennessee due to Spokane, Washington hosting one back in 1974. Obviously it isn’t like a World’s Fair doesn’t help bring in some welcome money to any city. It was the President of the Downtown Knoxville Association, W. Stewart Evans, who approached the city in the first place. As a matter of fact the last time a World’s Fair had taken place in Tennessee was in 1897.

1982 Knoxville World's Fair - Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897PyramidParthenon
1897 Pyramid and Parthenon

The location of the World’s Fair was placed between the University of Tennessee and Knoxville. Taking up around 70 acres of land, construction included the towering 266-foot Sunsphere. Which while some of the pavilions have been destroyed or re-purposed over the years, the Sunsphere is still standing tall and proud.

1982 Knoxville World's Fair - Sunsphere - Discordantly
Image courtesy of Discordant.

Since It Was 1982 You Better Believe Celebrities Attended The Opening!

Hard to top having President Ronald Regan open the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair, right?

[Via] WBIR

Also helping to open the fair was Jerry Lee Lewis, Dinah Shore, Ricky Skaggs, and Porter Wagoner. In addition there were hosting pavilions featuring the nations of the World. Mexico, Peru, Denmark, Egypt, France, Canada, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, West Germany, the U.K., China, Australia, Japan, Italy, Luxembourg, South Korea, the Netherlands, Greece, Hungary, Italy, and the Philippines were represented. Panama had a pavilion set aside for them…but failed to show up, so it went to a collection of Caribbean Islands.

Now then, considering the popularity of arcade games in 1982, it should come as no surprise that they made a big impact. Just for starters you had seven special arcade tokens that were minted exclusively for the 1982 Knoxville World’s fair. Gorf, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Qix, Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man, and Scramble were the arcade tokens you could collect.
1982 Knoxville World's Fair - Arcade Game Tokens

With this Video Expo logo being presented on the flip side of said tokens.
1982 Knoxville World's Fair - Video Expo toke

That isn’t all though however as besides that groovy blacklight Pac-Man poster, you could obtain this Pac-Family themed bumper sticker.
1982 Knoxville World's Fair - Pac Man Bumper Sticker

On the other hand if you didn’t go for the bumper sticker there was always the license plate version.
1982 Knoxville World's Fair - Pac Man License Plate

Granted with all of that sweet, sweet swag you needed something to carry it home with, right? Rest easy as Bally/Midway, who released Pac-Man in the States, totally had you covered with this plastic tote bag.
1982 Knoxville World's Fair - Pac Man Tote Bag

The fair ran from May 1st until October 31st of 1982. In total there was over 11 million visitors to the event and it is rumored to have netted Knoxville a tidy profit. A whopping $57 dollars after the fair had closed it’s run? It was estimated that the event would in fact earn the city a surplus of around 5 million dollars. While that may be true it was still considered a success by the amount of people it brought in, ranking it as one of the most popular fairs in US history.

Arcade Games Tokens Weren’t The Only Video Game Related Souveniers At The 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair!

How cool would you look today if you were sporting this metal Odyssey2 pin? Well, I am a little biased when it comes to Magnavox products obviously, but I think you would look amazing!
1982 Knoxville World's Fair - Odyssey2


Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Awesome! I recently obtained the Ms. PAC-MAN poster from a roadside sale. I’ve yet to find one similar, and thought you might like to see a picture of it..

  2. Andrew you absolutely know I would would love to see that Ms. Pac-Man poster – just send me an e-mail or hit me up on Facebook.

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