VANCOUVER, May 6 — Vancouverites partied Friday night like it was in 1986 in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Vancouver’s World Exposition.
Hundreds gathered in the original Expo 86 Center – which now hosts the interactive museum Science World – for the Quarter Century Lookback Party in memory of the 6-month exposition that transformed Vancouver forever.
“Science World decided that for both Vancouver’s 125th birthday, and for the 25th anniversary of Expo that we would host something, a kind of remembrance party in our own building, because our building was the Expo center during Expo, it was built specifically for Expo, and it’s one of the legacy buildings,” said organizer Amanda McCuaig.
The Quarter Century Lookback Party oozed nostalgia.
Guests were treated to video footage of Expo events, watched movies that were originally created for the Expo pavilions, and printed silk-screened T-shirts with the original Expo 86 logos.
Vancouver-based rock band Crucial Taunt played popular songs from the 1980s to send guests on a trip down memory lane.
But McCuaig said the celebration of Expo was more than just remembering the fun and games that happened when some 20 million visitors took over the city that year – it was also a reminder that Expo was, in many ways, when Vancouver really came of age.
“It’s to appreciate how much we’ve grown as a city, and really just see how cool Expo was. You hear about it, we talk about it all the time, much like the Olympics. You know, the Olympics changed Vancouver. Well, Expo changed Vancouver significantly,” said McCuaig.
Expo 86 is often referred to as one of the largest turning points in Vancouver’s history – the event that put Vancouver on the map.
Twenty-five years ago, many say, Expo 86 brought the world to Vancouver, and when it finished the world never left.
The Prince and Princess of Wales opened Expo on May 2, 1986, and the party officially ended in October of that year.
Though many parts of the 70 hectare fairgrounds, such as the 5.4 km monorail that carried 10.5 million passengers through the site, and the two gondola skyrides no longer exist, Expo was responsible for many of Vancouver’s most iconic landmarks of today.
Alongside Science World, BC Place Stadium, Canada Place, and the Plaza of Nations were all built for Expo 86, and so was the city’s Skytrain system.
Vancouver’s False Creek waterfront – now famous for its public walkway and expensive condo developments – was an industrial shipyard before it was transformed into the Expo 86 fairground, and many of the restaurants and businesses that sprung up during the event continued to conduct business after it ended.
“Expo cleaned up this entire area and let it be the beautiful area that we know it today,” said McCuaig.
Jason Catterson performed at Expo 86 as a child with his family in a Filipino folk dance troupe and said the Quarter Century Lookback Party was a nostalgic reminder of a once-in-a-lifetime experience that many Vancouverites will never forget.
“I had to be here, and I’m happy to be here. It’s a fantastic experience, this kind of retro feel. All the kids who grew up with Expo being kind of a memory for them, they’re all here,” said Catterson.
Catterson, now in his thirties, still remembers the excitement that ran through the city for the six months the event lasted.
“When expo happened something happened. It just blew the lid off what Vancouver could become,” he said.
“It was just this happy joyous occasion that just happened, and then I remember when it all ended it was a little bit of a withdrawal kind of sadness, but people looked fondly on it.”
And for those who were not so fortunate to live through Expo the first time around, the Quarter Century Lookback Party gave them a chance to catch a small glimpse of what they missed out 25 years ago when their city took the world by storm.