BY JOE MARVILLI
Growing up, Ryan Ritchey’s favorite theme park was Epcot Center at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. He later learned that the concept of the park’s melding of cultures and technologies was based on the 1964-65 World’s Fair. This led Ritchey on a journey not only to discuss the historical event but also its impact on society today.
“After the Fair” explores the legacy of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, detailing the new technology that would become part of everyday life, as well as the status of many of the relics from the fair. The documentary combines archival footage, modern-day appearances and interviews to show how the fair’s impact can still be felt 50 years later.
Ritchey said that the documentary’s catalyst formed about five years ago, when he and his wife were driving through New York and saw the New York State Pavilion. They stopped by Flushing Meadows Corona Park and he took his first step towards “After the Fair.”
Initially, the project was supposed to be a short film focused on where the buildings from the fair wound up. Ritchey mentioned that he discovered half of the Wisconsin Pavilion is a kid’s camp in Pennsylvania and the other half is a radio station and gift shop in its home state. The Austria Pavilion became a ski lodge in Western New York, before burning down recently. As the documentary moved forward though, it evolved into something more.
“I realized the legacy of the fair goes far beyond the physical structures that still exist. The fair marked the start of a new era of technology, and left a permanent impression on those who attended,” he said. “And it is still with us in all of the pop culture references to the fair.”
Navigating the legacy of the World’s Fair created a large challenge for Ritchey, as every piece of information would lead down its own rabbit hole. With the size and scope of the fair, hundreds of items and 50 years of history, it took the filmmaker four years of on-and-off shooting and research to get everything he needed.
“Each interview would inevitably lead us to two more interviews, and so on, and so on,” he said. “When you’re dealing with a historical event, there’s always a feeling that you’re going to miss something: that you have to get every last morsel about it that you can find.”
Ritchey added that with every passing day, another relic or structure from the World’s Fair could be lost, so he fought to see every remaining piece as fast as he could, before they were destroyed.
In FMCP itself, little remains of the original World’s Fair structures. Although the Unisphere is the landmarked heart of Queens, the New York State Pavilion is in disrepair and many of the other structures have been demolished. While Ritchey said the loss of so much World’s Fair history was a shame, he did express enthusiasm for efforts to restore the Pavilion.
“The first round of funding from the City is a great start to hopefully stabilize the site,” he said. “There are tons of proposals, and just about any of them are better than the condition of the pavilion right now.”
Besides the World Fair’s impact on technology or culture, it was a Queens event. Ritchey said that the expo put the Borough on the map for those outside of the City. It also gave the Borough an improved park for all to enjoy.
“The fair left this amazingly large park behind,” the filmmaker said. “Today, it is really something that all of Queens can be proud of.”
You can purchase “After the Fair” at http://worldsfairmovie.com.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JoeMarvilli.