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A recent visit to the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows found the “modern ruin” in the midst of a makeover.

The Local Union 806 Structural Steel and Bridge Painters  are restoring the Pavilion in an attempt
to return it to its former glory. The repainting is slowly but surely making a difference.

The walls inside the “Tent of Tomorrow” have been restored to splendor.

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Triple anniversary, double digit authors, one huge celebration. The Queens Theatre was established in 1989 in the former Theaterama site, which is one of only three buildings remaining from the 1964 World’s Fair. The performance space is marking these 25- and 50-year milestones by presenting The World’s Fair Play Festival over nine days. Ten playwrights have created 10 original, 10-minute pieces inspired by the 1939 (a 75-year milestone) and/or 1964 World’s Fairs, both of which took place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. In these dramas, six main actors work with three directors and a small ensemble to encourage audiences to look into the future with the same optimism and hope that the two Queens World’s Fairs inspired in their visitors. The participants are celebrated writers and actors, including Todd Almond (Lear deBessonet’s The Tempest at the Public Theater, Girlfriend); Deen (Public Theatre Emerging Writers Group; Draw The Circle, Queens Theatre and elsewhere); and Kristoffer Diaz (Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety, Welcome to Arroyo’s, Queens Theatre and Lark Play Development Center).

Details: The World’s Fair Play Festival, Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Ave. S., Flushing Meadows Corona Park, July 18th through July 27th, $18 with the following schedule: Friday, July 18th through 20th; Friday, July 25th through 27th; Fridays, 8 pm; Saturdays, 2 pm and 8 pm; Sundays, 3 pm.

Photos: Queens Theatre

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Almost exactly 50 years ago, the event organizing committee decided that June 30, 1964 would be “Louis Armstrong Day” at the 1964 World’s Fair. So on that afternoon, the legendary jazz trumpeter left his Corona home in a motorcade (below) and rode through the fairgrounds in Flushing Meadows Corona Park while greeting fans. Satchmo and his band then gave a concert at the Singer Bowl, which is now called “Louis Armstrong Stadium” and sits on the grounds of the USTA–Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. This Sunday, June 29th, a concert and exhibition opening will celebrate the musician and his participation in the World’s Fair, thanks to a partnership between the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Queens Museum. At 4 pm, Catherine Russell (above) — a Grammy winner who has recorded with such superstars as David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, and Jackson Browne — will perform at the museum. The event will also launch Ambassador Satchmo at the World’s Fair, a series of never-before-published images of Pops during the day he was honored. His personal photographer, Jack Bradley, documented the event. 

Details: A Jazz Soirée with Catherine Russell, Queens Museum, New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, June 29th, 4 pm, free with suggested donation.

Bonus details: Ambassador Satchmo at the World’s Fair, Queens Museum, New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, June 29th through September 14th, free with suggested donation.

Top photo: Catherine Russell; bottom photo: Louis Armstrong House Musuem

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“From the World’s Fair to the World’s Park.” Expect to hear this new slogan a lot over the next six months as part of a dual effort to rebrand Flushing Meadows Corona Park and celebrate the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the World’s Fairs that took place there. Yesterday, Maspeth-based Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey, who chairs the NY State Assembly’s Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sports Committee, announced a $100,000 grant to the Queens Tourism Council to help it promote local World’s Fair commemorative events over the next six months. Cultural institutions such as the Queens Botanical Garden, Queens Museum, Queens Theatre and New York Hall of Science are planning special activities related to these anniversaries, and NYC Parks is ready to host a World’s Fair Festival on May 18.  (Click here to see all the events.) Borough President Melinda Katz is also involved, co-chairing the World’s Fair Anniversary Committee with Assemblymember Markey and spearheading an effort to promote the Flushing green space as the “World’s Park.” These two elected officials will join other Queens leaders near the NY State Pavilion on April 22 to mark the exact 50th anniversary of the opening ceremonies for the 1964 World’s Fair. The rumor is that they will sing the National Anthem.

Editor’s Note: There was a pleasant surprise at yesterday’s Queens Tourism Council meeting at Queens Theatre. Mookie Wilson, a former Mets centerfielder who starred in the 1986 Worlds Series, passed by while taking a walk through Flushing Meadows Corona Park. He joined the photo and is seen standing, second from extreme left. Assemblywoman Markey is standing in the exact middle.

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It’s time to party like it’s 1939… or 1964. Queens is the only county in the U.S. to host two World’s Fairs, and both historic events are celebrating major anniversaries this year (the fiftieth and seventy-fifth, respectively). On April 30, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurated the first one in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which had just been created from a large tidal marsh and garbage dump. The air conditioner made its debut, as did color photographs, fluorescent lamps, nylon and pencil sharpeners. Early television sets and a futurist GM car were the rage as was a diner, which was relocated and is still open for business as the White Manna in Jersey City, NJ. Meanwhile Goldie Hawn, a teenager who had just moved from Maryland to NYC to pursue a career in showbiz, was discovered as a chorus line dancer at the Texas pavilion during the 1964 World’s Fair. The Ford Mustang, Unisphere and Belgian waffle (above) all owe part of their fame to this fair, which actually ran for two, six-month seasons in 1964 and 1965 and attracted more than 51 million people. Corona resident Louis Armstrong (arriving at the scene below) played his trumpet, and various countries and regions promoted their good sides. Wisconsin had a pavilion exhibiting the planet’s largest chunk of cheese, while Miami displayed a parrot jungle, and Hawaii operated the Five Volcanoes restaurant.

On March 22nd, this year’s first World’s Fair-related commemorative event will take place when the Greater Astoria Historical Society screens The World of Tomorrow, a film on the 1939 Fair. Then, over the next six months, the  New York Hall of Science, Noguchi Museum, Parks Department, Queens Botanical Garden, Queens Center, Queens Historical Society, Queens Museum, Queens Theatre, The Port Authority of NY & NJ and other local entities, such as the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel, will hold exhibits, plays, concerts and even a beer festival to commemorate.

Details: Click here for a full list of events, times and locations.