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San Antonio Hemisfair


									Katelin Dietz     Brent Jemelka     Ashley Tayabi      Crystal Red     Donna Jauregui

                             San Antonio HemisFair of 1968

        The HemisFair of 1968 was San Antonio, Texas’ own personal debut as an “emerging

business and cultural center between the United States and the world” according to UTSA

Institute of Texan Cultures. The San Antonio HemisFair was held on April 6, 1968 on 92 acres on

what is known as HemisFair Park, which was and still is dedicated to the fair and its original

celebration of San Antonio’s 250th year of existence. Its everlasting theme of “confluence of

civilizations in the Americas” was one that would be remembered for ever and indeed it is.

        Being that it was the world’s first fair held in the South Western United States or for that

matter in Texas. The fair welcomed over thirty different nations and still remains a major

attraction to people all over the world. The HemisFair Park is still considered to be a very

peaceful area with its beautiful waterfalls and clean kept landscape even with the Tower of the

Americas standing 750 feet above the city, making history in the San Antonio sky line. The

Tower of Americas was designed and built specifically for the festivals purpose; this should tell

Katelin Dietz     Brent Jemelka       Ashley Tayabi       Crystal Red      Donna Jauregui

you how big of a deal the festival truly was. The world renowned festival’s existence is still

celebrated through other modern festivals such as MyCokeFest sponsored by one of the

original HemisFair sponsors CocaCola. However like the original fair it is no one day celebration.

The festival was shockingly celebrated from april 6th to October 6th, that’s an entire six months

of celebrating cultural heritage and the founding of San Antonio.

        In the beginning according to the UTSA Library, In 1958, a handful of San Antonio businessmen

had a vision of a world's fair in San Antonio, Texas. Department store executive Jerome K. Harris

proposed a fair to be held in 1968 to celebrate 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio and the

shared cultural heritage of San Antonio and its Latin American neighbors. His idea gained the support of

San Antonio Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez, and local businessmen William R. Sinkin, H. B. (Pat)

Zachry, and James Gaines who soon began to cultivate support for "HemisFair '68." The fair was meant

Katelin Dietz      Brent Jemelka       Ashley Tayabi       Crystal Red      Donna Jauregui

to be and successfully was a huge event which would take a careful ten years of planning, lobbying,

organizing, constructing and possibly the most critical, funding. The brains behind the festival were

better known as the “Fair of the Americas Planning Committee,” good thing they were better at

organizing an event than choosing a group name.

        The festival would need more than the planning committee’s support, it had to be in compliance

with city, state and federal governments. After supporters jumped on the bandwagon to what would be

a historical event funds came in from 450 San Antonio underwriters (local business firms and

individuals); voter-approved San Antonio City bonds; Urban Renewal Agency funds; an appropriation of

$4,500,000 by the Texas State Legislature; and two appropriations ($125,000 in 1965 and $6.75 million

in 1966) by the U.S. Congress. Shockingly many of the original goals for funds were surpassed and the

planning continued. Although it took years to plan the San Antonio Hemisfair of 1968 it opened

its gates to the public on April 6, 1968. The fair was expected to be larger than initially

predicted in fact the founders of the fair estimated that about 7.2 million people would make

their way to this event. Attendance didn’t even come close to their expectations as their

forecast turned out to be short and they were shocked when only around 6.4 million people

actually attended. Events leading up to the opening days of the fair could have influenced many

people’s decisions to attend. For instance, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was

assassinated in June of 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was also assassinated two days before the

fair opened, and also there was much political unrest with the war in Vietnam and the

Democratic National Convention. They reportedly lost $7.5 million, even though the Mayor

swore that the exposition would not cost San Antonio taxpayers a dime. The fair did however

Katelin Dietz    Brent Jemelka    Ashley Tayabi     Crystal Red    Donna Jauregui

bring international attention to the city of San Antonio. The downtown area was greatly

renovated along with retail development along the San Antonio River walk.

Katelin Dietz   Brent Jemelka   Ashley Tayabi   Crystal Red   Donna Jauregui

Katelin Dietz      Brent Jemelka       Ashley Tayabi        Crystal Red      Donna Jauregui

        History of the HemisFair 68 documents in the UTSA Library claim support came in from

everywhere especially through many governments and corporations sponsored pavilions that

contributed to providing “an educational and entertaining environment for visitors to the fair.” With

“Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas” as a theme for the 1968 Hemisfair of San Antonio, there

was no doubt that Texas had a rich heritage of mixed cultures and was a fantastic place for countries to

come together and display their art, talents, and technology. The fair provided amusements and

entertainment which astounded all 6.4 million visitors in attendance. Space exploration exhibits,

beautiful and eye-catching art displays, as well as brand new technology were all to be found in the

individual pavilions set up along the fair property. Most of the structures that were built for this fair

are still in use today.

                Over thirty nations participated in the fair and displayed their exhibit pavilions in the

international area named, “Las Plazas del Mundo.” The major countries with displays were Canada,

Mexico, Italy, Spain, France, and Japan – other nations included: Belgium, Bolivia, China, Columbia,

Germany, Korea, Panama, Portugal, Switzerland, Thailand and Venezuela. One of the cultural exhibits

called, “Confluence/Cosmos” presented space exploration. Masses would flock to this exhibit, no doubt

quite interested in the subject as a result of the recent space exploration by the Soviet Union in the

previous decade. Interestingly, the next year, 1969, was the year that the American Neil Armstrong

landed on the moon, a pivotal point in American history attributed to space exploration technology. For

those who were able to see the space exploration technology in person at the fair, the moon-landing

event must have been an exceptionally exciting, as well as a personal experience.

        “El Encanto de un Pueblo,” was another exhibit at the fair which displayed 5,000 miniatures and

toys from Alexander Girard Folk Art collection in sequential “views” of Latin American village life. With

beautiful and vibrant colors, this collection succeeded in drawing thousands. Some of the sponsored

Katelin Dietz      Brent Jemelka       Ashley Tayabi           Crystal Red    Donna Jauregui

attractions the fair presented as well, were a prolific production of Giuseppe Verdi’s, Don Carlo, a major

works of art display from the Prado Museum in Madrid sponsored by the Spanish government, touring

stage productions, celebrity entertainer performances, appearances by both Mexican and Russian ballet

groups, as well as “Voladores” (fliers) who

(picture 1 above) performed acrobatics on a tall pole. These “flying Indians,” performed in a spectacular

outdoor setting presented by FritoLay and Pepsi-Cola Corporation. Another special attraction in San

                                                       Antonio which was incorporated into the

                                                       hemisfair, was the famous river and waterway

                                                       tours. Individuals could take a ride on the Paso de

                                                       Rio, or what is known as the River-walk, on various

                                                       types of boats and enjoy the sights, smells and

                                                       overall feeling of the Tex-Mex culture. (Picture 2 at


                                                                  In addition to the above mentioned

exhibits and displays, it is important to note that the HemisFair also included several pavilions of

corporate exhibitors. The following exhibitors were included: Ford Motor Company, Eastman Kodak,

Katelin Dietz      Brent Jemelka        Ashley Tayabi       Crystal Red      Donna Jauregui

General Motors, General Electric, Gulf Oil Corporation, Humble Oil which is now ExxonMobil, RCA, IBM,

Pepsi-Cola, and Southwestern Bell. These leading American corporations’ displays reflected the United

States’ advances in technology and support of the American economy. The pavilions built still exist and

are utilized today, such as the Women’s Pavilion. The Women’s Pavilion had its own personal theme of

“Women’s Changing Roles in Changing World.” The theme of the Women’s Pavilion fit in perfectly at the

worldly festival and was unveiled at the festival of 68. The Women’s Pavillion was said to have been

“architecturally ahead of its time” and is still used today but in great need of renovation.

        Another amazing site to see besides the pavilions was and still is “Tower of the America’s”

which as mentioned before was originally built for purposes of the World Fair and since then

has been one of the state’s most recognized attractions since its inception. It is one of the

tallest free-standing structures in the United Stated, towering taller than the Washington

Monument or Seattle Space Needle at 750 feet. Construction began on August 9, 1966 and took

18 months to complete. Visitors are able to see the amazing, panoramic view of San Antonio,

dine at its revolving restaurant and lounge, or enjoy the 4D Theater ride attraction which

features a historical overview of the great state of Texas. This tower is still today a

distinguishable feature, and was main theme that surrounded the San Antonio Hemisfair of

1968! The HemisFair Arena was located near by the Tower of Americas and like the tower it too

was originally built as part of the World’s Fair in 1968. The HemisFair Arena was an indoor

arena to the National Basketball Association's San Antonio Spurs from 1973 to 1993

        Downtown San Antonio features many historic attractions like the historic San Fernando

Cathedral, the Tower Life Building. Convention Center and Banquet Hall (now the Henry B.

Gonzalez Convention Center, Theatre for the Performing Arts (now the Lila B. Cockrell Theatre

Katelin Dietz      Brent Jemelka        Ashley Tayabi       Crystal Red      Donna Jauregui

for the Performing Arts. However, one of the main attractions of downtown San Antonio is the

nationally famous San Antonio Riverwalk, a water sports lake. The San Antonio Riverwalk offers

people to take a ride on float boats on the pedestrian street, one level down from the

automobile street. The River Walk wraps and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks

lined with restaurants and shops. The San Antonio Riverwalk connects the major tourist

attractions including the the Alamo to Rivercenter mall, to the Arneson River Theatre close to

La Villita, to HemisFair Park, to the Tower Life Building, to the San Antonio Museum of Art, and

the Pearl Brewery.

        Today HemisFair Park and all of its attractions is a real site to see. In fact the Tower of America

still remains open for many purposes of overlooking beautiful San Antonio, having dinner and drinks at

the Landry Restaurant located 750 feet off the ground, banquet purposes, and even a Texas themed 4-d

sensory theatre. Ticket prices of the actual 1968 HemisFair cannot be located however to relive a piece

of the festival you can take a ride to the top of the tower for $11.00 if you’re an adult and $9.00 if you’re

Katelin Dietz       Brent Jemelka        Ashley Tayabi        Crystal Red      Donna Jauregui

a child. It’s great for any family outing or just a chance to relive and find a little bit about San Antonio’s

heritage and how it made its mark in world history.

Katelin Dietz       Brent Jemelka    Ashley Tayabi       Crystal Red     Donna Jauregui

                                            Cited Sources

(Picture 1 and 2)

Benavides, James. "Institute of Texas Cultures Opens Nastalgic Hemisfair 1968 Exhibit." UTSA Today. 24

  03 2008. University of Texas at San Antonio University Communications, Web. 21 Sep 2009.


"Handbook of Texas Online." TSHA Online. January 19, 2008. Texas State Historial Association ,
Web. 21 Sep 2009. <>.

HemisFair Urban Park." The Seven Wonders of San Antonio. The Colonel's Journal, Web. 21 Sep 2009.


. Wise, Dano, Hemis Fair Park. " Texas Travel." About.Com. Web. 21 Sep 2009.



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