Knoxville to Honor Historic Conservation Expo of 1913

Article excerpt

Despite its "modern energy" theme and giant windmill exhibits, the 1982 World's Fair didn't mark Knoxville's debut as a city of the future.

That recognition came 69 years earlier when Knoxville hosted the National Conservation Exposition of 1913, a two-month festival based around the embryonic concept that the South's natural resources were finite and that future generations deserved to have their water, forests and air protected.

Held in East Knoxville's Chilhowee Park, the National Conservation Exposition featured motorcycle races, a zip-line, fireworks, music, trained elephants, and hot air balloons. There even was a mock coal mining explosion. Over a million people attended, including such dignitaries as Helen Keller, Booker T. Washington, and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. Apart from the entertainment, there were conservation exhibits that addressed soil erosion, clean water and sustainable timber harvesting -- issues considered progressive at the time.

On Saturday Knoxville will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Conservation Exposition with a full day of family entertainment at Chilhowee Park. Like the 1913 festival, the "Centennial Conservation Expo" will feature live music, circus performers, a climbing wall, art exhibits, and a host of conservation agencies and organizations.

Free trolley services will be available throughout the day from downtown to Chilhowee Park, and the staff of Three Rivers Angler will be at the fairground pond to offer fly casting lessons.

Joining Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero at the 11 a.m. opening ceremony will be Leila Pinchot, great-granddaughter of Gifford Pinchot, the first head of the U.S. Forest Service under President Theodore Roosevelt, and chairman of the advisory board of the 1913 conservation exposition.

"A lot of people don't realize that Knoxville was the center of conservation 100 years ago," said Jesse Mayshark, communications manager for Knoxville. "This is a good opportunity to celebrate what happened back then, and what has happened since."

The early 1900s was a time when Americans stopped believing in the myth of a limitless frontier. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service to oversee the network of parks out West that already included Yellowstone, Yosemite and Mount Rainier. …

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