A celebration of the Centennial

Recognised by the 89th session of the General Assembly of the BIE on 22 April 1981, the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition was held in New Orleans, a city known for its vibrant night-life. This Expo coincided with the centennial of the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition. The objective of this Specialised Expo was for New Orleans to undergo an urban renewal, by promoting the city as an attractive tourist destination, redeveloping the Warehouse District, and setting the context for the construction of an upscale convention centre. The theme of New Orleans' Expo was ‘The World of Rivers: Fresh Water as a Source of Life’, with the site located on the banks of the Mississippi River.

The Venue

The site of Expo 1984 was distinguished by a monorail, a gondola over the Mississippi river, and the brightly-coloured 805-metre Wonderwall, which was dubbed a ‘stationary Mardi Gras parade’. It was the first Expo to have its own mascot - Seymore D. Fair - a white pelican wearing a blue tuxedo.

City officials and Expo organisers decided to build the monorail system for the Expo with the aim transporting a large amount of visitors so as to avoid traffic building up in the Warehouse and Downtown districts.

Lush vegetation was planted throughout the Expo site and small gazebos were set up on the walkway in order to ensure the comfort of pedestrians during the heat of the Louisiana summer.

Other memorable features of the Expo were the gondola that crossed the Mississippi River, which facilitated the transport of visitors around the Expo and was suspended 61 metres in the air, and an amphitheatre where famous musicians including Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young performed.

The US pavilion featured NASA’s prototype Space Shuttle Enterprise, which proved popular with visitors – it attracted a total of 2.6 million visits throughout the duration of the Expo. The host nation’s pavilion also featured two 3-D cinemas that screened ‘Water, the Source of Life’, a 20-minute film produced by Charles Guggenheim.

Highlights of the international contribution include the Italian Village, a popular dining spot for visitors, and the Japanese pavilion. This pavilions drew on the Expo’s water theme with elements of Japanese culture and history, as well as exhibits of traditional Japanese forms of celebration.


Many of the streets and buildings in the Warehouse District of New Orleans were renovated thanks to Expo 1984. Buildings that were improved so that businesses could attract visitors during the Expo were used for commercial and residential purposes once it closed. These improvements contributed to the development of New Orleans’ vibrant art district, which remains popular for its restaurants and art galleries.

The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is one of the Expo's greatest legacies. This building served as the Louisiana Pavilion during the Expo, and reopened as a convention centre in 1985, now being the sixth largest of its kind in the country. Another noteworthy legacy of the Expo is the shopping centre built on the waterfront where the international pavilions were located during the fair, which enabled the banks of the Mississippi river to be integrated into the city’s urban life.