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Bill Cotter

Fun inside the Belgian Village

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The attention to detail is awesome! 

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Clogs.

Who sponsored the Belgian village and why? So much construction and prop department detail. What was the sales pitch? Tourism to Belgium? Rental of retail space?  I would expect that set for a major motion picture but I don't get it for the Fair.

 

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The idea of a Belgian Village was not new to the NYWF.  The 1965 Guide does not state who sponsored it--at least not in the description on page 130.  

However, there was  Belgian Village in Chicago in 1933-34 sponsored by the Burnham Brothers (a Chicago architectural firm)  with Alfons deRydt (also spelled deRidt).  Daniel Burnham, incidentally, was the master planner of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.  

That second name, deRydt, was a sponsor of the 1964 Belgian Village.  He also designed an exhibit known as "Belgique Joyeuse" at the Brussels' World's Fair. The NYWF Corporation pursued him starting in 1961 to see if he would build a village for the NY fair.  His motivation, it appears, was purely financial.  He wanted to make money and there's nothing wrong with that.  But considering the cost of construction, the delayed opening and the feeble entry fee of one buck, it's hard to see how he did.  Everything inside the village cost something (food, drinks, souvenirs etc.) but it was also staffed by waiters, guides in full costumes, vendors etc.  They had to be paid.

In 1964, he was "president and architect" of Beautiful Belgium, Inc.  He broke ground for the exhibit on April 11, 1963 with Robert Moses and a host of others and full press coverage.

That press coverage was put into a pamphlet entitled "Beautiful Belgian Village, April 11, 1963."  It is on-line.

The Belgian Village certainly had a good deal of world's fair pedigree when many of us saw it in NY.  Its direct link goes all the way back to Chicago in 1893 when you think about it.  Pretty cool.

 

 

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As many, many times as I visited the Fair (certainly not record-breaking, but well over 50 separate visits) there were a number of pavilions I never visited, either because they seemed boring to a 12-year old (and boy, do I wish I had seen them and had memories of them now!) or because there was an admission charge.  Since a child's admission ticket to the Fair cost $1.00, a $1.00 charge to enter the Belgian Village was a non-starter for me.

It seems that World Showcase in Epcot is a higher-tech descendant of these World's Fair-based foreign themed pavilions, but the detail that I've seen in pictures of the NY Fair's Belgian Village is certainly on par with the World Showcase pavilions in Epcot.

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