The wonder of the Rochester writer’s world exhibitions led him to be an “exhibition” in Dubai

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Pappas, a writer from Rochester, was recently surprised to learn that he was among the best “exhibits” at the 2020 World’s Fair in Dubai.

If he wasn’t aware of its ranking in the international event brochure, Pappas certainly wasn’t surprised to be linked to the last international exhibition whose origins date back to 1851.

Pappas is editor-in-chief for Exhibitor magazine, based in downtown Rochester. The magazine covers the trade show industry and corporate event marketing. This extends to global exhibitions, like the one that kicked off on October 1 in Dubai.

Exhibitions are of professional and personal interest to Pappas. In recent years, this interest has grown into a passion.

After writing a book on the subject in 2018 titled “Flying Cars, Zombie Dogs & Robot Overlords”, he is probably the world’s expert on the history of world fairs and exhibitions.

This is why the organizer of Expo 2020 contacted him as a consultant as a writer and speaker. And this led to his fame in Dubai.

Pappas recently discussed his interests and experiences.

Charles Pappas is editor-in-chief for Exhibitor magazine.  Pappas is pictured on Tuesday October 12, 2021 in Rochester.  Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Charles Pappas is editor-in-chief for Exhibitor magazine. Pappas is pictured on Tuesday October 12, 2021 in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

So, the World Expo 2020 Dubai recently sent out a list of their top 50 ‘must see’ attractions and listed you as one of them. How did it happen?

I had no idea they were doing this … Among my other plans, because when I go to Dubai in a few days, I thought this (brochure) would be a good idea where to start. And I look at number one and take some notes. I turn the page. I’m number 12. There is a moment of unreality about “Twilight Zone”, when you think about it, it must be a joke.

It completely shocked me. I am a human attraction. I mean, it was delicious. But no one gave me the slightest warning. It was a complete shock.

You helped the organizers of the World Expo 2020 prepare for the event. What does this imply?

Over the years, I have more and more settled in the world of fairs and world exhibitions. And of course, I wrote a book about it two years ago. And then in 2018, I went to the State Department on the matter. And that kind of snowball snowballed people at Expo 2020 Dubai upon hearing about me.

So several months ago, I started by giving them a presentation on the history of world exhibitions, why they are effective, why they are so powerful. And then it turned this year into the official “visitor experience zone” consultant. So it took a lot of writing and even podcasts.

Much of what I did was in some ways, being invisible, I just won’t have my name on it, but it will be all around the exhibit in terms of explanatory signage, historical exhibits and even up to as many as 10 audio tours led by me.

I’m also doing a presentation here in the American pavilion. They can also just tune me into some kind of storytelling on all the big stories behind world exhibitions since 1851.

I know you’ve traveled a lot, but you’ve never been to Dubai before.

No. I have been to Egypt and I have been to Jordan a few times, because I really love the country of Jordan. And I’m going to hike in the lost city of Petra. About eight years ago, I reproduced Lawrence of Arabia’s journey through the Wadi Rum desert to the border with Saudi Arabia. It was the funniest thing I will ever do again.

So that now gives me a good excuse to go there (Dubai).

You described yourself as being “rooted” in the history of the World’s Fairs. How did it start?

When I was 9, my father drove us from Wisconsin to New York for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. This wonder of what I saw when I was 9 has never left me. It’s as fresh as if it were yesterday.

There were so many amazing exhibits, but one that really took hold in my head was the IBM exhibit. You walk under this grove of 30- to 45-foot-tall steel “trees” around a monster version of the IBM Selectric striking element with the word IBM three-dimensional stamped 3,000 times on it. It opened like a giant mouth to allow 500 people to enter at once. It got you up to nine stories in the air, where 14 projectors showed distinct stories about computers about their ease and logic.

America in the 1960s experienced a recession that some called the “automation recession”. IBM was still sort of struggling with the feeling that computers and automation would take our jobs.

IBM wasn’t going to sell you a computer back then. But IBM wants you to understand that these are computers. When you leave this exhibit, IBM is to computers what Google is to searches. You cannot separate them.

I remember the feeling of wonder at the future. And that stuck in my mind, among so many other exhibits … for half a century.

Fast forward to 2010. And we decided that Exhibitor would start covering world shows, because they represent the highest degree of ingenuity. We start in Shanghai then in 2012 we go to South Korea then to Milan in 2015, then to Kazakhstan in 2017, so it snowballed well, but it’s like a pinball machine. You know, if I hadn’t done that and then bounced back to Rochester, Minnesota, and then to the Exhibitor, it never would’ve happened.

Charles Pappas is editor-in-chief for Exhibitor magazine.  Pappas is pictured on Tuesday October 12, 2021 in Rochester.  Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Charles Pappas is editor-in-chief for Exhibitor magazine. Pappas is pictured on Tuesday October 12, 2021 in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

How long have you been with Exhibitor?

It will be 20 years in 2022. And it’s funny because a lot of people know us in London and Las Vegas, but we rarely hear about us here.

In Shanghai and Milan, people knew who our guys (exhibitors) were, but if we walk across the street to Café Steam, no one knows who we are. It’s a really strange dichotomy. Mayo and IBM overshadow everything here. So it’s understandable, but sometimes very ironic.

What will you do for the exhibitor in Dubai?

We are proud to reach every pavilion at every show. And usually there are up to 200 of them. We analyze and write about each one. So it ends up being a lot of work. But it’s exhausting. But it’s exhilarating at the same time.

You have the Eiffel Tower, possibly the next great example of a signature construction for a World’s Fair. Obviously, it has stood the test of time. Here’s the funny thing people don’t know: The Eiffel Tower was only supposed to last 20 years. It was to be deconstructed in 1909. It was hated at first, but later became so loved. Today, it is considered the most valuable monument mark in the world.

In the United States, these events were generally called world fairs, but now they are called world exhibitions. Can you tell me about this change?

It’s a big question that no one has ever asked … There was a deliberate change in 1967, for Expo 67 in Montreal. … It changed because they didn’t want it to smell like state fairs… to be just entertainment. It has become a more serious business to present technologies for the future, to present solutions to current and possible future problems … to educate more than entertain.

It seems that many technologies have come to light at these events over the years. Is technology at the heart of these exhibitions?

I wouldn’t say it’s the core as much as it’s parallel to everything. Just about every technology you can think of actually started out there in some way – the fax machine, the envelope folding machine, the telephone, the phonograph, the x-ray machines. But then it went downhill. products with visions of the future in general. You had television billed as the wave of the future in 1939 in New York

We are now focusing on environmental and social issues and what we can do to solve them. And, in many cases, they will show off some technology that can help it. For example, the Italians, in 2010 in Shanghai, had transparent concrete that could also clean the area of ​​smog.

In 1964 in New York you had the introduction of computer dating when they didn’t know it at the time. Parker Pen Company introduced the computer that could connect you with pen pals around the world. It was the germ of computer dating back then.

I heard that a World’s Fair could happen in Minnesota. Is it correct?

Minneapolis is trying to get the exhibition for 2027. And I think at the end of the year they will find out if they won it. Their theme will be health, which I think is really cool. No Expo has done this before. It could also be a huge boon to the state and city of Minneapolis. It would allow a lot of people to try new technologies in this area. And I would like them to focus on new things like wearable devices to increase your vision and hearing or exoskeletons that can help people with disabilities do almost superhuman things. I think it’s really fascinating.


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