The Big Day is Finally Here

Friday, April 28, 1967: The First Day of Expo 67

By Carmen Desmeules (translated by Emilie Gosselin)

Early in the morning, Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien and his wife, Nan-b, are at the front gates of Man and His World to welcome the first visitors. The “Mayor” of Expo worries while looking of the site:

“Will they come?”

Mr. Carter, the first visitor at Expo 67. Photo credit – Library and Archives Canada

At 9 AM, hundreds of people flock out of Île-Ste-Hélène metro station, towards the site with their brand new passports. The metro doors even have to be closed off for some time to manage circulation. On this day, Expo receives 407,500 visitors! Among the first, a 97 year old woman from New York who “didn’t want to die before having seen this.”

An event brings upon some concern: security employees threaten to go on strike. A young lawyer named Jean Cournoyer takes care of negotiating the matter and avoiding the worst on this first day of the Universal Exhibition in Montreal.

Photo credit – Library and Archives Canada

The organizers had predicted 200,000 attendees on this first day. As this number is far surpassed, there are certain logistical problems: not enough toilets, not enough trash cans, not enough information booths, etc. This is quickly remedied in the following days.

The Mayor of Expo doesn’t see much of it – being confined to the underground Operation Control Room, he supervises the operations using the latest technology, emerging only occasionally to ensure that everything is running  smoothly, even picking up litter at times.

Concerts, marching bands, the issuance of the commemorative stamp, water skiing and other artistic and sports activities are on the agenda on this memorable day when Montreal welcomed the world!

*Source: Expo 67 journal, De jour en jour

To learn more about Expo 67, read this article!