The 1964 New York World’s Fair attracted about 51 million...

The 1964 New York World’s Fair attracted about 51 million visitors.Some Long Islanders attended again and again. Credit: Newsday

Were there technological marvels at the 1964 World’s Fair? Sure. Did the architecture, some of which remains today, dazzle? Absolutely. But what really made the fair, which marks its 60th anniversary this year, were the people.

Over the course of the two years the fair was open at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, approximately 51 million people crowded into the 646-acre site. People like Leonard Landman, then a 16-year-old from Plainview who wound up being the first person inside when the fair opened for its second season in 1965.

It was like a giant playground.

Leonard Landman, first person inside the 1965 World's Fair

“We went to the World’s Fair a lot in those days,” Landman, now 74 and living in Florida, recalled. “We would just take the Long Island Rail Road and go there. . . . It was like a giant playground.”

There were notables as well: Robert Moses, of course, as the fair’s president, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., who visited with his family in August 1964. 

And, in a nod to the times, there were protesters. More than 200 civil rights demonstrators were arrested on the fair’s first day, April 22, 1964, and a sit-in at two escalators shut down the Ford Motor Pavilion for most of the day.

The second day of the fair was declared Patchogue Day, the first community in the state to have a designated day. About 2,400 people from the village, wearing royal blue and white tags, attended. “It’s tremendous,” one woman told Newsday. “And we’re coming back.”

— Kim Predham, LI Life Editor

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