It seems this town got it into its head in the ’30s that hosting a World’s Fair shouldn’t only be for cities that didn’t need the boost or the two-way exposure to the world. So, it applied to host one. And was ignored.

But they built one anyway, researching customs from around the world, creating small wooden pavilions to represent thirty-six countries, complete with snack stands where you could buy international foods, craft demonstrations, even little hotels of many nations. They taught themselves, via lessons on 78 rpm records, how to speak the various languages. And they kept the fair going for far longer than the one or two year lifespan of properly ordained fairs.

Over a period of decades, the world took notice. Hip guidebooks from the post-war ’40s caused tourists from “represented” nations to visit when they came to the US. Often, they were surprised by how right the villagers had gotten their customs and and crafts. Sometimes, they taught villagers the right way to do things they’d been doing wrong. In a few cases, international visitors stayed, finding this small world a better world than the big one, after all.

I don’t know what the town’s name was at that time, but now it’s Exposition, Va. It’s a medium-sized tourist destination, but in this country knows anything about it.

Except Congressman Henry Waxman.


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