Minnesota’s bid to host a World’s Fair in 2023 took an important step forward last week when President Obama granted it federal recognition, issuing a finding that the proposal is “in the national interest.”
That presidential blessing clears the way for the Minnesota proposal’s delivery this week to the Paris-based Bureau of International Expositions, where it will vie with a competing proposal from Lodz, Poland, and possibly another from Argentina. Next November, a site will be selected to host the 2023 iteration of the three-month expositions staged between full-blown world’s fairs, which occur every five years.
Much credit is due the blue-ribbon Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee, headed by former Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, for advancing an ambitious idea this far. But it’s too soon for the committee’s civic visionaries to rest on their laurels.
Not only must they prepare to sell the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) next year on the value and appeal of Minnesota’s proposed theme, “Wellness and Well Being for All.” The project’s boosters must also secure permission from Congress for the United States to renew its membership in the BIE, which was withdrawn for cost-cutting reasons in 2002. Only as a BIE member nation can the U.S. compete on a level playing field with Poland for the 2023 event.
Minnesota’s congressional delegation is on the case, Ritchie said Monday, with leadership coming from GOP Rep. Tom Emmer and Democrats Rep. Betty McCollum and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. They’re getting an assist from the Texas delegation because Houston hopes to host a World’s Fair in coming years, Ritchie said.
Rejoining the BIE requires a green light from Congress but no appropriation, Ritchie added. The privately funded nonprofit organization Expo USA is prepared to cover the annual $40,000 dues. That, plus ample bipartisan backing, should make rejoining the BIE an easy choice for the next Congress.
Meanwhile, Minnesotans are justified in taking the daydream of hosting a summerlong international gathering to the next level. Genuine planning is in order, involving an enlarging circle of civic-minded Minnesotans. The preferred site in Prospect Park near the University of Minnesota is ripe with potential to not only welcome a projected 150,000 visitors a day for three months in 2023, but also serve Minnesotans in subsequent years. That potential should be firing local imaginations now.