Remembering the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair

By   •   June 29, 2010   •   Topics: ,

“Who would have thought that a person could find Jesus Christ at the World’s Fair? Yet that is what is happening to these people who stayed for counseling after seeing the film Man in the 5th Dimension at the Billy Graham Pavilion.”

An ad in the October 1964 issue of Decision magazine posed the above question with a few answers:

  • A 29-year-old graduate psychologist from Detroit;
  • A 35-year-old divorcee who had been teaching Sunday School but, by her own statement, “did not know the Lord;”
  • A Hungarian woman who heard about the Pavilion ministry from an uncle in Hungary,
  • and a dentist from Columbus, Ohio, who was counseled by another dentist.

Hailing itself as a “Universal and International” exposition, the World’s Fair focused on “Peace through Understanding” and was dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”

It ran for two six-month seasons, April 22–October 18, 1964 and April 21–October 17, 1965 in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the borough of Queens.

Serving as the centerpiece of the Billy Graham Pavilion, a 70-mm wide-screen film called Man in the Fifth Dimension was shown hourly from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in a special 400-seat theater that offered viewers earphones in a choice of six languages. Each inquirer was counseled afterward in his or her own language.

In his autobiography, Billy Graham writes about how the Pavilion and film came to be used at the World’s Fair.

Read the Excerpt:

“As plans began to take shape for the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair, we were approached by the fair’s chief planner, Robert Moses, about the possibility of having some type of exhibit. It sounded like an unusual opportunity; at least 50 million people were expected to attend the fair’s two-year run.

We determined to go ahead. As our plans developed, however, I began to have second thoughts. For one thing, the whole fair seemed overwhelming. Someone calculated that if people spent only twelve minutes at every exhibit, it would take them two weeks to see the whole fair. In addition, I doubted if we could raise the funds to build a separate pavilion, staff it for two years, and develop a film that would be adequate for an event this massive. I wrestled with the decision for months.

In a moment of discouragement–I was ill at the time–I wrote the BGEA board telling them I thought we should cancel. Dr. Edman, the president of Wheaton College whose wisdom I respected so much, immediately wrote back that he thought I was wrong. He saw this opportunity as “a great challenge put before us by our Lord.” He also told me that Dwight L. Moody’s greatest impact may have been through the extensive campaign he ran in connection with the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

So we went ahead, developing a seventy-millimeter wide-screen Todd-AO film entitled Man in the Fifth Dimension. (The name came from the film’s theme: life has a fifth dimension to it, the dimension of the spiritual.) Using spectacular photography to tell the story of God’s creation and His love in Christ, scriptwriter Jim Collier and director Dick Ross put together a presentation of the Gospel that touched thousands of lives.

Our pavilion included an exhibit area, which 5 million people visited in the course of the fair, and a 400-seat auditorium where the film was shown hourly, complete with translations into six major languages. Pavilion director Dan Piatt reported that the film was seen by 1 million people.”

Help Reach the Lost

You gift can help BGEA spread the Gospel through every available means and to every nation. Donate online today to support our many ministries.

Groundbreaking Remarks:

Addressing the crowd at the Groundbreaking on April 17, 1963, Billy Graham talked about the ministry aspects of the Pavilion:


“We are living in a world of continuing crises and tension. Millions of people of all races are consciously or unconsciously searching for truth and reality. The New York World’s Fair will provide an unparalleled opportunity for the Christian faith to present its message of peace and hope. We have accepted the invitation of the World’s Fair to build an Evangelistic Pavilion where we can present the biblical message with the evangelistic emphasis that has characterized our ministry through the years.

“Our pavilion will be unique in its simplicity: It is our fervent prayer that people from all walks of life and faiths will come, and will leave the pavilion profoundly impressed and strengthened by the message of Christ.

“It will be unique in its appeal; we intend to minister to all races and all cultures. … We believe that man stands at the crossroads of eternity. A decision of vast importance must soon be made by the human race. Will it be the road of war and destruction, or the road to peace?

You can follow the Steps to Peace right now »

“We are hopeful that this pavilion will make some small contribution toward helping the world choose God and His road to peace.”

View the illustrated script for “Man in the Fifth Dimension” »