Desperate to renew interest in the Pan-American Exposition after President William McKinley's assassination, organizers of Buffalo's world's fair came up with the idea of a Buffalo Day celebration.
The Oct. 19, 1901, event turned into a civic holiday. Businesses and schools were closed. People flocked to the grounds on Delaware Park Lake. The result: a single-day attendance record of 162,652. The pall that had hung over the city after McKinley died on Sept. 14, eight days after being shot in the Temple of Music, lifted -- if only briefly.
A century later, the University at Buffalo will try to revive the Pan-Am centennial -- brought to a standstill by the horrifying Sept. 11 terrorist assaults on New York City and Washington, D.C. -- with a two-day "Panamania" festival opening Saturday on the North Campus. The event seeks to re-create the atmosphere on the Pan-Am midway.
UB is characterizing the long-planned festival as an opportunity to help the area citizenry, still stunned by the terrorist attacks, get back to living life as usual.
"The sense at the university is that we should try to do what President Bush has been saying: return to some sort of normalcy, and show the terrorists they haven't won -- that we won't give in," said Michele R. Gallant, special projects assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The event, from 10 a.m. to about 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to about 5 p.m. Sunday in the Center for the Arts, will feature displays and informational exhibits by historical and community groups, games, "foods of the Americas," corporate mascots, a 10-minute video loop of film taken at the 1901 exposition, sidewalk chalk art created by UB students and a bazaar similar to one that stood on the Pan-Am midway.
"Tangible Memories," an ongoing exhibition of Pan-Am memorabilia organized by the Pan-American Exposition Collectors Society, will be open both days.
Additional activities on Saturday will include a Pan-Am antiques roadshow and memorabilia sale; a Pan-Am "cyber fair" demonstration every half-hour; crafts, videos, slides and games for children; solar boat demonstrations; Pan-Am-era music performed by the UB marching band; an appearance by a McKinley impersonator and a re-enactment of the president's assassination by Leon Czolgosz; bicycle demonstrations, a Coast Guard lifesaving demonstration; a guided tour of the UB Libraries' Pan-Am exhibits; rides in a tethered balloon; a llama race; and the presentation by Riverview Elementary School students of their scale-model Pan-Am Exposition, which will be illuminated at 9 p.m.
"Assassins," a Stephen Sondheim musical based on Czolgosz and other presidential murderers, will be performed at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Black Box Theater. "Miss Jane's Parlor," featuring music played on the pianola along with songs and stories of the Pan-Am, will be presented by Robert Berkman and Jane Romanos at 7:30 in Slee Hall.