Jeff Humphrey

Expo 74 Butterfly Takes Wing

Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 1:33 p.m.

We got our first look at the butterflies when the City of Spokane hosted the World’s Fair.

Back then, the color-coded sculptures helped visitors navigate their way around the Expo ’74 campus.

“They were gateway markers to mark different entrances to the park,” said Jennifer Leinberger, who formed a group on Facebook called ‘Save the Expo Butterflies’.

While the butterflies were never intended to be permanent fixtures in Riverfront Park, the structures became revered remnants of our Expo experience.

But, their popularity far out-lived the fabric that moved the butterflies’ wings.

“The ultraviolet light from the sunlight just made them wear out so they removed them after they got kind of tattered,” said Craig Lee of Coffman Engineers.

One by one, the butterflies disappeared from the Riverfront landscape, prompting Leinberger to take action.

“It’s part of our history. We have to preserve it. It’s one of the last remnants of Expo which was a huge thing for Spokane,” Leinberger said of the two remaining butterflies.

Leinberger lobbied the Spokane Park Board to approve renovating at least one of the butterflies.

Coffman Engineers donated its expertise to make this latest butterfly stronger and more responsive.

“There’s a really smooth operating thrust bearing at the top. There’s additional bearings that wrap around the column. This is going to be a butterfly that’s really light on its feet. It’s going to be pretty dynamic,” explained Craig Lee of Coffman Engineers.

The new butterfly is really a turbo charged version of its predecessor. Troy Anderson and the crew from GuildWorks were giddy about lashing new fabric on the butterfly’s wings.

“When I first saw that and then I was told that it hasn’t had fabric in it since the 90’s, I was really excited to come out here from Portland and help with this. It’s gonna be so cool,” exclaimed Troy Anderson of Portland-based GuildWorks.

“The fabric has some detailings where we actually have a cover pocket that will cover the frame of the butterfly and I hope, make a nicer finish for the butterfly than it’s ever had with any of the prior fabrics,” explained Mar Ricketts, also of GuildWorks.

Restraining bolts held the butterfly in place as the purple panels brought new life and color to this side of the park.

“This has been one of the most fabulous adventures to watch this whole thing go up and be able to see the North Bank get its rightful place in the park, said Charlotte Nemec, president of the nearby Canopy Credit Union.

A second butterfly waits to emerge from its earthly cocoon if funding becomes available. Plans call for it to take flight near the Red Wagon.

In the meantime, we have at least one of our butterflies back in action.

A reminder of the World’s Fair that shaped the Riverfront Park we know and love today.

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