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updated: 11/13/2013 10:16 AM

Celebrating 120 years

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  • Bob Dion proudly displays the poster used to promote the 1893 Columbia Exposition.

    Bob Dion proudly displays the poster used to promote the 1893 Columbia Exposition.

Ivy Marketing Group

Nearly 300 people gathered at Friendship Village on Saturday to learn about the 1893 Columbia Exposition held in Chicago 120 years ago.

Bob Dion, a self-proclaimed World's Fair 'geek' was on hand to show his memorabilia from the great event. He shared stories and slides of the Fair grounds and told us that the Ferris Wheel, the first of its kind holding 2,160 people in 36 cars (a structure far larger than the Ferris Wheel that now resides at Navy Pier) saved the Fair from financial ruin.

Juicy Fruit gum, Cream of Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Cracker Jacks and the nation's first postcards and commemorative stamps are among the famous inventions that made their debut at the fair. 26 million people attended the Exposition, making it the largest attendance of any public event at the time.

It was the amazing layout of large gracious buildings and open park-like settings that inspired the redesign of our nation's capital and the birth of the National Mall. The Fair covered 600 acres and featured 200 new temporary buildings. The Museum of Science and Industry remains as the most famous remnant of the Exposition's spectacular architecture.

In addition to Bob's contribution, attendees of the morning's presentation were privy to the diary account of Hanna Ditzler Alspaugh who traveled from Naperville 36 times during the Fair and who kept detailed accounts of the sights, sounds, smells and overall wonder of this famous event. Slides and actual text from the diary were shared by our guest speaker from Naper Settlement, Barbara Rimmer.

Friendship Village guests enjoyed fare served at the Fair like hamburgers and hot dogs. Tours of the beautiful studio, one and two bedroom apartments at Friendship Village were also admired that day.

Friendship Village is a leading Chicago continuing care retirement community offering a complete continuum of care including independent living garden homes and apartment homes, as well as assisted living, memory support, skilled care, and short- and long-term rehabilitation services. For more than 35 years, Friendship Village has been providing Chicago area seniors with exceptional retirement living options. For additional information visit