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Quieter corners of Expo 86.

Quieter corners of Expo 86

As Vancouver's Expo 86 builds toward anticipated peaks of 200,000 visitors a day, you may welcome hearing about places to escape the worst of the crush.

We've found three. Both the extreme west (Purple Zone) and east (Yellow Zone) ends of the False Creek fairgrounds tend to be less packed than the middle reaches. And the Via Rail station may be the fair's best-kept secret.

The Purple Zone. The fair's East Gate has been Expo's busiest. Go straight ahead to hear entertainment at the Expo Bandstand. To your left, on either side of the crowded China Pavilion, are the Yukon and Northwest Territories pavilions, where you can enjoy outdoor folk music.

Just beyond is Folklife, where 25 musical and other performances are scheduled daily in three theaters. Stop for international folk music, traditional games, and storytelling at the outdoor stage in The Common near the entry (bring a picnic and sit on the grass). The 400-seat Barn and the 300-seat Big House feature fiddlers, string bands, Indian dancers, and storytellers.

Seating is unreserved; it's best to arrive early. Theaters are usually open between performances.

You also can take in the open-air exhibits of quilting, weaving, blacksmithing, and cooking (sample Coast-Indian-style smoked salmon, Chinese noodles, Portuguese specialties, Doukhobor food).

The 180-seat Gallery cafeteria sells snacks and sandwiches. Or try caribou stew, buffalo steak, or barbecued salmon at the 160-seat First Nation Restaurant.

At the Northwest Territories pavilion, stop by the Icicles Restaurant for reindeer, musk-ox, arctic char, and other native foods, served indoors and out. And look for cooking and carving demonstrations, bead-workers and basket-weavers, kayak-makers, porcupine-quill workers, as well as story-tellers, throat-singers, drummers, fiddlers, dancers, and native game demonstrations.

The Yellow Zone. The Old Salts Shipyard, west of Kodak Pacific Bowl, is a must-see stop for nautically minded visitors, and it's not even shown on official maps. Using traditional methods and local woods, B.C. boatbuilders are fashioning a replica of the Swift, a 111-foot schooner of the 1780s.

The 1,500-seat open-air Xerox International Theater presents several music and dance shows daily between 11 and 9, all free. Performances range from folk to classical to popular, last about 30 to 40 minutes, and represent all Expo's participating nations.

You're also welcome to walk through the Mounties' stable above Kodak Pacific Bowl to watch steeds being brushed and groomed.

Picnic spots here include the grassy slopes around the Kodak bowl, below the Old Salts Shipyard, and along False Creek from the fair's west end to the U.S. Pavilion.

Via Rail's unsung exhibits. Just outside the east gate, at 1150 Station Street near SkyTrain's Main Street Station, is the 1917 CNR depot, now used by Via Rail (Canada's Amtrak). Stop by before you enter Expo, or come over anytime from the fairgrounds (to re-enter, get your hand stamped as you leave).

This year marks the city's centennial and the 150th year of passenger railroads in Canada. To honor the occasion, Via Rail has cleaned up the depot's neoclassical exterior and relighted its high-ceilinged interior. New signs and a brass clock have been added. The Cafe de la Gare offers light fare.

Behind the station, you can tour five restored cars from the 1929 Trans-Canada Limited, once the last word in rail luxury. Or board a miniature train built for the 1967 Montreal world's fair for a 10-minute ride through the yards ($1.50 U.S.).

Finally, a nostalgic presentation blends mime impressions with historical artifacts and displays, including a 50-year-old replica of Canada's first steam locomotive. The 30-minute show (it starts every 15 minutes) takes you over 150 years of Canadian rail history in a six-room sequence.

In the block between the station and Expo are the lawns of Thornton Park, an oasis for picnickers.

Planning a visit, new hours, site future

If you can, allow three days for Expo and concentrate on two zones each day. This lets you slow down, examine details, and talk to people--instead of racing back and forth and hurrying through exhibits. (Be sure to wear comfortable low-heel walking shoes; biggest first-aid complaint to date has been blisters.)

So far, the fair has been busiest in the mornings. Crowds dwindle after 5 or so, and remain light most evenings. All restaurants, pubs, night clubs, concessions, rides, gondolas, and other non-pavilion activities now stay open until midnight (pavilions still close at 10). Given that most visitors are good for about 8 hours of fairgoing before their eyes begin to glaze over, consider a 3 to 11 visit.

Fireworks now begin at 10:30, not 10, so you have more chance to find a vantage point after pavilions close. The monorail operates until 2 A.M., giving you plenty of time after official closing to get back to appropriate gates and parking lots.

To find out what will change after the fair closes, look for a sign, Future of the Expo 86 Site, across from the Mexico Pavilion at the east end of the Pink Zone. A large model here shows projected development over the next 25 years; B.C. Stadium was the first phase.

Photo: Salish dance troupe unravels Indian legends in The Big House at Folklife center

Photo: Fashioned from fragrant yellow cedar, tall-ship hull is progressing at Old Salts Shipyard
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jul 1, 1986
Words:882
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