Expositions and Fairs

Expositions and Fairs
   Merchants arrived in Brussels soon after establishment of the castrum in the 10th century. In 1487, the city was granted the right to hold two annual fairs of 8 to 10 days. Annual and quinquennial fairs were long held. In the mid-19th century, merchant fairs were held on the Grand' Place and in rooms in the Hôtel de Ville, then transferred to the place du Grand Sablon and the place Saint-Michel. Industrial exhibitions were held in 1830, 1835, and 1841. They were discontinued until revived by Burgomaster Adolphe Max, who opened the Foire commerciale de Bruxelles on 4 April 1920 at the Parc de Bruxelles. Space proved insufficient and the event was moved to the Parc du Cinquantenaire and then to the Grand Palais du Centenaire at Heysel in the 1930s, when it became known as the Foire internationale de Bruxelles. The fair continues today. Industrial and trade fairs are held today in the Parc des Expositions, which features the International Trade Mart, and at Espace Roger-Les Pyramids at place Rogier.
   The Brussels Expo, managed by the Brussels Exhibition Center, began with construction of five exhibition halls for the World's Fair of 1935. The Grand Palais (Hall 5) served as the showcase building. Halls 7, 8, and 9 were added by 1957 and, in 1989, Hall 12 was completed. An auditorium was appended to the complex in 1993. The spaces can accommodate up to 10,000 people.
   In 1998, Brussels hosted 79 trade fairs and exhibitions, including approximately 12,000 exhibitors and 2.6 million participants.
   Open-air carnivals (kermesses) are a popular tradition and neighborhood festivities are a feature of city life. Since the end of the 19th century, the Grande Kermesse runs for four weeks beginning on 20 July held adjacent to the boulevards of the inner ring road near the porte de Hal. The annual Christmas market on the Grand' Place is the largest in Belgium with over 200 exhibitors. The Plaisirs d'Hiver/ Winterpret festival is held over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
   Brussels has hosted many national and world's fairs. The national exposition at the Cinquantenaire celebrated Belgium's 50th anniversary of independence. World's fairs were held in 1888, 1897, 1910, 1935, and 1958. Their administration usually entailed the setting up of a corporate entity to manage the logistics and financing. A commissioner-general, appointed by the government, acted as a liaison between the latter, fair directors, and foreign participants. Funds were secured by corporate subscriptions, through nationwide lotteries, and, in 1958, through borrowing. Large profits were not generated, though most fairs, notably those in 1935 and 1958, did break even.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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