Neillsville World Fair Pavilion
Contact: Dolores Kenyon
----Sources: Clark County Press
(Neillsville, WI) September 21, 2005
Latest visit to 1964 World’s Fair Pavilion at Neillsville makes Ivan Wilcox’s day
Like the fine cheeses sold in its gift shop, the 1964 World Fair’s Wisconsin Pavilion just gets better with age.
That might well have been the impression of Ivan Wilcox who headed up a family reunion to revisit, perhaps for the final time, the former World’s Fair building he erected in Neillsville nearly 40 years ago. It’s been serving as home to Central Wisconsin Broadcasting, and its growing number of radio stations, ever since.
A surprise reception greeted the Wilcox clan. Not only was Wilcox and his wife, along with the families of nine of their 12 children warmly welcomed by station owners Kevin and Peggy Grap, but Neillsville Mayor Diane Murphy was there to honor Wilcox, age 77, with a proclamation declaring September 17, 2005 as "Ivan Wilcox Day in Neillsville, Wis."
Looking at the pavilion gleaming in the bright morning sunshine, Wilcox, who continues to live in Boscobel, Wis., said the sight brought back memories of the first time he saw the building at the World’s Fair in New York.
"It was a pretty unique building, and the fact that it was from Wisconsin gave it a special meaning," he said.
Rather than allowing the pavilion to be reduced to a pile of scrap metal, Wilcox made an offer to buy the building for $5,000. It was accepted. Wilcox was soon on his way back to Wisconsin, together with five truckloads of the disassembled pavilion.
Wilcox, who had a machine and welding shop in Boscobel, said he had plans to make the pavilion into a night club where people could dance and eat. "It would be a showpiece, that was my idea," he said.
But when the anticipated local financial support to make it happen didn’t come forth, Wilcox had to make other plans.
With a hopeful vision of the pavilion once more rising in splendor somewhere in Wisconsin, Wilcox placed advertisements in a number of newspapers. There was interest out there, he recalled, but mostly from out of state. However, the phone call from Howie Sturtz, of Neillsville, had a special ring to it. Sturtz, along with the late Wayne Grap, were the owners of Central Wisconsin Broadcasting. It didn’t take long for Wilcox to come to an agreement to sell the pavilion. "The fact that it was going to be here in Wisconsin was the main thing," he said.
The $41,000 price tag included the agreement that Wilcox would reconstruct the pavilion at its present location along US Highway 10 on Neillsville’s south side. Wilcox completed the project in 1967.
Wilcox has, by his estimation, been back to Neillsville to see the pavilion a half dozen times over the years. Last Saturday, he was back, perhaps for the last time, he said. And, he added, making the visit all the more special was having his family there, as well. "The reunion here was to get us all together to see it," he said.
For the most part, the pavilion looked the same as it did when he first saw it back in 1964, Wilcox said.
There have been changes, he noted, mostly out of view from the front of the building. Those included lower level offices and a water fountain. An addition housing the Central Wisconsin Broadcasting radio studios that include WCCN Memories 1370 AM, The Rock 107.5 FM and the new WPKG 92.7 FM extends from the back of the pavilion.
In its own unique style, the former Wisconsin Pavilion has been a fitting home to the radio stations serving Neillsville and the surrounding area, according to Kevin Grap. "The building draws attention to the radio station and the community," he said.
The passing years have not diminished its attractiveness, said Grap. "The building was ahead of its time," he said. "Its design goes well into the future."
The Graps opened the doors of the pavilion to the many members of the Wilcox family during their visit on Saturday morning, inviting them to look around the studios and elsewhere as they pleased. When Mayor Murphy arrived, everyone gathered around the family patriarch as he accepted the proclamation for his part in bringing what has turned out to be a widely-recognized landmark to the city.
He took a lot of pride in bringing the pavilion to Neillsville in the first place, Wilcox recalled. On that day, nearly 40 years later, and with family all around, Wilcox’s feeling of pride could only have been enhanced.
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