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11.3.11: Toasting the Needle

Space Needle History: Thursday at the Needle

Knute Berger, Writer-in-Residence

I recently had a chance to sit and talk with George Schuchart and his wife Judy. The Schucharts were among the original Needle investors, being part of the Howard Wright family. One of the things they reminisced about were the gala functions surrounding the opening of the Space Needle.

Judy Schuchart remembered the big party for the "christening" of the Needle, and how all the VIPs who made the Needle and the world's fair happened gathered to celebrate their success on the eve of the fair.

On April 19, there was a gourmet dinner at the Olympic Hotel, headquarters of Western Hotels and Eddie Carlson, the man who was the Needle's catalyst. Western also had the concession to run the Needle and its restaurant during the fair. After a lavish meal, everyone hopped on the Monorail and they were whisked the fairgrounds for the premiere showings of the film in the Boeing Spacearium at the Federal Science Pavilion.

As midnight approached, everyone headed to the Needle, the best place to see the fairgrounds. The guests were given specially made champagne glasses by waitresses at the elevator doors. There were nearly 1,000 guests in all, the paper reported. On the Observation Deck, Mme Robert Petin of Paris took a bottle of champagne, donated from the wine cellar of the Eiffel Tower, and christened the Needle by smashing it on a metal railing of the Observation Deck. By 12:46 am on April 20, the toasts and christening had been accomplished. The fair would open the following day.

The champagne glasses are quite special, and uncommon. They consist of a clear goblet with a stem in the shape of an amber-colored Space Needle and are engraved to mark the occasion. Judy Schuchart says they are still in the family, rare mementos of a once-in-a-lifetime day.

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