It was the "Grand Liège", a group of young enthusiasts led by G. Truffaut, alderman of Liège, that came up with the idea, in 1936, of an exhibition to mark the inauguration of the Albert Canal, that marvel of engineering art and technique.
The construction of the entrance to the new canal and the rectification of the Meuse River had created a magnificent body of water almost 200 metres wide on Monsin Island, crossing available land of about 80 hectares. It was decided to establish the new exhibition there.
The exhibition was opened by King Leopold III on 20 May 1939.
Seeing the imminent arrival of a conflict, the Belgian army had explosives laid 'preventively' under the bridges of Val de Benoit and Ougrée, with the aim of slowing down the invasion if war was declared.
Theoretically scheduled to end in November, a storm aided by the explosives destroyed the two bridges and caused the death of 20 people and more than 80 injuries.
Despite this premature end, the exhibition was a success due to the number of visitors and the profits generated.