Hemisfair Park will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year with a three-day ¡Viva Hemisfair! festival set for April. Part of San Antonio’s Tricentennial celebration, the festival will celebrate the city’s diverse residents and reflect on the park’s past and future.

Since Yanaguana Garden opened in October 2015, Hemisfair has grown in popularity. Organizers want to capitalize on interest in the park as redevelopment in the area proceeds. Over a million visitors have visited the park since that opening, 90% of them locals from all 10 of San Antonio’s City Council districts, according to Hemisfair Communications Manager Drew Hicks.

The anniversary festival, scheduled for April 6-8, is an independently organized Tricentennial event celebrating the momentum of Hemisfair.

“The Tricentennial and the 50th year of Hemisfair is a time definitely to celebrate,” said Andres Andujar, CEO of the Hemisfair Area Redevelopment Corporation, on Friday. “These big anniversaries don’t come around often in our lifetime.”

Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation CEO Andres Andujar welcomes the crowd to the Hemisfair 50th Anniversary Announcement Press Event.
Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation CEO Andres Andujar announces Hemisfair’s 50th anniversary celebration. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Like the 1968 World’s Fair, for which Hemisfair Park was created, the festival wants to showcase cultural diversity. But unlike the World’s Fair, which drew many outside delegations to the city, organizers of the festival want San Antonians to be the ones who put their own cultural heritage on display.

Designated zones will offer food, music, and interactive demonstrations featuring many different cultures. A maker’s village will give kids the opportunity to experiment with technologies such as 3-D printing. Public arts and recreated events from the 1968 fair will offer entertainment. Venues in the park, such as the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Mexican Cultural Institute, will be hosting their own events and activities. For instance, ITC will stage a fashion retrospective displaying fashions from the last 50 years. Admission to the festival will be free, but some events will require a paid ticket.

The festival also will offer visitors experiences from the park’s past. Along with recreating activities, tour guides who participated in the 1968 fair will give tours of the park’s historic homes. Organizers are asking people to submit their memories of Hemisfair’s distant and more recent past, and those recollections will be published leading up to the start of the festival.

The festival comes at a time when Hemisfair’s redevelopment is fundamentally transforming the 19-acre area of parkland. For the first time since 1968, high-density residential living and retail development is returning to the site of the former “Germantown” neighborhood.

“Mixed-use development will join new parks and streets to restore the neighborhood density that existed in the district before the fair,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1).

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) speaks at the Hemisfair 50th Anniversary Announcement Press Event.
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) speaks at the announcement of Hemisfair’s 50th anniversary celebration. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Temporary construction fences in the park outline plots of land designated for projects such as the Acequia Lofts and Civic Park. Historic buildings are being repurposed for retail and event space.

HPARC Director of Real Estate Omar Gonzalez believes the festival will bring in lots of people, enhancing the park’s profile as a must-see for visitors.

“It’ll bring a lot of people here,” Gonzalez said. “I think we could be a global model for how to do sustainable development.”

With the announcement of the festival, Hemisfair released its 2017 annual report. It highlights growth in visitors and events from the past year and elaborates on the changes to come in 2018.

Individuals interested in submitting their Hemisfair memories for the festival may do so here. Vendors interested in participating in the festival may apply here.

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.