A Smithsonian Folklife Festival stage in front of the United States Capitol last year.
A Smithsonian Folklife Festival stage in front of the United States Capitol last year. Credit: Courtesy / the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

San Antonio officials turned down the opportunity to be featured in the Smithsonian Institution‘s 2018 Folklife FestivalTricentennial Commission CEO Edward Benavides told the Rivard Report Wednesday.

The decision comes after representatives with the Tricentennial Commission, the World Heritage Office, and Visit San Antonio discussed the prospect with Smithsonian officials in March.

The Smithsonian extended the offer for the city to be featured in its annual, large-scale event in Washington D.C. at the end of last year. San Antonio’s cultural heritage would have been showcased alongside those of Catalonia and Armenia to an audience of hundreds of thousands of international visitors. It’s an endeavor that would have required months of planning, curating, and fundraising.

Benavides said Tricentennial officials presented the idea to the overall commission about three weeks ago, and the body decided to pass on the invitation shortly after, he said, mainly due to timing and cost concerns. The Tricentennial Commission is leading the planning efforts for San Antonio’s 2018 300th anniversary celebrations, a multi-faceted endeavor that will kick off on New Year’s Eve of this year and carry on throughout 2018 with a variety of events and programming.

“We did send a communication to the Smithsonian a couple of weeks ago letting them know that … at this time we need to remain focused on what we need to do [locally],” Benavides said after presenting an update on the Tricentennial planning to City Council. “However, we’re open to other opportunities in the future where San Antonio can represent as part of the Folklife Festival in D.C.”

After review, Visit San Antonio and the World Heritage Office also decided not to move forward with the festival proposal.

Smithsonian officials in March presumed that planning and finances may pose an issue to the city and its participation. Entities featured in the Folklife Festivals face a price tag that can be upward of $1 million, but how much San Antonio would have had to pay would’ve depended on the type and scale of exhibition.

“The [Tricentennial] Commission had already adopted a budget last year in September and we’re working on that,” Benavides said. “[The Folklife Festival] would be an added-to and we really don’t feel that we could accommodate this additional [cost] at this point.”

There are 242 days left until San Antonio’s 300th anniversary celebrations kick off with a New Year’s Eve bash downtown. The remainder of 2018 will feature hundreds of events centered around arts and culture, history and education, community service, local heritage groups, and the unveiling of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.

A special commemorative week will take place from May 1-6, 2018, and will include days focusing on reflection, history and education, the city founders, the arts, San Antonio’s legacy, and military appreciation.

For more information, visit the Tricentennial Commission’s website here.

Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is camillenicgarcia@gmail.com