The opening night of "The Saga" video art installation on San Fernando Cathedral in Main Plaza. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
The SAGA light display that tells the story of San Antonio will be projected onto the facade of San Fernando Cathedral at the end of the "Day of Reflection," the first day of Commemorative Week. Credit: Iris Dimmick / San Antonio Report

May kicks off Commemorative Week in San Antonio, a weeklong celebration of San Antonio’s history and cultural diversity, marking the 300th anniversary of the establishment of Mission San Antonio de Valero on May 1, 1718.

Commemorative Week events focus on “unity amid diversity,” according to Vanessa Hurd, deputy director of the Tricentennial Commission. The highlight of the city’s Tricentennial year, the occasion will be celebrated during six themed days: Day of Reflection, History and Education Day, Founder’s Day, Arts for All Day, Legacy Day, and Military Appreciation Day. Residents citywide also will come together to volunteer at several events as part of the Tricentennial’s Serve 300 SA initiative.

“It’s really reflective of a confluence of cultures,” Hurd said. “What we seek to do throughout the Tricentennial celebration is to tell the story of the settlement of this area, and to use that story to set the stage for understanding how its founding influenced who we are as a people.”

With a packed program of events happening throughout the city, the Rivard Report put together this guide to help you discover events tied to the celebration. Hover over, or click on each location, to see the time and venue for selected Commemorative Week events.

Day Of Reflection

This day, on Tuesday, is intended to bring together locals and visitors to recognize the city’s rich historic roots and to embrace the faiths of the people of many cultures involved in its development.

“It’s really meant to ground the community in the interfaith tradition of San Antonio,” Hurd said, “and it’s meant to be a reflective acknowledgment of the founding of the community.”

Celebrations begin at 6 p.m. in the heart of San Antonio: Main Plaza. Here, an interfaith celebration will begin with the Sounds of Faith in San Antonio, a musical and dance performance by several local faith-based organizations. A commemorative flame will be lighted in honor of San Antonio’s native population.

History and Education

On Wednesday, San Antonio area schools and libraries come together seeking to foster education and learning. All San Antonio Public Library branches will showcase readings, plays, and educational events in collaboration with local schools. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities will be available to participants.

The VIA Mobile History Lab, a traditional school bus retrofitted as a mobile classroom, will bring elements of the Witte Museum’s Confluence and Culture exhibit to schools and public libraries throughout the city. Participants can enjoy video elements adapted from the exhibit and augmented-reality displays. The Mobile History Lab will be on the road at various locations in the city during the summer and fall.

Founders’ Day

Founders’ Day, on Thursday, May 3, focuses on honoring the founding mothers and fathers of San Antonio. Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University and the first black woman to serve as the president of an Ivy League university, will give a keynote speech at the Eastside Tricentennial Celebration.

Meanwhile, the UTSA campus will debut Historic Futures: A Taste of Folklife Festival, a day-long event that will showcase the city’s cultural traditions through ethnic foods, music, and dance at the UTSA Main Campus.

“San Antonio is an international city, and we are the gateway to America,” said Dean Hendrix, co-chair of UTSA’s Tricentennial Task Force. “The Taste of Folklife is highlighting our commonalities and our differences as South Texans, but we are all still South Texans.”

The event will be a preview, Hendrix said, of the 47th Annual Texas Folklife Festival set for June 8-10.

The Tricentennial Founders’ Day Gala will be held at the Henry B. González Convention Center from 7-10 p.m. This ticketed event will host international delegations from Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America to celebrate San Antonio’s heritage and the Missions’ UNESCO World Heritage status.

Arts for All

Various art galleries and museums will be open to the public free of charge from 3-6 p.m., on Friday, May 4. Free concerts, performances, exhibitions and tours are planned to highlight the city’s vibrant historic and emerging art scene, and will include several Tricentennial-themed exhibitions. The Carver Community Cultural Center, in partnership with Musical Bridges Around the World, will feature a live performance from an internationally acclaimed cello and guitar duo.

SA Dance Fest 2018 will hold contemporary and traditional dance performances and competitions in Travis Park, and SATX Social Ride will hold a Gallery Bike Tour of local art galleries.

“We wanted to have a day where we really celebrated the arts and culture of the community because they’re also a real economic driver,” Hurd said, “especially as we think about attracting people to San Antonio in the future.”

The day culminates with festivals at three Mission sites from 6-9 p.m., including Mission County Park, Mission Concepción, and Mission San Juan. A fireworks display along the Mission Reach is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

Legacy Day

Saturday, May 5, celebrates the relationship between San Antonio’s diverse culture and its natural landscape. Headlining this day is the grand opening of San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

The opening of the park is deeply significant to the San Antonio’s Westside community, said Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo. He recalled the area as once brimming with diverse cultures, including Italian and Lebanese families, all living along a freshwater creek in which residents could swim and fish.

Urban renewal in the 1950s destroyed the cultural and natural diversity along the creek, Elizondo said, and eventually all that was left was a concrete ditch.

“You know the old story of the phoenix rising from the ashes?” he said. “This is like the rebirth. To me, it’s the project of a lifetime.”

San Antonians can celebrate the revitalization and dedication of the park with day-long festivities, including historic presentations, children’s activities, and food.

An illumination ceremony will celebrate the park by lighting up the creek at 7:30 p.m., highlighting several new public art installations adorning new public spaces created around the creek.

Military Appreciation Day

On Sunday, May 6, San Antonio celebrates its veterans and its military history by opening Fort Sam Houston to the public for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, when security concerns forced the base’s closure.

Festivities held on the base will connect the public to San Antonio’s rich military heritage and the current mission of Joint Base San Antonio, including a parachute demo by the Black Daggers U.S. Army Special Ops Command, Air Force flyovers, and special performances by the Air Force Band of the West and the 323rd Army Band, known as “Fort Sam’s Own.”

Commemorative Síclovía

Síclovía, a recurring family-fitness event in San Antonio, celebrates Commemorative Week by offering a safe place to exercise, play, bike, run and skate in the street. Portions of Roosevelt Avenue and Mission Road between Roosevelt Park and the Harvey E. Najim YMCA will be closed to vehicular traffic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 6, and converted into a free space for pedestrian activity.

Above all, Hurd said, the purpose of Commemorative Week is for all San Antonians find a way to see themselves as part of the celebration. “We really want to be as inclusive as possible,” she said.

“There are a lot of unifying strands of this community. … Regardless of where people come from, they see a place for themselves … that’s certainly what we want to celebrate as part of this Tricentennial.

“As we learn more about how our community came to be, how do we use this information to plan for the next 300 years?”

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Emily Royall

Emily Royall is the Rivard Report's former data director.