It’s official. REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo will headline San Antonio’s Tricentennial New Year’s Eve event at Hemisfair in 25 days, on Sunday, Dec. 31.

City and Tricentennial Commission officials announced the lineup of national, regional, and local acts that will take the stage, though it was already widely known, during a press conference Wednesday. They made it through the entire event without mentioning the recent leadership changes and contract mismanagement that has caused the effort to stumble, sending a message that organizers are instead focusing on the task ahead: a year-long celebration of San Antonio’s 300th anniversary.

(From left) Bexar Heritage & Parks Department Director Betty Bueché, Councilman Clayton Perry (D10), Councilman Cruz Shaw (D2), Casandra Matej, Visit San Antonio President and CEO, Carlos Contreras, Tricentennial Commission interim chief executive officer, Robert Thrailkill, Tricentennial Commission President, and San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley listen to a Tricentennial announcement.
(From left) Bexar Heritage & Parks Department Director Betty Bueché; Councilman Clayton Perry (D10); Councilman Cruz Shaw (D2); Casandra Matej, Visit San Antonio president and CEO; Carlos Contreras, Tricentennial Commission interim chief executive officer; Robert Thrailkill, Tricentennial Commission President; and San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley listen to a Tricentennial announcement. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

“The Tricentennial is the most important moment in our lifetime to exhibit who we are and what our city will be in its next era,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement. “The Tricentennial is moving forward and will be a success that the entire city will be proud of.”

Carlos Contreras, interim director and assistant city manager, told the Rivard Report that despite some criticism of the musical selection as being outdated – the headliners have “huge” followings of roughly 35- to 55-year-olds who will be able to bring their children.

“This event is family friendly,” Contreras said. “That’s exactly the target we want to be comfortable at the event.”

Regional and local talent will include The Last Bandoleros, Little Joe y la Familia, Bidi Bidi Banda (a Selena cover band), and Sam Riggs. Many in the audience Wednesday were puzzled at the decision to have Riggs play two sorrowful songs at the press conference, including “Second Hand Smoke” and “The Lucky Ones,” after the announcements.

Musician Sam Riggs performs at a Tricentennial announcement.
Musician Sam Riggs performs at a Tricentennial announcement. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

During the New Year’s Eve celebration, an outdoor cinema, 80-foot Ferris wheel, artistic performances, games, and dozens of food and drink booths will spread out in and around Hemisfair including Yanaguana Garden and the “great lawn.” The latter is part of the planned but unfinished Civic Park. The evening will conclude with a 20-minute fireworks show.

Casandra Matej, Visit San Antonio President and CEO
Casandra Matej, Visit San Antonio President and CEO Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Visit San Antonio will spend $3.5 million on marketing to spreading the Tricentennial word worldwide, Casandra Matej, its president and CEO, also announced Wednesday.

As the city-department-turned-nonprofit dedicated to promoting the city, Visit San Antonio has already begun promoting the year-long celebration, Matej said. “We’ve been infusing Tricentennial in everything.”

Those out-of-market advertising dollars are separate from the Tricentennial’s $21.7 million budget, Mataj said, but will give the effort an extra boost.

Visit San Antonio secured a float in the 2017 State Fair of Texas parade in Dallas.
Visit San Antonio secured a float in the 2017 State Fair of Texas parade in Dallas. Credit: Courtesy / Visit San Antonio

The Tricentennial recently closed on a number of financial commitments from sponsors, Carlos Contreras, interim director and deputy city manager, told the Rivard Report. AARP recently gave $100,000, he said, and the Tricentennial is now 87 percent funded.

Edward Benavides stepped down as Tricentennial CEO in November after it was revealed that several contracts were mishandled by staff, including former chief operating officer Asia Ciaravino, who resigned in May. City Manager Sheryl Sculley then appointed Contreras, charging him with bringing the commission past the finish line amid an independent audit.

“The Tricentennial is not simply a party,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the crowd.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg makes an announcement regarding the Tricentennial at the Hilton Palacio del Rio.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg makes an announcement regarding the Tricentennial at the Hilton Palacio del Rio. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Hundreds of events will take place in 2018 to mark the year, he said, especially during Commemorative Week, May 1-6.

“We are looking forward to a wonderful year ahead focused on showcasing our city’s unique history, arts and culture, as well as its promising future,” the mayor said.

A more robust website detailing events during the Tricentennial is scheduled to be released mid-December.

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org