On New Year’s Eve 2017, San Antonio will officially kick off the highly anticipated celebrations for the city’s Tricentennial in May 2018.
From January to May 2018, the Tricentennial Commission and all the community organizations and individuals who wish to be involved will host an array of events, public art unveilings, performances, and other activities to honor the city’s 300th anniversary. Applications to become an official celebration partner in are now being accepted via its website, www.sanantonio300.org.
Since its inception in 2015, the Tricentennial Commission has been engaging a variety of community arts and cultural groups to prepare the unique festivities that will be punctuated by a week-long cultural celebration from May 1-6. The group typically meets quarterly to develop strategies and plans for the Tricentennial. Meeting dates and agendas can be found on the City’s website here.
The festivities won’t be like Fiesta, Tricentennial Commission CEO Edward Benavides said.
“This is an opportunity to really highlight who we are as a community…those things that really make us unique,” he said, adding that it’s more than just a big party. “This will be very different and have a different look and feel than Fiesta.”
The commission has a $12 million budget for the celebrations, Benavides said, $6 million of which will come from the public sector. The group will look to the private sector for the remaining $6 million.
“We’re having conversations with local and national companies and hopefully by September we’ll be able to announce who our corporate sponsors are for this project,” he added.
The Tricentennial programming will revolve around four concepts: history and education, community service, arts and culture, and the commemorative week. The community service aspect is a newer concept in the planning process, and “the committee is developing outreach to schools and organizations to find projects that they’ve been wanting to do and work to help make that happen in 2018,” Benavides said. Nothing is set in stone yet, but one idea is to complete “300 days of service.”
“We hope to use community service projects that are existing in the community and supplement volunteers where we can,” said Trevor Chauvin, Tricentennial Commission senior administrative assistant. “We’re also working on unique volunteer projects that don’t exist yet.”
In the next few months, local nonprofits will be able to submit any projects or initiatives they’d like to accomplish to the commission, who will then pair them up with a corporation looking for community service opportunities for its staff and employees. The effort will hopefully connect different people from different parts of the city, Chauvin said.
Plans are still being hashed out for the events during the anniversary week, but the commission has established key themes to focus on each day.
On May 1, the day that Mission de San Antonio de Valero – the Alamo – was founded in 1718, a city-wide religious celebration will kick off the festivities. It will be an opportunity to celebrate the diverse religious groups found across San Antonio, as congregations from all over the city will showcase and invite the public into their places of worship, followed by “festival-type” events.
“We’re going to tap different religious leaders from as many religions as possible across the city to co-write an opening prayer and then an interfaith service will happen at sunrise,” Chauvin said. After that, Mayor Ivy Taylor will officiate the burying of the official Tricentennial Time Capsule, which will contain the four Tricentennial pillars – history and education, community service, arts and culture, and the commemorative week – as well as items “relevant to 2018.”
Programming on May 2 will focus on the history and educational aspect of the festivities. The commission is developing a San Antonio commemorative book with Trinity University Press as well as curriculum for K-12 students to use in the 2017-2018 academic school year, Benavides said. Through lesson plans and activities in school, students will learn “what it means to be a Tricentennial city,” and gain a more comprehensive understanding of San Antonio’s history.
The culmination of the academic activities the students have been working on will take place on May 2, in the form of history fairs, oratorical contests, festivals at schools, and similar educational activities, Benavides said.
May 3 will be Founders Day and a celebration of San Antonio’s sister city relationships. San Antonio has nine sister cities including two in Mexico, five in Asia, and two in the Canary Islands. The commission is already planning a special gala at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and has invited the King and Queen of Spain to attend, Benavides said.
Along with the May 3 event, the commission hopes to incorporate other countries that have close ties to San Antonio into each of the celebrations throughout the week.
“We’ve had conversations with Spain, the Canary Islands, Mexico, and there will be others because we want them to be part of this celebration,” Benavides said. “We’ve asked them to consider what art and culture exchanges we can do to reflect the shared heritage we have here in the community.”
On Friday, May 4, arts and culture groups, including musicians, visual artists, performers, and others, will have the opportunity to come to life and creatively portray their takes on the essence of San Antonio and its historical and cultural influence on its residents.
“The city will celebrate the core of our culture and we’re hoping, though all of this is still in the planning stages, that all arts venues will be open and free to the public all day long,” Chauvin said. “It’ll be a way to celebrate diversity all day long.”
The day will conclude with fireworks and a special concert at Hemisfair’s Civic Park, which is currently under construction. There, “an A-list singer or musician” will perform on a stage in front of the Torch of Friendship, he said.
The ribbon cutting for the $175 million San Pedro Creek Improvements Project will occur on May 5, the day Presidio San Antonio de Bexar was founded in 1718. The day will largely be a celebration of the newly-transformed creek, but will further include programming centered around the city’s military, Benavides said, like an aerial festival or a parade.
Many indigenous and Native American groups have called San Antonio home for centuries, some even before Presidio San Antonio de Bexar was established 300 years ago. Some worry that those communities won’t have a large enough presence in the celebrations’ cultural programming, but Chauvin said the commission has already met with at least eight local indigenous groups over the past few months, and will continue to meet with more to see what and how they’d like to contribute to the festivities.
On Aug. 4, the commission will meet again with indigenous representatives at Mission Park Library at 6:30 p.m.
“Each (group) has their own thesis statement of how they want to get involved and what aspect they want to represent and that will be incorporated through the History and Education Committee,” Chauvin said.
Individuals or organizations interested in officially participating in the Tricentennial celebrations, which will put them on the official Tricentennial event calendar, can submit an application with their event or initiative idea on the Tricentennial website.
The next deadline to apply is Aug. 1, followed by a later deadline on Nov. 1. Chauvin said the Tricentennial events don’t have to necessarily be “new and unique – they can be an annual event that you already do” but will hold the Tricentennial branding.
Anything from historic reenactments and educational activities to cultural events and performances are fair game for consideration by the selection committee. Official Tricentennial events and projects will be determined after the Nov. 1 deadline, though that could be extended depending on the amount of applications submitted. There is no cap for applications, Chauvin said, so everyone is encouraged to apply.
“We want to create a positive and lasting impact, showcase our diversity, and our inclusiveness and authenticity” through the Tricentennial celebrations, Benavides said. Each event will ideally “celebrate our shared history and further (San Antonio’s) legacy.”
Top image: Attendees examine the new Tricentennial logo. Photo by Scott Ball.