SA_RiverWalk

I’m calling it the Try-Centennial — instead of Tricentennial — because my New Year’s resolution, at least on the civic front, is to “TRY” to be optimistic about enjoying San Antonio’s big 300th birthday in 2018.

Things weren’t so positive leading up to the New Year’s Eve “Celebrate 300” kickoff. In fact, the official umbrella organization for the year, the Tricentennial Commission, was considerably worse for wear. As the clock ticked down the last months of 2017, we learned the official budget, originally touted as a whopping $50 million, actually amounted to $6 million-plus from private donations. It quickly was adjusted to $10 million.

Then, with just weeks to go, a questionable media contract made a huge, muddy news splash, soon followed by the hasty departure of the commission’s city-appointed executive director and the subsequent resignation of its volunteer president and one of five co-chairs. District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse spoke for many when he labeled the Tricentennial “a disaster.”

Critics even slighted the “Celebrate 300” music lineup headlined by distinctly non-San Antonio related rock ’n’ roll oldies Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon.

Spirited rounds of civic and political blame and finger-pointing erupted repeatedly. It got so every time I saw the word “Tricentennial,” I found myself thinking, “OMG! What is it now?” Yet, it then occurred to me this might actually be a perfectly fitting way to start our festivities. After all, San Antonians have always loved a good fight, even when we’re bickering among ourselves. We’re a feisty town, with a diverse cultural mix. We have differences – some of them dramatic. However, if there’s one thing that brings us together, it’s a party. We know how to party.

We also know how to pull together. We did it for HemisFair. Fraught with infighting, that celebration left a favorably transformed downtown. We do it for Fiesta San Antonio every year.

When the Tricentennial Commission seemed to be going off the rails, a lot of folks started getting it back on track, despite the group’s mostly self-inflicted wounds.

By late November, Carlos Contreras, a savvy assistant city manager and reputed problem-solver, stepped in to lead the commission. Meanwhile, dynamic Texas A&M University-San Antonio President Cynthia Teniente-Matson and former Northside Independent School District Superintendent John Folks stepped up as co-chairs. Plus, Mayor Ron Nirenberg jump-started the fundraising. NuStar Energy’s Executive Vice President Mary Rose Brown whirled into action, as did other volunteers.

Now, with the 300th anniversary year formally underway, we can try to put the rocky start behind us. There’s plenty of positive developments to focus on. Marvelous public art projects will be unveiled, from the world-class Confluence Park on the San Antonio River’s Mission Reach, to impressive mural projects, which will memorably mark the World Heritage Trail to the celebrated Spanish missions. The artful renaissance of San Pedro Creek is one for the ages.

Despite setbacks, San Antonio has come a long way these past 300 years. Together, we can “TRY” to lay some solid, positive groundwork for the next three centuries. That’s something worth celebrating.

syerkes@localcommunitynews.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *