What’s next for Balboa Park’s Centennial celebration?


(May 28, 2014 8am from David Lundin…here’s a perspective from the San Diego Free Press)
A press conference was held in front of the Botanical Building at 10am May 28

bridge2Balboa Park Committee of 100 [“C100”], Save Our Heritage Organization [“SOHO”], other Park Institutions, Sandy Shapery and David Lundin look forward to working together for a “Spring into the Past” for 2015.

We are all aware that the Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. (BPCI) has collapsed.  A total absence of Openness and Transparency in the BPCI decision-making processes, a failure of meaningful and effective oversight from City leadership, and a Board and executive staff more focused on spending Public money rather than developing any clear and appropriate Vision for the 1915 Panama-California Exhibition Centennial Year all contributed to this sad chapter.

BPCI’s demise, and an unintentionally misleading joint Press Release from Mayor Faulconer and Council President Todd Gloria on March 28, 2014, caused confusion regarding how the 2015 Centennial Celebration would be managed. Over the past several months there has been particular concern expressed by individuals concerning the need to have better communication, understanding and clarity about “who” is leading the 2015 celebration efforts, how to contribute ideas, the planning process and how to volunteer and participate.  The Balboa Park Conservancy has been one focus of this concern because, through no fault of the Conservancy, there has been particular confusion around the role of the Conservancy with regard to the Centennial year.

The last several weeks have provided the opportunity for varied interested parties to clear the air and work together on brainstorming appropriate, realistic and enjoyable ways to celebrate the Centennial of the 1915 Panama-California Exhibition.

While many details remain to be decided and resolved, this much is now clear:

1. The City of San Diego Office of Special Events [Carolyn Wormser and Michael Ruiz] will have sole responsibility for scheduling, controlling Park venues and related issues for events for the 2015 Centennial year.  C100, SOHO and others here today have neither sought nor accepted active responsibility or authority to conceive, create, manage or approve Park events for the 2015 Centennial Year. “Events” are not part of the core mission of C100 or SOHO;

2. The City Office of Special Events, C100, SOHO, and other Park institutions, groups and talented and generous individuals will work to create a memorable long weekend in spring of 2015 where the clock is turned back to 1915. A Community- conceived, planned and organized long weekend event [dates to be determined] will occur in spring of 2015 to both celebrate the Park’s past and work to secure its future.

Volunteers in period costume will give Park tours, focusing on the historic core of the Park, and the activities, functions and histories of both the original buildings of both the 1915 Exhibition and Marston House. Automobiles of the Period will be on exhibit.  The public will be encouraged to either plunge into their family closets and local thrift shops or to make their own Period costumes and accessories. Other possibilities include a recreation of the 1915 automobile race from Coronado to the Park. Displays, events, and activities will recreate the look and feel of parts of the original 1915 Exhibition.

Turn the clock back to 1915 for this one very special weekend. Come in period costume, or to see those who do. Enjoy events, tours and exhibits featuring the look and feel of the original 1915 Panama-California Exhibition that created the core of the Park we all know, love and treasure.

Here is an enlarged “wish list” of possibilities for a “Spring Back to 1915” weekend series of events and activities:

A.  Special “Spring Back” docents in period costume and set-ups at specific Park venues that were key parts of the 1915 Exhibition;

B. Walking Docent tours– slightly enlarged versions of what the History Center is now doing. Tour times could be reserved, walk-ups would be permitted. Hopefully these can be offered at no cost. Perhaps a voluntary contribution in any amount to the Conservancy Botanical Building Restoration Fund;

3. Special tours of Marston House led by “Kate Sessions” and “George Marston”. Again, we hope to offer these at no cost:

4. Perhaps an exhibition of many period automobiles. Venues, insurance, and security issues yet to be resolved;

5. Ride in Mr. Shapery’s authentic reproductions of the “Electriquettes“ wicker electric carts used in 1915:

6.  Enjoy free mini-performances of period works by talents from the San Diego Opera and Symphony;

7. Live Rag-Time music;

8. Mini-Performances produced by the Old Globe;

9. A Community Afternoon Picnic and Centennial Party and FREE Cake; probably Saturday afternoon, Possibly BOTH Saturday and Sunday. Bring your own food, blankets, chairs, friends and families.  A large-scale Community Picnic.  POSSIBLY food vendors and food stations; offerings from The PRADO and/or other in-Park sources–The OFFICIAL CENTENNIAL PARTY for the 1915 historic core of the Park;

10. The core of the Park would NOT be filled with vendors, promoters of time shares and sellers of everything. The Park would remain a PARK for this weekend, and will not be converted to a Mall;

11. Performances from SD Opera and Symphony in the 1915 Spreckles Organ Pavilion space.  On Sunday, perhaps both groups could join together with the Spreckles Organ Society and City organist Carol Williams at their normal, scheduled 2 PM concert time. This would also be a free event;

12. ALL museums and the Japanese Garden could be free to SD City and county residents–perhaps to all.  This is as yet a PROPOSAL.  Free-Will donations would be encouraged at entrances, and ALL proceeds would go to the Conservancy’s dedicated fund for the Botanical Building restoration. Underwriters may be developed to compensate the Park institutions that forgo normal admissions fees; and.

13. Working with the San Diego History Center, SOHO and specific neighborhood groups, have stations in the Park with a trained docent, showing via large Images what North Park, South Park, Mission Hills, Hillcrest, Banker’s Hill, University Heights looked like in 1910-1915; what changes were happening, what issues faced City government, what challenges were presented by growth, transportation, water and electric infrastructure, population expansion and diversity.

These are IDEAS, and by no means an exhaustive listing.
Public forums, a new dedicated Website and an existing Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/events/1496816113864581/?ref_notif_type=plan_user_joined&source=1] will all serve as incubators for additional original and creative ideas.

The planning for a future-looking weekend in the fall should also commence immediately. While the groups here this morning will not take the lead in that process, they each can work closely with the City Office of Special Events staff and other interested organizations and individuals to make that a very special weekend as they each may independently determine. Local Craft-Beer Oktoberfest, developing bio and electronic technologies, sustainable land use, water use, energy and agriculture could all be appropriate themes in varied Park venues. That will be a task for others to assume.

So was the headline correct? Is this “GREAT NEWS FOR BALBOA PARK & SAN DIEGO”? Time will tell. When is the group’s first open meeting? So far the best thing going for the 2015 celebration of Balboa Park’s centennial is Sandy Shapery’s authentic reproductions of the “Electriquettes“ wicker electric carts used in 1915. Read more — and encourage the city to get aboard.


What a shame. Who’s to blame?

More than three million dollars in public funds and donations have been spent on inflated salaries, consultant’s fees, payments to Board member’s friends, and other expenses having little if any salvage value. Time, credibility and opportunity have all been irrevocably lost.

Hillcrest held 12 months of events throughout 2007 to celebrate the neighborhood’s first 100 years. It’s unbelievable that San Diego has nothing planned to mark the centennial of Balboa Park. The Balboa Park Centennial Committee has apologized for their failure. Is that enough? What an embarrassment.

As the organization scrambled to meet expectations, management turnover disrupted it, political leaders mismanaged it, costly vendors failed to deliver and now little time remains to put on an event of lasting significance. Here is research from the Voice of San Diego.

Councilman David Alvarez led a meeting Wednesday afternoon (March 26, 2014) of the city’s Environmental Committee to begin to get answers. The Balboa Park Centennial Inc’s “transition director” Gerry Braun initially said he was unavailable to attend, but must have changed his schedule. The ex-Union-Tribune reporter who left the paper to become a top aide to GOP mayor Jerry Sanders received $6,000/monthly a year ago; $8,000/monthly until recently, but now is cashing checks for $13,000 a month which he stated at City Hall Wednesday is coming from “private” donations.


——- I’m a fan of the CityBeat plan….(also read the comments with lots of other outstanding ideas!) Why didn’t Mayor Jerry Sanders start off with workable ideas like these? HillQuest supports NOT having the 2015 Centennial begin with (and end with) December Nights.



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