Truck Show and a Bowl Game? Seeking Authenticity on San Antonio’s Tricentennial Calendar

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The Tricentennial Commission celebrates the future 300th birthday of San Antonio with inflated balloons.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

San Antonio 300 balloons rise above the crowd during the 2016 Fiesta Flambeau Parade.

Editor's note: The updated Tricentennial website re-launch did not occur Monday morning. Tricentennial officials said the updated site is scheduled to go live Monday evening. 

City Council's approval last week of a $12.6 million redevelopment package for La Villita and the news that three of San Antonio's leading chef-owners will open venues there deepens a broader commitment to make downtown a magnet for locals.

It won't happen by 2018, San Antonio's 300th anniversary, but within a few years the redevelopment of Hemisfair, an Alamo Plaza redesign done right, the reactivation of La Villita, and the completion of San Pedro Creek all promise to help restore San Antonio's downtown as a place for locals rather than just conventioneers and tourists.

Taken together, these transformative projects reflect the kind of vision and action that should define the meaning of the Tricentennial. Plans to open new restaurants in the city's historic center by Chef Johnny Hernandez of Grupo La Gloria, Chef Steve McHugh of Cured, and Chef Elizabeth Johnson of Pharm Table (and a former instructor at the Culinary Institute of America's San Antonio campus), can be summed up in a single word: authenticity.

It's an element missing from too much of the Tricentennial Commission's planning to date. As efforts to regain public confidence in the programming for 2018 take shape under Carlos Contreras, the assistant city manager and Tricentennial Commission interim CEO, all involved should examine those plans and put each element to the authenticity test.

We should start with the more than 700 events in 2018 that Contreras cited last week as part of the Tricentennial calendar. Too many events that have nothing to do with the city's 300th anniversary are currently listed as Tricentennial activities. That is not to disparage their value or to dismiss the enthusiasm of their organizers, but why lard the Tricentennial calendar with activities that are unrelated to the historic commemoration?

Dozens of these events have been occurring for years and are not based on the city's history. The Valero Alamo Bowl? The San Antonio Auto and Truck Show? The Martin Luther King March? Countless other familiar events like these are now being presented as Tricentennial fare.

If everything that happens in the course of 2018 is a Tricentennial event, then what distinguishes the occasion?

Journalists and other Tricentennial watchers will rise early Monday morning to test-drive the commission's new website in search of important news and information that is already months late reaching the market.

Understandably, Contreras and his team do not want to answer for the prior administration under then-CEO Edward Benavides, whose mismanagement cost him his job. They hardly have enough time to look forward.

Like it or not, however, those in the city who care about the quality and depth of our 300th year celebrations and commemorations next year expect the new leadership to fix what is broken – and fix it fast.

We are 15 days away from the kickoff party. What follows the kickoff over the course of 2018 is what really matters, and the only practical way to communicate what is planned is through the website. How else will people from around the country and world learn about San Antonio's Tricentennial? How else will people get the information they need to plan their visits and join in the celebrations?

Most people in my generation won't lose sleep over the musical acts booked for the New Year's Eve Party in Hemisfair's Civic Park. Headliners REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar undoubtedly will draw big crowds and deliver strong performances. There will be an epic fireworks show. Yet many people were astonished to learn that such generic outside acts were booked at significant expense rather than the best available musical talent rooted in San Antonio, South Texas, Mexico, and even Spain. Yes, locals such as Flaco Jiménez and Little Joe y La Famila now are part of the program, but they are not the main acts.

For some time now, I've planned on reviewing the calendar to offer readers a curated "Do Not Miss" list with dates and details of events such as the opening of Confluence Park on Jan. 17, and the May 5 opening of Phase 1 of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, the latter inexplicably missing on the Events page of the website that is about to disappear.

See for yourself what the current Events Calendar has to offer. "How Often Do You Participate in a Once-in-300 Years Event?" that page asks the visitor. Unfortunately, dozens of the 125 listed events are long-established annual events, not once-in-300 years events. They don't meet the authenticity test and will only obscure the real events commemorating the city's 300th year.

Strangely, missing from the Events page is the May 1-6 Heritage Week schedule. Legacy Day, May 5, is the single most important day of the Tricentennial year. To see events for that week viewers must return to the home page and click on Programs, which offers a skin-and-bones summary of Heritage Week. There is zero information to help people reserve tickets or learn more.

Legacy Day during Commemorative Week as listed by the San Antonio Tricentennial website.

Legacy Day during Commemorative Week as listed by the San Antonio Tricentennial website.

The Rivard Report asked KGB Texas Communications, the agency that won the Tricentennial marketing contract, for the full calendar of events, but executives there were unable to obtain that information from Tricentennial Commission staff by deadline.

Let's take a second look Monday and see if the new website offers a more authentic overview of San Antonio's Tricentennial year, one that will excite locals and attract visitors.

San Antonio deserves nothing less.

14 thoughts on “Truck Show and a Bowl Game? Seeking Authenticity on San Antonio’s Tricentennial Calendar

  1. The Tricentennial is a disaster. It is the direct fault of Mayor Nirenbers, City Council and Manager Scully. Her chief of staff Benavides gets the CEO job hyet he doesn’t call out contract bids? It scares me as to what other city contracts are handed out to friends without open bidding. Now we have curtains in the Mayor’s office costing $18,OOO. Were these curtains bought without open bids? The Council gets their friend DiGionvanni to run a program and we find out now that an ex-felon kept the books? Perhaps the Mayor is too busy moving a Christmas tree from The Alamo or taking down a statue that nobody ever notices was a Confederate. So far I see only our water rates zooming up and little else. Where was/is the transparent leadership? Now the Tricentennial folks are taking credit for events we have already had for many years.

    Next is the HemisFair folks always saying that we will have a park that is “World Class” again. All hype and they won’t even tell us where the old park entrance sign is located- probably next to invisible statue??? Tourists should not make a special trip to SA this year for there is nothing new. ALL HYPE.

  2. ‘Seeking Authenticity on San Antonio’s Tricentennial Calendar’
    well good luck with that / the whole thing is a fabrication isn’t it ??
    some emissaries from the spanish empire showed up and banged a sword on a rock and proclaimed ‘this is san antonio’ while the payayas stood around watching in amazement

    forgive my ebullient cynicism but we’ve been going downhill ever since / the riverwalk and the convention center are distant echoes of what was a ceremonial center in the middle of the garden of eden / we are celebrating the destruction of a past we don’t even know ?? whoppee !! pass the margaritas !!

    • You and I are on the same page here, and, really, telling things as they are isn’t being cynical. It’s being real, and no one should owe anyone else an apology for detecting what is real.

      One of my takes is that in order to enjoy the social rewards that are offered to members of our culture, we, members of the culture, have to pretend that the origins of our way of life – and the way we live today – are not rooted in violence. We have to go along, or else.

      So today we just take such atrocities as a given still, rather than the atrocities that they actually are (sweatshops, wage slavery, both of which support our way of life).

      Just as you wrote: committing genocide against the Payayas and the dozens of other human groups who originally lived in South Texas – that’s not what happened (this is the culture speaking, not me), no the Spanish ceremoniously entered the Yanaguana Valley, opened up some piece of parchment (a toma), read it, looked at their religious calendar, and then they all graciously hugged each and every one of the indigenous and then promised them that they (the Spanish) would never assimilate them into their hierarchical social order if they didn’t want any of it, and that the ecological paradise would never be destroyed.

      Of course we know what happened over time: the Spanish, being more concerned with imperial France, hit the Natives with their “best shot” and fired away. (So stupid I know, but I also think that it is stupid and so wrong to valorize 300 hundred years of occupation). And don’t take it from me. What would a Payaya (or descendant of) say about the New Year’s Eve kick-off party? What would he/she recognize downtown? (I guess the sky for a while, until the fireworks start, and for the lack of native birds).

      But I’m unfortunately wrong about one thing mentioned above. Covering the truth IS a form of cynicism, but only because the culture has designed it to be so, which is why you felt that an apology was needed. Being truthful has morphed into being cynical because it has to (in order to maintain the existing, albeit abusive power structure and system). Most Nazis supporting the regime were not fire breathing, raging goons ready to take out anger upon Jews and others. No, most Nazis supporting the regime were everyday-like people whom we would easily recognize in our culture today: drivers, secretaries, engineers, architects, builders, teachers, machinists, etc. Many were churchgoers and church leaders, and good mothers and fathers and coaches. I would imagine that many Nazis were your everyday happy people, going about life with smiles on their faces, telling jokes, hugging loved ones and slapping friends’ backs. They met at coffee shops and beer houses. Many Nazis were also writers and reporters. Comparatively few Germans actually committed atrocities; they just went along with what the regime offered. Like most of us. Actually, there were a few whom I would call very good Germans; those who detested the regime and worked to bring it down.

      So who are we today? As you said (and more), we are margarita chugging, truth fearing cogs who participate in a culture that requires violence. We go along. ‘I won’t be able to buy that vacation home abroad if I start reporting the whole truth’ (the truth being that San Antonio was founded upon imperialism, which at least numerically had genocidal outcomes). And we’re gearing up to party for this. If we were to look at the founding of European San Antonio as really happened, then we wouldn’t be fomenting such a party. But we have to go along with all the celebrating so that we do not upset the real bosses of our culture (the power structure; the abusers). We go along, so that the social rewards we reap do not dry up on us, our families, our corporations, our basketball team, our system.

      It’s been going downhill since way before 1691. How many thousands and thousands of ancient humans actually celebrated and waved on Roman imperialism? Yet some people in our culture today adorn their homes and restaurants with Roman busts and the like. And I always forget the number, but what percentage of Roman society were slaves? 30-60% depending on the era. But let’s cover that reality and go along and valorize Roman culture anyway.

      How many Africans waved forward European imperialism of their continent? (A few, sure, a few designated elites who would go along and then reap rewards while their kin were raped of healthy traditions that would have lasted forever, ways of life that would not have destroyed the land even after millennia).

      What about Gilgamesh? What an epic story to base a culture on, no? (Destroying land and people in order to build cities). That, still today, is called – you guessed it – progress. Read the City of San Antonio’s Charter. There you will see in clear language, the language of abusers. The right to incorporate – to take – land and people (and to do something punitive to people who do not go along via the legal system), all because of a bloated and entitled power structure/way of life. Talk about the ‘Dark Side’ …. What an excellent mind coup the powerful have pulled off the last several thousand years. And why can’t we learn from history thus prompting change to our behaviors? Last I checked the Texas Education Agency’s standard for high schoolers passing the required U.S. History exam was around 42%, meaning that a 43 or a 44 was considered passing. An exam isn’t even required for World History. Better to have the young become consumers and Cubs fans than to have them become informed.

      I am all for celebrating. I’ve done plenty of it on several continents. But how about celebrating at the cultural level just and non-destructive realities and life affirming events? Too much of what we pop off a top for can be traced to social inequalities (at best) onward through atrocity when the full truth is teased out. I didn’t say all of what we celebrate, but too much of what we celebrate.

      The culture at large cannot face all that is true, so what does it do? Well, one of the things that it does is that it comes up with the word cynical, and then uses it as a barrier. And then the finger pointing: ‘Why do they gotta be so unhappy?’ ‘Why can’t they just focus on the positive?’

      Actually, I have very positive intentions. More positive intentions than the people who go straight to bloviating the word cynicism. I want us to live in a society – a world – in which we don’t wear violence on our backs, a society that does not demand ecological drawdown, a society that does not deny truth, because if we were to face day to day truths then our behaviors would have to change. For those who don’t agree, go ask a seven year old if it should be ok to tear down the forests that will send orangutans into extinction just so that we can have chic cooking oils shipped to us from thousands of miles away. Ask a seven year old if it should be legal to sell the alternative, much cheaper cooking oil for human use even though the effects of using it shortens human life spans. Ask a seven year old if she thinks it is smart to smother our fruits and vegetables with cancer causing chemicals before they reach our grocery store. And on and on …. It takes courage and sacrifice to work for the world that we want, not diplomacy as we know it, and certainly not more of the same and more going along. It takes a culture shift to make real change. Not individuals. (That’s another mind coup for another time).

      By the way, what happens to that seven year old by the age of twenty-seven that she most often will change her answers to those same questions, thus goes along like the rest of us? Most likely, she’d choose not to answer because she’d been trained to not face said atrocities.

      Anyway, if we do not tease out all truths and face them, then we will never solve all of the problems that fill the daily headlines. Never.

      I’ve written all this, yet come 12/31 I too will be downtown with friends and family, strolling the streets with fellow San Antonians and tourists. As I so often am though, even alongside family and friends, I’ll be the cognitive outcast. I will stroll and daydream about the Yanaguana Valley that once was. On my mind especially this time will be the long lost celebrations of the Payaya. The reasons for their dance, the roots of their spirituality, what love, morality, and character meant to them, and how they lived according to them each day. All this never to be known. Never to be again. All destroyed. For our progress.

      I’ll just be strolling. Maybe I’ll dream about a new, future celebration to come along the likes of a Bastille Day. Not that French society became pure in the aggregate, since today it relies on the same groups of horrors that ours relies on, but we gotta start again somewhere. We all have our hopes and dreams.

      I just pulled off my shirt to look to see where it was made. And do you really think that there was equal trade for it’s fruition and labor out in the Brazilian countryside and in some crowded Brazilian factory? Unlike how I think most people would respond to this, I do not feel that I am entitled to this shirt (nor do I deny its origin) just because I am an American, or because I am a member of the dominant world culture, or because I once worked in August corn fields and mowed lawns but then graduated from a university and have entered into middle class. Actually, I still mow lawns.

      See ya at the kick-off party. I’ll look just like everyone else. It will look like I’m going along with the celebration of 300 years since the founding of San Antonio, but I’ll be thinking about reality: 300 years of occupation.

      We never learn, to quote Upton Sinclair: “You can’t make somebody understand something if their salary depends upon them not understanding it”. Truth, in fact, is that we learn too well that which we learn from our masters. The abusers.

  3. Finally. A story that’s not bitchin’ about any-ex ACM and one that’s really taking on the nitty gritty. The last ‘300’ story from our E-N had me deleting my phone app and plans to cancel my subscription. Just sick of the blame game. But what’s NEWS is what’s in the RR. Wonder if our 300 will be anything than an afterthought. Haven’t been to the truck show in years! I’m going in ‘18. Thanks Bob for your foresight.

  4. No changes as of 9 am Monday. Ironically, the current calendar is powered by Do210, which also used to be the Rivard Report events calendar. As it stands, it looks like anything that is any sort of an event is an official Tricentennial event. What a load of nonsense this is…

  5. If the new Tricentennial committee chairperson does not cancel the fraudulent, crooked contract with Phil Lane at KSAT, we will have proof of the city’s lack of sincere transparency and reform on this hideously mismanaged Tricentennial Committee. Secretly handing KSAT the exclusive, very lucrative contract secretly disallowing any competitive bidding is damning enough, but add to that the fact that rather than having the entire city’s media covering the events, we’ll have one scrawny, crooked, local TV station TV station doing it all?! Who’s great idea was this? Phil Lane at KSAT, that’s who. KSAT gets ALL the money, leaving the rest of our city, state and nation’s media out in the cold. Great for crooked KSAT. Abysmal for our city. This is outageous. This contract MUST not be allowed to stand, if we are to have any credibility as a city. Scully, stop allowing this travesty! Step up and cancel their contract.

  6. Mayor Nirenberg had nothing to do with the crooked contact with KSAT. It was before his time. But the City Council and Manager Scully certainly did! And they have done nothing to correct this shameful issue except promise transparency. What a laugh. They lied to other media outlets and pretended to take in competitive bids, but it was exposed the deal had been done already behind closed doors. Completely unfair. Non-competitive. Then to pretend to take in competitive bids was bad enough. The fact that this contract is still in effect is beyond outrageous. It shows a blatant lack of care and respect on the part of Scully to the citizens of SA that this contract has not already been ripped to shreds.

  7. Even May 1-6 Heritage Week is a plain disaster: Day 1: Pilgrimage (AKA yet another walk) + pray + watch same SAGA projection that has been projecting for years. Very exciting !?
    Day 2: Trail ride (yet another walk) how innovative!? + plant a tree (very appealing, right?) + visit your library (in lack of planning, we will just send SA citizens to hang out at the library, be ware not to disturb homeless population at Central Library + Oh by the way we will release a book (that is pretty much our only allocated spare change allocated to far to the Commemorative week. Day 3: Party and booze splurge (that is why there is no funding left for Day 1, 2, 4 & 5). By the way people without the means can celebrate our heritage by watching it in a TV screen, sorry no freebies only those who pay can get admittance to Founder’s Day (table pices $25,000). Day 4: Go on your own to visit murals (chicano arts? LOL) and end up at Mission watching fireworks (from 4 pm to 9:15pm), fireworks in plain day lights – WOW!? from 4 pm to 9:15pm – there better be plenty of fireworks to last that long, considering that New Years are only for 20 min. Day 5: Unveiling (lets tag along with unveiling of major capital projects. Though SA300 did not contribute a cent to funding of those, oh but there are under the SA300 celebration umbrella. Day 6:Let’s have another 4 of July (in MAY!!!? What the?).

  8. ‘There will be an epic fireworks show” Wait, wait, let’s not hold our breath on that. Weather forecast is considerable cloudiness on 12/31/17.

  9. To say that Mayor Nirenberg had nothing to do with the Tricentennial mess is not correct He was on the Council that enthusiastically approved Scully getting the disgraced Benavides on as CEO of Tri……Perhaps the Mayor was too busy with higher priorities like the moving of the statue at Travis Park and refusing to tell us where it is or moving the huge Christmas tree away from the picture perfect Alamo or maybe he was too busy selecting the color of his office drapes at an obscene cost of over $18,OOO to SA taxpayers- a no-bid contract again?? Ah TRANSPARANCY!

  10. The Mayor has had everything to do with not canceling the fraudulent contract the city/Tricentennial Commission made under-the-table with crooked KSAT TV’s Phil Lane. Then they pretended to have a competitive bid process after the deal had secretly been arranged. As a result, our city only gets the coverage of one lame TV station, rather than the full promotional power of all media outlets everywhere. KSAT gets millions, but everyone else is left out in the cold=, and our city suffers the most. Our mayor has done nothing, even after this scandal was exposed to cancel the crooked, one-sided contract.

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