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Monday, April 7, 2014


San Diego's current Botanical Gardens building was built in 1915 for the Panama-California Exposition
Photo: Patrick Cordelle

ON THE MONEY—Guest Blog by the Editors of CityBeat Newsmagazine--The 2015 Balboa Park Centennial celebration is an embarrassing mess and an outrageous scandal, and certain people walked away with a lot of money without producing a thing, but no one's going to jail and San Diego doesn't seem to ever learn from its political mistakes, so let's move on. 

Cool? Great.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Council President Todd Gloria last week said there'll be a schedule of events, starting and ending with December Nights 2014 and 2015, and that the Balboa Park Conservancy and Balboa Park Cultural Partnership would be handling the details in between. 

But it's not too late for ideas, right? Because CityBeat has one. It's not breathtaking. It's not even super-detailed. But it's linear and simple, and we think it's doable. It's a starting point. So, listen up.
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First, this December Nights business is just goofy. It's a dumb idea for an event kickoff and closing. Too many people already come out to that thing—we can't imagine any more people in the park at once, and you're just diluting the theme by combining it with the holidays. You don't have to start the centennial celebration in 2014 or even in January 2015. We have all of 2015; there's no rush. Scrap that plan now.

Here's our idea: "San Diego: Where We've Been, Who We Are and Where We're Going" (or "San Diego: Past, Present and Future," or something more creative). 

First, in the spring, hold a series of events that remember the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and celebrate the history of Balboa Park, whose buildings and internal infrastructure were largely built to support the exposition. So few people really know why the exposition was held and how it created the park we cherish today. This part necessarily comes first, but it'll be the most in need of funding. Let's get local historians and creative thinkers together quickly and come up with plans. Then take those plans to the potential sponsors who've been so reluctant to get onboard because the plans have been so horribly vague. The park museums should be a big part of this portion.

Next, throughout the summer, turn the park over to the community groups that have been so enthusiastic about participating in the centennial and have already come up with event proposals. This is when we honor our city's rich ethnic and racial diversity. We have such vibrant and proud American Indian, Mexican, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, Somali and African-American communities, to name just a few. 

It's not limited to ethnic and racial groups, though; it can be opened up to community groups of all kinds, especially arts organizations—anything that helps create an intricate profile of who were are as San Diegans. Maybe generous donors can match community groups' own fundraising efforts. Sycuan, Barona, Viejas, we're looking at you, for starters. Hey, maybe CityBeat can curate a local-music series at the organ pavilion.

Finally, in the fall, we hold a series of events that really honor the point of the 1915 exposition. The purpose of the 1915 exposition was to promote San Diego as a crucial seaport after the creation of the Panama Canal. It was about building the region's economy more than anything. So, let's make the fall all about San Diego's true economic driver: tourism! LOL! Of course we're kidding. No, let's celebrate San Diego's present and future contributions to innovation: science and technology. 

Imagine the fascinating, thought-provoking, idea-generating public displays and conferences that the region's science and tech companies can put on to highlight the discoveries that have occurred here. How cool would it be to gather these firms, scientists and entrepreneurs and have them educate us (and visitors, natch) on the work that will be happening here in the near future? The participating companies, seeing the obvious marketing opportunities, would foot the bill for this portion of the centennial—and maybe chip in for the earlier events, too. 

Gotta include the local craft-beer industry, right? This is when we get them involved.
Hell, if we can't get this all done in 2015, there's no harm in stretching it into 2016. In fact, doing so would better mimic what happened 100 years ago. Remember, the Panama-California Exposition stretched deep into 1916. 

We can wrap up the grand year of festivities, whether it's in November 2015 or May 2016, with a big party, where we can serve—sheet cake! Let's do this.
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