400th Anniversary: City’s Celebration Wish List includes President, Royalty

The New Mexican

Sixteen months of Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary events will begin earlier than previously thought, and within a tighter budget than planned.

Events will kick off Labor Day weekend, when organizers hope to have President Barack Obama, the Mexican president and Spain’s king and queen on the same stage at Fort Marcy Park, said Libby Dover, executive director of the 400th commemoration. She said planners have invited all but Obama and are waiting for him to get settled into office.

Organizers had previously talked of starting events in October, but September has more reliable weather and holding the launch on the three-day holiday is liable to bring in more tourists, Dover said. They had also planned to space out the appearances of heads of state but decided to try to get them to appear together on Labor Day.

“We’re shooting for the moon,” Dover said. “We all feel as though if we get that moment, it would be such a huge photo opportunity for Santa Fe. It would certainly just shine this light on the whole commemoration. Everybody would pick up on that.”

She said the budget to pay for all the events through New Year’s Eve 2010 has been downsized, from $10 million to $7 million. Dover hopes to get most of that from national and local sponsorships, advertising, gate receipts from some events and $1 million from the Legislature.

One idea to meet costs, to have the Spanish king and queen attend a fundraiser, has angered some volunteers who say that would be rude. Dover said planners have talked of inviting the royal couple to attend an expensive black-tie ball before appearing at Fort Marcy Park, but she sounded doubtful King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia could make the time. “We’ll see; we’re always at the mercy of their schedule,” Dover said. “Would I love for that to happen? I think we’d raise money; that’d be great. But at the same time, I’ll take what I can get.”

“To me, it’s an insult,” said historian Orlando Romero, a member of the commemoration’s history committee. “These people, they’re royalty. We are responsible for the celebration, not the king and queen. They are our invited guests. They are not here as laborers to raise funds. I personally take it as an insult for my Spanish ancestry.”

Romero said Jamestown, Va., which celebrated its 400th in 2007, never asked the queen of England to attend a fundraiser.

Albert Gallegos, honorary consul of Spain in Santa Fe, said, “Protocol is, if you invited somebody … they should be guests and should not be asked to attend a fundraiser.”

In response, Maurice Bonal, president and chairman of Santa Fe’s 400th committee, said Wednesday, “I think I’m going to get criticism for whatever I do, and I’m willing to accept the criticism. My function is to make this thing work and find funding sources outside of government, and that’s another place to go.”

On Thursday, after talking with Romero, Bonal said the black-tie idea came up at a committee meeting and that the royal family has not been approached about attending a fundraiser. He is personally opposed to a fundraiser but said as chairman he would run it through the committee process.

The $7 million pales greatly to the $140 million Jamestown, Va., raised over a much longer planning period.

To work within that dollar amount, Dover decided to do away with some proposed events. In December and January, she and other planners nailed down their “legacy events,” such as the opening weekend. They hope to stage big-name musical performers on all three nights of Labor Day weekend. The first two nights would require buying tickets, possibly $25, and the Monday night show would be free. The performers haven’t been confirmed.

During the days on opening weekend – dubbed Viva Santa Fe – free events would be staged, such as hands-on exhibits involving food, arts and crafts. “It’s meant to be a sensory experience,” Dover said. “It’s not just tasting food, it’s maybe learning how to cook Southwestern food. It’s not just looking at a dance troupe and appreciating their act; it might be learning how to do a specific dance.”

Over the remaining 16 months, plans for other legacy events include:

• A national classroom webcast called This is Santa Fe, in May 2010.

• A live concert, “Sounds of Santa Fe, A Musical Journey,” on Labor Day weekend 2010. The performance will be videotaped, edited and possibly sold to television.

• A theatrical production for children grades 3-5 called History Has a Personality, The Faces of Santa Fe, from this year through 2010. The production will include 30-plus shows and look at perhaps 10 people in history, such as Don Diego de Vargas and J. Robert Oppenheimer. Dover said planners are now working with a list of 45 names.

• A Santa Fe Arts and Lectures Series from this October through November 2010.

• A Santa Fe Outdoor Cinema in the summer of 2010, possibly with several films produced in New Mexico.

• A closing gala on New Year’s Eve 2010.