by Lois Lane
THEN: The Balboa Park Panama Exposition of 1915 celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. Our own OB Col. Charlie Collier (sometimes called the founder of Ocean Beach) served as the mastermind for the original Exposition, when City Park was renamed Balboa Park.
To read more about David Charles Collier, look him up on Wikipedia, where you will see a link back to the OB Rag’s Part Four in Quest for OB’s True Birthday and Founder.
Serving at his own expense, Col Collier discovered his money had run out and resigned as President before the event took place.
NOW: The designated Balboa Park Centennial Inc. was given $2.8 MILLION by the city for the 2015 Centennial. The committee spent all the money on salaries for themselves, salaries for their friends, and a trip to Panama. What to do?
The City of San Diego has a NEW plan. This one will focus on the communities. What this means, if we have it straight, is that we will have a lot of community volunteer entertainment instead of the big-band names and high-powered Art Exhibits. It’s still in the planning stages. And best of all, it doesn’t cost anything.
In Ocean Beach before the Panama exposition, Wonderland in Ocean Beach was the model for the exposition and a primary tourist attraction. They even ran a warm-up Exposition the year before. But when the exposition took center stage, Wonderland lost market share, and a storm did more damage than could be repaired.
In 1915, the Exposition kicked off on New Year’s Day.
Coming up, with have a slightly different schedule, our Centennial starts with Decembers Nights, Dec. 5, 2014. It ends with December Nights, 2015.
There will be four signature events: two December nights, and two additional events in the spring and in the summer to celebrate San Diego. Additional focus will be on local strengths such as craft beer, biotech industries, and specialty foods. Some people think it doesn’t look too different from what goes on in the park anyhow, except for flags and banners with Centennial printed on them.
But this new plan for the celebration does calls for reaching out to the neighborhoods. I don’t think this means giving each of 28 local groups $100,000, (as the original $2.8 million could have been spent). Starting now, it all has to be ready in 6 months. We now have MORE planning committees – the City of San Diego, the almost defunct Balboa Park Centennial Inc., The Balboa Park Conservancy, the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, and the Balboa Park Committee – presumably all busy making plans.
Which brings us back to monkeys and the zoo. One of the most important things that happened as a result of Wonderland going out of business was that the monkey exhibit was defunct. Our Ocean Beach monkeys were homeless. The planners, Col. Collier and Harry Wegeforth stepped forward, and our very own monkeys were the start of the world-famous San Diego Zoo. And their keeper, Belle Benchley, became the Zoo Director.
Or did it really work that way? Perhaps the monkeys planned it themselves. Something actually did happen. The monkeys moved to Balboa Park and somebody took care of them. What COULD happen this time? What should happen? If the monkeys could make it work, can the committees make it work?