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Balboa Park Centennial Celebration Kicks Off With December Nights

Balboa Park Centennial Celebration Kicks Off With December Nights
Balboa Park Centennial Celebration Kicks Off With December Nights
Balboa Park Centennial Celebration Kicks Off With December Nights GUESTS:Stephen Lew, is a member of the Board of Directors for the Balboa Park ConservancyJim Kidrick is President and CEO of the San Diego Air and Space Museum, he is a board member for the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is K P B S mid-day edition, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. For a while it looked like it might not happen at all. But San Diego's Balboa Park is about to begin its season of events to celebrate the centennial of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The opening of the annual December Nights on Friday will also mark the beginning of a year of special Centennial events at the park. In announcing the program for the Centennial Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in 2015 San Diegans are going to fall in love with Balboa Park all over again. The city slogan for the Centennial is Elevate, Celebrate and Promote. To find out more about what that means and give us a preview of the events I'd like to introduce our guests Stephan Lew with the with the Balboa Park conservancy. Stephan, welcome to the program. STEPHAN LEW: Thank you for having me. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jim Kidrick is president and C E O of the San Diego Air and Space Museum. And board member with the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership Jim, welcome back to the show. JIM KIDRICK: Thank you. Also glad to be back here. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Stephan attending December night in Balboa Park has become a tradition for many San Diegans how is this December night event going to be different? STEPHAN LEW: Well, for this December nights we're going to expect about three hundred thousand people, and so the city has asked us to participate in the 2015 Centennial celebration so we're going to be the actual kickoff for the whole year. So our official ceremony with our tree lighting we're going to have a look back component the ceremony, the official ceremony, so we well be able to take a look at the past 100 years through a visual presentation. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So you're going to have a visual presentation, who will be there? Who will be lighting the tree? STEPHAN LEW: We will have Mayor Kevin Faulconer. We will have state assembly speaker Tony Atkins; Susan Davis, a congress woman. And we will have, I think, Ron Roberts will be there. We will have all of our sponsors. And other civic leaders are going to be there. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, one thing I read about this December nights is December flights zip line, what is that? STEPHAN LEW: Every year we try introducing something new. All of our attendees have something to look forward to. So we made a zip line that is going to happen behind the natural history museum right behind the fig tree. It's 30 feet high, 200 feet long and it is going to be a big smashing hit. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: With three hundred thousand people I would imagine it's going to be some line. Now, will the look of the park be different in any way for this December nights event? STEPHAN LEW: The look of the park will be very similar, the way it will be lit. The botanical building will be lit and it's going to be very, very beautiful, but we're going to have Santa all over. We're going to have the Grinch, he is there every year, available for pictures. So for families it's a great event. It's a free event. There will be opportunities to take pictures everywhere and enjoy arts and crafts. And it's going to be great. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you both this, let me start with you Stephan, how much preparation has gone into getting the park ready to launch the Centennial. STEPHAN LEW: You know, from the day after December nights happens, the last day we're preparing for the next year. So it's a full year preparation. We work with other stake holders. We work with sponsors to put up this event. We work with vendors we work with all of the institutions so it's a yearlong process to get this done. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Jim, what kind of activity has gone on to get the park ready not only for December nights but to launch the Centennial? JIM KIDRICK: Well, we would tell you from the partnership standpoint all of the attractions and institutions have been working now for several years so you're going to see and you've already been seeing some of new exhibitions opening inside those organizations that are very, very special. We well be having, for example, in Air and Space Museum Ripley's until January 4th, which has done very, very well for us. And then on Jan 13th we'll open a new exhibit called 2TheXtreme Math Alive, now it's just interactive, it's stem focused. All ages. I would say that is just one example. You're going to see The Fleet, Museum of Man, The Natural History - all of the organizations in the park have been really getting ready for a long time. No matter what we may have heard -- MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I wanted to ask you about that. You're on the board of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, it seems the museums have really stepped up to fill in the void that was created when the Centennial celebration committee fell apart. How difficult has it been for you guys to put this celebration together? JIM KIDRICK: Well, we've always been planning. I would tell you that we knew we had to be ready. We knew Jan 1, it's a go time. So in that preparation we've beep believing perhaps there was a little bit of leveraging may not occur now, but I would tell you that -- MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You mean money; is that what you mean? JIM KIDRICK: Not necessarily -- meaning that I think we were looking at a few other activities that we could leverage upon, that additional marketing effort as we produce something, again, something special for the in-town tourist and out-of-town tourist, the people that live here looking for something more special. And I will tell you those 17 key attractions are ready, ready, ready. And I would really, really encourage, okay, the use of the new explorer pass. It took us four years to create a common pass that people could use in those 17 attractions that have an admission fee so for 199 dollars a family of six, whenever they buy it for one year, can go as often as they want. And what a value. I think it's the great single pass in this community in the last 50 years. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And as you say if you're ever going to be getting one of those explorer passes probably this is the year to do it because of the incredible special events that the museums are putting on. We had guests from the Natural History Museum, their King Tut exhibit which is already open to the public. Give us an idea of some of the other special events you told us about the Air and Space Museum, what else is being put on by the museums in Balboa Park. JIM KIDRICK: Certainly the Museum of Man, the Fleet special exhibitions. I would encourage everyone to go to Balboa Park dot org okay. It's a website that will show them very clearly over 100 key exhibitions and events that are going to occur produced by those many institutions. Sometimes we say what is important about Balboa Park, why is it the jewel of our community, well it's because there are men and women who work every day to make it very, very special and so I would tell you those secret treasures that are inside the walls of those attractions are going to be the key. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Stephan, is there any particular events coming up at the museums that caught your attention, caught your fancy? STEPHAN LEW: I was talking to Jim earlier and I love Ripley's believe it or not and I haven't been there for a couple of months but it was truly amazing. One of the things we also talked about we talked about Balboa Park explorer pass whereas before I would spend all day in one museum because I want to get the most of my money now that I have the pass, this is my second year having the pass I have the freedom to visit as many museums as I want during the day so I have a more encompassing experience in the park so it's just wonderful. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There are events and places in the park that I really familiar, but they are being revamped a little bit for the Centennial, like the December nights, a little bit different, a little added attraction here and there. I'm thinking also about the Twilight in the park program for example that apparently will be expanded during the Centennial event. JIM KIDRICK: Right. We're trying to look at how we can be open a little bit longer especially during the summer months when the days are lengthened. It ends up being a business equation because we have to staff it and expenses associated with that. So those are all looked at very candidly certainly from an entertainment standpoint but it also has to have a solid business equation because it's not like, you mentioned, a little earlier that we've been heaped on with money to help us do those kinds of things, so it's that challenge of running that very, very meaningful attraction business for so many people and insuring that we can be available when they are. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: People can now go up on the California tower, actually go up and look out of the top, right. STEPHAN LEW: Right. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And that is the kind of thing where the existing structures, the existing events in Balboa Park are being used and expanded during this year. JIM KIDRICK: Very much so. STEPHAN LEW: The conservancy, our main mission is to attract the resources to preserve enhance and restore the park. For the benefit of the future generations. One of the projects we're working on is the restoration and enhancement of the botanical building, so we well be fundraising to do a lot of rehabilitation for that. It's an icon just like the California tower. So we're doing that and hopefully we will get that done, the whole process of a year to fundraise and start work - also the lily pond. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, there is a whole garden party planned this spring, right. The garden areas all over the park is going to be especially enhanced and open to the public all during the spring time. I wanted to ask you guys what are the plans to partner with the San Diego county fair this summer, Jim? JIM KIDRICK: Right now the fair is using the theme of Balboa Park essentially. It's called a fair to remember. We just received a presentation at our board meeting yesterday with the partnership. So every one of the key attractions and institutions in the park they are looking at how they can add to (CHECK AUDIO) and displays going on at the fair that would highlight that night 1915 and many, many good things that have happened in our community sense. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It sounds to me from what you're saying there, though there are some really impressive events going on in the museums and I'm no way downgrading this, but these events are focused to get more San Diego to come to the park, not necessarily to attract a lot of tourists from out of town. It would be great if they came and they would see a lot, but to get San Diegans to make this is very locally based event is that the idea, Jim? JIM KIDRICK: Well, I've often used the analogy that if you look back at 1915, 1935 the next major build in the park because we had more than one exposition, it's really the community that we're celebrating and it's kind of like a birthday cake, that's the community. The candle on the birthday cake is Balboa Park, and so for many we will reacquaint them with Balboa Park, and indicate, you know as indicated through our ramping up for 2015, but we would tell you this is a trending toward 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. We want to look at -- we used to call it the out years, the future years. How do we create a really truly wonderfully vision for our entire region and celebrating that in Balboa Park? MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One of the ways I understand that's being done, that's part of this three-tiered slogan is to elevate the park by improving the parks infrastructure. Do a lot of those projects still need to be completed - I mean even as the opening ceremony gets under way this Friday. STEPHAN LEW: I'm sure that the deferred maintenance list is so long it will take a long time to actually read it. But there are a lot of things the park needs in deferred maintenance that's our change to fundraise to get the things done and it's going to take a long time. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How about Wi-Fi in the park, is that up and running? STEPHAN LEW: It's not. But we have been funded by the Irvine foundation and we're currently going through the process of getting that Wi-Fi done. The coverage throughout the park. They've funded one million dollar grant to the conservancy verse for the Wi-Fi. We'll be trying to get that done 2015. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How are you going to manage actually doing these projects, a lot of little fixes, I saw that were in the mayor's plan about changing the guardrails and all of that, how are you going to be doing that while people are coming and seeing the events for the Centennial celebration? STEPHAN LEW: It takes a lot of coordination with park and rec department for the city of San Diego and so they do a tremendous job of doing all of this while having visitors come in. We'll be working with them to come up with a schedule. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us what you know about the new Balboa Park documentary that will be screened, I believe next week, Jim. JIM KIDRICK: December ninth. A documentary on the history of Balboa Park, it has been originated by the history center in partnership with the Union Tribune funded by the Tourism Marketing District the T M D. So we're very excited about it being an opportunity to highlight the park. It will be played at many of the attractions throughout the year and other venues after its debut next week. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When it's screened where will it be and will it be free? JIM KIDRICK: Down at the Balboa Park Theater, I think they would have to look -- because I think there are a limited number of seats available for the initial screening. But I want to also give a pitch, when you talk about Wi-Fi, the Balboa Park online collaborative led by Nik Honeysett who just came to us about five months ago, we already have Wi-Fi at the Air and Space Museum as do many other organizations. Our intent is to certainly expand that so we can improve the connectivity. It ultimately results in a guest experience improvement because so many people as, you know, they are looking at a device in their hand and that is where their world is and that's why I want to (CHECK AUDIO) Balboa Park dot org website which is maintained by the online collaborative. And we contribute to it as well as each one of the websites of the many attractions in the park offering an awful lot of wonderful information. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Stephan, the next big event after December 9th is the Centennial concert new year’s eve, that's being planned as a 100th anniversary of the concert that opened the Panama-California exposition with bag pipes. STEPHAN LEW: Well, Jim mentioned different stake holders are really contributing to this celebration, so the Spreckles organ society will be handling that, working with the city to do a great New Year’s Eve celebration. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right, another big, big event at the park. Let's talk, as we end this conversation on a practical note, December night’s opening, as you said, 300,000 people over the course of the two days, right. Have there been any improvements to parking at Balboa Park? STEPHAN LEW: Parking has always been a park issue, the limited amount. We do have free lots one in City College and think there is a five dollar lot at Petco Park and we have free shuttles that will go very often between them, so there will be parking off site and we will have shuttles to bring people in. The zoo will have some limited free parking, there will be other paid parking in the lots nearby. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are you encouraging people to use public transportation? JIM KIDRICK: We're encouraging people to use the free lots. There is public transportation and there is, that is the best way to do it, but I know there are a lot of families that would rather drive. We're encouraging them to use the free lots. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How about bathrooms? JIM KIDRICK: Well, there will be some extras because they have to be. We would tell you arrive early like any other event. And any other, if you're going to go to any theme park or whatever it is and the theme park for this next weekend on Friday and Saturday night is Balboa Park. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How early is early? JIM KIDRICK: I would start getting there about two o'clock, three o'clock, you know, because most of the organizations will be up and ready. Once again on Balboa Park dot org, the hours. STEPHAN LEW: And last year we can actually extended the hours on Friday to open five p.m. now we open at three just to relieve the congestion, especially 163. It's always congestion going through the park, we encourage people take Interstate 5, get off Imperial Avenue. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Great advice. I have to end it there. Thank you Stephan Lew with Balboa Park Conservancy. And Jim Kidrick, president and C E O of San Diego Air and Space Museum thank you both very much. STEPHAN LEW: Thank you. JIM KIDRICK: Thank you. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Coming up the effort to create more diversity in children's literature. That as K P B S midday edition continues.

For awhile it looked like it might not happen at all. But San Diego's Balboa Park is about to begin its season of events to celebrate the centennial of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

The opening of the annual December Nights on Friday will also mark the beginning of a year of special centennial events at the park.

"In 2015, San Diegans are going to fall in love with Balboa Park all over again," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in announcing the program for the centennial.

The city's catch phrase for the centennial is: "Elevate, Celebrate and Promote."

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.