Victoria’s 200th birthday is right around the corner, and as part of our plans to celebrate Victoria, we’re preparing to honor the man and woman who started it all.
Last month, the City Council approved a contract with Laredo-based artist Armando Hinojosa to construct a statue of Victoria founder Martín DeLeon and his wife, Patricia de la Garza, to stand at DeLeon Plaza near the Six Flags Monument.
Mayor Jeff Bauknight and other elected officials have made it clear that this project is long overdue. After all, Victoria does not have any statues or murals honoring our founder. The fact that DeLeon was the only Mexican to found a colony in Texas adds another layer of significance to the project as a homage to our Mexican and Tejano heritage.
The inclusion of Patricia de la Garza in the statue is an acknowledgement of her role as a co-founder of the colony. De la Garza helped to found the first school and church in the colony, and she contributed $10,000 of her own inheritance (about $250,000 today) toward the colony’s success.
The statue is expected to be finished in early 2024 ahead of our exact anniversary on April 13. It might seem like we are giving ourselves a lot of time to prepare, but it’s important to get the ball rolling now to make sure the bicentennial is truly spectacular. My department has been meeting with employees from multiple City departments and external agencies for months to discuss our plans.
To encourage residents to explore our city’s history, we are working with VPI to organize guided tours of historical sites. We are also looking into creating a self-guided “digital passport” tour to encourage residents to visit these sites. We’ve also been discussing projects that will be complete in time for the bicentennial—like the DeLeon Plaza expansion, for example—that could be highlighted as part of the celebration.
With all of this planning taking place, it should come as no surprise that we need to suspend Bootfest. Remember that even planning a one-day celebration like Bootfest is an intense process that takes up most of the year and has a lot of moving parts. Planning for the bicentennial—which will include multiple events and ongoing activities throughout the year—will be an astronomically greater undertaking.
A bicentennial is a natural time for some reflection on who we are and where we are headed. Later this year, the City will kick off a branding study that will involve working with a consulting agency to develop a comprehensive tourism strategy that emphasizes what makes Victoria unique.
The CVB plans to use the bicentennial celebration as the launch pad for a new era of tourism efforts in Victoria, including a revised strategy for our flagship events. Future events could look like Bootfest, or they could look very different, but you can be sure that they will reflect who we are as a community.
To stay connected with our bicentennial plans and other events taking place in Victoria, remember to follow Explore Victoria Texas on Facebook or visit us online at www.explorevictoriatexas.com.
Joel Novosad is the director of the City of Victoria Convention & Visitors Bureau.