A Tale of Two City Birthday Parties in the Old Pueblo

August 24, 2016

by Kai Parmenter

Mayor Rothschild spoke of Tucson's past, and promised bright things for our future.

Mayor Rothschild spoke of Tucson’s past, and promised bright things for our future.

Tucson has been around a long time. Officially founded in 1775 as Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, the Old Pueblo celebrated its 241st birthday on August 20th. What began as a simple military outpost has since become a thriving multicultural center, and one of the most expansive cities in the Southwest.

In honor of this milestone, two prominent Downtown institutions each threw a huge party, and we attended both!

First up was the aptly titled Tucson’s 241st Birthday Celebration, hosted by the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum. The festivities kicked off promptly at 10:30 a.m., with live music by Mariachi Alegre De Tucson Arizona as people poured into the station. By 11 a.m. the place was packed. Several Amtrak officials from around the country shared the podium to speak of the late David Jones, a former trainmaster and longtime employee of the company. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild then invited the Jones family up, presenting them with a plaque in recognition of Jones’ many years of outstanding service.

Next came a brief speech by Charles Hancock, president of the Southwest Association of Buffalo Soldiers. Dressed in full regalia, Hancock shared a brief yet engaging history on the Buffalo Soldiers, and their strong ties to Tucson and the Southwest. Fun fact: the Buffalo Soldiers will celebrate their 150th anniversary in September.

Mayor Rothschild then took center stage, discussing the progress of our city, including Tucson’s designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy and the revitalization of Downtown in recent years. Finally, he read a proclamation commemorating our past while looking towards our future, before inviting all of Tucson to join in celebrating. The party closed out with delicious cake and a performance by the Tucson Repository Orchestra String Quartet.

Mission Garden's Botanas, Bebidas and Birthday Cake event was filled to the brim with revelers.

Mission Garden’s Botanas, Bebidas and Birthday Cake event was filled to the brim with revelers.

After a brief afternoon siesta, we headed over to Mission Garden for their Botanas, Bebidas & Birthday Cake event. Mission Garden is the first in a series of projects planned by Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the culturally and historically rich area adjacent Sentinel Peak. Located at the foot of A Mountain, Mission Garden is a recreation of the Spanish Colonial garden from San Augustin Mission, and represents 4,000 years of local agriculture. Tonight, it was the site of a massive celebration.

Entering the main gate, the place was absolutely filled with partygoers. Many guests wandered the grounds, connecting with friends old and new while admiring the Garden. There were booths where people could purchase small fruit trees, ornate Mexican santos, or sample wine made from grapes and pomegranates grown right in the Garden. Musical group Tradiciones struck up a tune, and guests began dancing. Then the caterers arrived, and everyone hurried over to get tasty fare provided by Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food.

In addition to celebrating Tucson’s birthday, the event served to commemorate a new milestone for Mission Garden, namely the groundbreaking of a new education center. After the meal, guests assembled at the site of construction, where several individuals close to the project gave heartfelt speeches on Tucson’s millennia of unmatched culture and heritage, and the triumphs and challenges of bringing Mission Garden to life.

The evening came to a close with more music, cake and dancing. Finally, as the last remnants of light disappeared over the mountain, the many guests began slowly shuffling out the gate, full of cheer, good food and the promise of another great year.

Happy Birthday Tucson! You don’t look a day over 180.