2015 is a busy year for the City of Victoria. Its calendar is jam-packed with events to celebrate and showcase 100 years of the city’s history. Yet, if all had gone according to plan, the centennial celebration would already have been over for three years by now. “The city officials originally intended to incorporate in 1912, but they were 24 people short,” says city manager Laurie Hokkanen. The rush to incorporate was inspired by the city’s wish to build a fire department, which was one of the first actions they took as a town.
One hundred years later, the city’s population is just as passionate about making Victoria a safe and welcoming place to be. “It’s a wonderful community,” says mayor Tom O’Connor. “And a town that’s increasingly becoming a destination for residents and non-residents.”
One such popular destination is the city’s annual community event, Volksfest, a two-day festival August 14-16, put on to promote local businesses. Organized and sponsored by the Victoria Business Owners Association, the festival attracts nearly 5,000 community members. The Volksfest celebration includes games, arts and crafts, entertainment and fireworks.
This year’s festival has a special centennial flair with several new events, including the curation and installation of a time capsule. In addition to celebrating the centennial, Volksfest will also feature the new city library, which opened this year. The library will provide tours, crafts for kids and root beer floats. “With the different events and the opportunity to interact with the town’s history, I know it’s going to be a really fun summer,” says Jessica Beise, who helped coordinate the centennial celebrations.
“The partnership between the city of Victoria and Victoria Business Owners Association is really unique,” adds the association’s president, Randy Miller. “From collaborating on these events to seeing them through execution, we wouldn’t be able to pull it off without working together.”
This teamwork is exemplified in one of the events of the celebration: the commission and installation of a community sculpture by local artist Deb Zeller. The steel and concrete structure was made possible through the efforts of Miller and the Victoria Business Association and will aim to capture the details that make Victoria stand out. “We wanted the sculpture to represent our centennial theme of ‘Discover Victoria,’ so we’re incorporating waves to represent our city’s lakes, people for our community and trees for our parks,” says Miller. “We’re very fortunate to have the resources we have in this city. There’s a lot of pride in Victoria.”
Pride in the city is nothing new, as is evident by the careful curation of local history by Sue Orsen, publisher and editor of the Victoria Gazette. Orsen is writing front page stories throughout 2015 to mark the Centennial Year, dedicating a page of each edition to republishing feature stories she has written on past Victoria mayors and city councilmembers. “The centennial celebrates the incorporation of the city, which is when civic leaders began to hold posts, and I’m happy to say that since 1980, I’ve featured many of the city’s mayors and several councilmembers,” Orsen says.
As the town looks back over a successful century, the city’s current leaders are already focusing on the future. “I’m looking forward to starting the next hundred years,” says O’Connor, who is in his third year serving as the city’s mayor. “We’re well-positioned to begin the second century with our new City Hall, public library, public works building and strong infrastructure and financial positioning.”
“I’m always working to protect the small- town charm and ambience that people love so much,” he adds. “It’s always rewarding to get people downtown through community events like Volksfest and the centennial, where people feel safe and know they can have fun with their family.”