Driving one of two shuttle vans, Al Hernandez of South San Diego made a circuit of parking lots near the La Mesa Community Center on Saturday night, dropping off costumed guests at a red carpet entrance.
How many round trips?
“Oh, man. It must have been about 40,” he said 90 minutes into the three-hour Party of the Century. “I’m so glad to be here, serving this community—La Mesa.”
He wasn’t alone.
Organizers said 380 civic leaders and longtime residents turned out. They paid at least $100 each, wandering among several rooms devoted to 10 decades in history in the last major event of the city’s centennial year.
Among them were all members of the La Mesa City Council (including recently elected Kristine Alessio), Police Chief Ed Aceves (in a dark suit), Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Chancellor Cindy Miles, former Friends of the Library President Joe Glidden and current La Mesa Historical Society leaders Aaron Landau and James Newland.
Linda Horrell and JoAnn Knutson, co-chairs of the 12-member Party of the Century Committee, came dressed for different decades—Horrell for the early years and Knutson for the 1960s (with a peace symbol necklace).
The mother, father and daughter team of artists—Jess and Mary Lynn Dominguez and Amy—chatted with visitors admiring a scale model of their winning entry in the $150,000 Centennial Legacy Project, a gathering spot for La Mesa Boulevard called The Lookout.
La Mesan Gary Burt, singing Sinatra, was the first performer heard, stationed outside the main entrance in 40-degree weather. Other groups inside entertained with other genres at a party that also served as a fundraiser for the privately funded public art project capping the centennial celebration.
But Horrell said the party itself was designed to break even. Local restaurants offered finger foods, a la the chamber’s annual Taste of La Mesa.
She said the best part of the 18-month preparation process was the organizing committee meetings—“all our best friends.”
And who was most responsible for making the party a success?
“Yvonne Garrett,” Horrell said without hesitation, referring to the assistant city manager who oversaw the volunteer Centennial Committee. “She’s like our coordinator, our quarterback.”