Port Arthur’s Quasquicentennial Committee and city partner for Earth Day event

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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Another celebration of the City of Port Arthur’s 125th anniversary is set, with organizers releasing more information about what’s to come throughout the year.

The city is hosting an Earth Day event April 22 in conjunction with the Quasquicentennial. Registration begins at 8 a.m. at the Downtown Pavilion, 501 Procter St.

Members of the Quasquicentennial Steering Committee say they will be incorporating the anniversary into ongoing events that typically take place throughout the city.

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“Our goal is to reach everyone,” said Albert Thigpen. “The celebration is for all of Port Arthur, and we plan to involve all of Port Arthur to the extent that is possible.”

Verna Rutherford said plans began in July when the committee approached city leaders and asked if the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce could host the anniversary activities.

“As the committee started getting formed…I have a broad-based team of volunteers working on this celebration, and it was critical that it was a diverse team — not just in terms of any one type of person,” said Rutherford. “But it’s about the gender. It’s about the age. It’s about the cultural diversity. That has been a real focus for us to be able to do that.”

The most important aspect, she added, is involving younger generations.

“Because some of us — most of us — who are working on this team today probably won’t be around in 25 years to be able to do that celebration,” she said. “And so it’s incumbent upon us to prepare those young people…to learn about what they need to know so that they can do this, and where those resources are that they can get information about the history of the city.”

The first Quasquicentennial event was the 123rd annual banquet for the chamber, which took place Jan. 26.

“It’s an exciting time for our city,” Chamber CEO Pat Avery said. “Everyone is excited about all of the things that are going to take place this year. Our whole goal is to not simply do things, but incorporate some of the things that are already going on in our city and just piggyback off of that to share our culture, whether it’s the Hispanic population, the Vietnamese, or African American, or Anglo — all of the cultures that are here.”

Rutherford said in the committee’s research, members have learned of multiple time capsules buried within the city and are also working to determine an opening date for each.

One, for example, was buried at the sub-courthouse in 1936 and is scheduled to be opened in 2036.

History, after all, is the center point of the celebration.

“The historical markers — that’s just second to none when you think about all of those places that we drive past and we see these markers and we know what they are,” Rutherford said. “But how many of us have stopped and read them all? Even if we went to the unveiling of them, we really don’t remember what they told us about them. There will be some things that will be done during this year that will be a refresh or an awareness for those who’ve never seen them so that you’ll know what is going on and what’s on those.”

Thigpen said another focus for the year will be highlighting Port Arthur’s impacts on the arts, athletics, cuisine, the petrochemical industry and the global economy.

“When they honored the idea of the Super Bowl on its 50th anniversary, Port Arthur — not Houston, not Dallas, not New York — Port Arthur received more Super Bowl trophy recognitions than any other city in the country,” he said. “Our goal as part of this celebration is to make more people aware of that history, of those impacts, on how important Port Arthur is. Oftentimes people think of Port Arthur in our little corner of Southeast Texas without realizing that, yes we’re in Southeast Texas and we’re in the corner, but that corner impacts the world.”

Sam Monroe, president of the Port Arthur Historical Society, joins Avery, Rutherford and Thigpen on the Steering Committee.