The city of National City becomes 125 years old on Sept. 17.
One of several events the city has planned to celebrate is the sixth annual Old Town reunion this Saturday, July 21, at the Casa de Salud/Manuel Portillo Youth Center.
“The purpose is to get people back together who haven’t seen each other in many years,” National City councilwoman and reunion committee chair Rosalie Zarate said.
The event celebrates National City’s west side, going back to the late 1800s, beginning with an Old Town stroll.
When National City was founded in 1868 by Frank Kimball, it was filled with olive and citrus orchards and grand Victorian homes.
The city became the birthplace for a number of firsts in San Diego County, including the first fair, free kindergarten, automobile and railroad terminus in the county.
Zarate said the reunion allows old friends, neighbors and family members to reminisce about years gone by while watching local entertainment, eating food, playing games and winning prizes.
Zarate said she’s seen numerous positive changes in the city over the years, including its education village on National City Boulevard, the city’s state of the art library and new police and fire stations are proof that the city has cleaned up.
“When you look at the history and everything that started where City Hall is … some of these people know more than we do,” she said. “It’s just amazing how people get together and share those things.”
National City Mayor Ron Morrison recalls the localization of gambling, west side property rights and the denial of residents to build a new city hall.
“It was when, after decades of no rights, people stood up and took on the Planning Commission and City Council demanding they get their residential property rights,” he said. “If that didn’t happen, the west side specific plan never would have happened.”
Morrison said the biggest change he’s seen in the city over the last several years has been residents’ change in attitude.
“There’s a huge affinity for Old Town and National City as a whole,” Morrison said. “There’s a fierce pride that people in National City have now. There was a time when families didn’t go into Kimball Park, now there are families there until 10 p.m.”
Midday, a dedication will honor Diego Aguilera, who coordinated the first reunion approximately 20 years ago.
Aguilera, who passed away May 8, was a lifelong citizen of National City.
“He was a great motivator and organizer,” Morrison said. “He was very contagious with getting the community enthused.”
Aguilera was also known in the community for starting a neighborhood watch program.
“He would see something that needed to be done and he would do it,” Zarate said. “He was very innovative and involved.”
The free Old Town reunion is from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 1408 East Harding Ave.
The events will culminate Sept. 22 to celebrate with an old fashioned picnic at Kimball Park.