Monday, December 12, 2011

Fort Worth JFK tribute needs one more boost

Fort Worth JFK tribute needs one more boost

A conceptual design of the planned JFK Tribute in General Worth Square.

It was after 11 p.m. when Air Force One touched down at Carswell Air Force Base on Nov. 21, 1963, bringing President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy for their first Fort Worth visit together.

The lateness of the hour did not keep more than 10,000 people from lining the motorcade route to view the presidential limousine as it whisked by on the way to downtown, where the annual Christmas lighting of buildings had taken place early in their honor.

The next morning, thousands gathered in the rain on a parking lot across from the Hotel Texas (now the Hilton) hoping to get a glimpse of the president as he left the building.

Little did those who showed up know the president already had gotten a look at them from his eighth-floor suite and had decided to speak to them before addressing a scheduled Chamber of Commerce breakfast inside, where 2,000 were in attendance.

The two Fort Worth speeches would be the last the president ever made. The overnight stay in Cowtown, where the people had poured out their hearts to him and the first lady, is still very fresh in the minds of those who were around at the time.

Fort Worth belatedly decided to construct a proper monument honoring the president's life, focusing on the joyous hours he spent in the city before leaving for a quick flight to Dallas.

It's taken 48 years, but finally a fitting tribute to Kennedy has been designed and was scheduled to be installed next May, around the time of the president's birthday, in General Worth Square, on the site of the parking lot where he spoke.

Now it appears that the installation of the project, which will feature a larger-than-life sculpture of Kennedy, a waterfall behind the statue and a tribute wall, might be delayed because of a funding shortage.

Downtown Fort Worth Inc. led a very successful fund drive for the tribute, reaching its goal of $1 million for design and construction of the plaza, and raising money for long-term maintenance. But when bids for the work came in, they were $300,000 more than what had been anticipated for construction, said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc.

Taft told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board that by working with the architect and construction company, supporters have been able to cut about $100,000 in costs, and an additional $100,000 has been pledged for the project. That still leaves another $100,000 to be raised before construction can begin.

Granite for the memorial should have been ordered by now to make the May target day. Each day that passes without the order means another day of delay, Taft said. He added that he's more concerned about getting the project right than meeting a deadline.

Still, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's visit is coming up in 2013, and it would be nice if the Fort Worth JFK Tribute were in place before then.
The city has come too far, and taken too long, to get to this point. A lot of individuals, companies and organizations have made contributions to get the project this close, but more help is needed.

Let's make this happen.

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