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World Heritage Festival Celebrates The San Antonio Missions

The World Heritage Festival takes place this week from Wednesday, Sept. 6 to Sunday, Sept. 10. 

Colleen Swain, director of the City of San Antonio's World Heritage Office, says the festival connects the five Missions and celebrates their World Heritage designation, which recognizes the importance of the landmarks on a world stage.

"We are the one and only World Heritage site in the state of Texas. There's only 23 in the United States," she says.

Probably the most popular event is tonight's "Restored By Light" showcase. These projections put the Missions into an amazing and completely different light.

"At 7 p.m. the USAA band will be playing and at 8 o'clock as it gets dark, they project light onto Mission Concepcion to show what it looked like when it was painted," Swain explains.

At least two of the earthen-colored Missions were once brightly painted in frescoes.

"We know that Mission Concepcion and Mission San Jose were. And there's beautiful frescoes inside Concepcion and San Jose, and even the Alamo," she says.

The events are free and open to the public. On Saturday, the Tour de las Missiones begins.

"It is a bike ride and if you don't want to ride a bike, you can also walk. It's seven, 14 or 22 miles, so you can choose to go to one or two or all of the Missions," Swain explains. "The walk is a 5K and a 10K. That is a paid event, but you get a wonderful t-shirt designed by Cruz Ortiz and some wonderful swag."

The Mission Reach trail marks the riding and walking area.

On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the lively "Mission Pachanga," a free event.

"We have a stellar line up of local bands. There'll be food booths and vendors, so come out to Mission County Pavilion for that," she says. "Then Sunday, of course, there's mass at Mission Concepcion at 10 a.m., and that is free and open to the public."

The Missions' seeming quiet elegance is, in a way, misleading.

"These are living places; they are still active parishes," Swain says.

And with this weekend's World Heritage Festival, far more active than usual. 

Find more on the World Heritage Festival here

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii