Balboa Park attracts some of the best and brightest volunteers in the region to work in its bustling Visitors Center. The Conservancy is extremely grateful for people like Yvonne Wultz who bring a cheerful, positive energy to their volunteer shift, enhancing the park experience for the thousands of guests who pass through the Visitors Center each day. We sat down with Yvonne to learn more about what makes Balboa Park such a happy place for her and for the millions of visitors who come here from around the world.
How long and in what capacity have you been volunteering in Balboa Park?
As of May, it’s been two years that I’ve worked at the information desk.
What got you interested in volunteering in Balboa Park?
My very dear friend who volunteered at the San Diego Zoo mentioned the information desk here in the park, so I came in and interviewed with Susy (Creamer). I instantly thought, “Oh, wow! This is what I want to do!” And it’s been great! Volunteering has brought me back to the park. When I first moved to San Diego, I would bring my dog to Balboa Park, and I developed a fascination with the giant Moreton Bay fig tree, where I would let him run around. Balboa Park had such a calming atmosphere, something peaceful in the middle of the city. I just fell in love with it. And since I started volunteering, I’ve wondered why I waited so long to come back to the park. For me, volunteering was a renewal of my fascination with Balboa Park.
Tell us a little bit about your background?
I came out here from Cleveland, Ohio, in 1975. I was working as a nurse there, sometimes traveling back and forth between Cleveland and Columbus, a two-and-a-half-hour drive, and twice I had to be towed out of the snow. Then when I visited San Diego with a friend, that was it—I decided right then I had to get out of the snow! So I moved out west and haven’t looked back. I met my husband here, who is a native San Diegan, and he’ll never go anywhere else, though we do travel quite a bit. I continued to work here as a nurse at Kaiser Hospital for more than 30 years until I retired.
What are some of your favorite things in Balboa Park?
The Botanical Building—I just love to tell visitors about it. And the plazas, each of them have their own distinct feel and unique architecture. I love the tile and the European atmosphere. It’s especially amazing what’s been done with the Plaza de Panama. It has such a great seating area. I’ve been here for Food Truck Friday, and it’s so great when they have the music and the food trucks and the people. It’s a happy place. It’s my happy place. The happiest place in San Diego!
Is there anything about you that would surprise most people?
I performed in a dance recital at the Casa del Prado Theatre at the age of 40. I had been taking tap dance classes here in Balboa Park. It had always been a dream of mine to learn tap. The recital included other students taking dance classes in the park, starting from the age of two all the way up to the adults, and we each had our own routine. It was my biggest moment!
What is the most interesting/unusual thing you’ve encountered while volunteering?
The people, where they come from. It’s amazing to me. We get people from the other ends of the Earth. It’s so interesting to me to share this park with them. In nursing, most people aren’t happy when they come in. This is such a different mindset, which is why I love it so—because everybody’s happy! They’re here to have a good time. I don’t have to fix them, like in nursing, to try to make them happy. I can just share in the glow of their happiness.
Tell us something most people don’t know about Balboa Park.
The Persian carpet fountain (on the east side of the House of Hospitality Building)—that’s something that I didn’t know was there or that it had a name and that it was so beautiful!
What is your favorite season or time of year in the park and why?
Spring, when the roses are in bloom. But I also like summer and visiting the Botanical Building, which offers such a nice shady canopy. And wintertime is great too, when there aren’t as many people around and the park is quieter. All seasons in the park are great in their own way!
If someone has only a couple of hours to spend in the park, what do you recommend they do?
I would tell them to visit the gardens, the Timken Museum of Art, and to look at the sculptures around the Plaza de Panama that the San Diego Museum of Art put out there, as well as the sculpture garden behind Panama 66. And to always look up! Look up at the architecture. If you keep your focus at eye level while walking around, you miss some of the details of the buildings. And visit Spanish Village, because that’s unique. The artists there are amazing and make such a wide variety of art.