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Paradise Park residents sharing their blessings

20191211 paradise park bless 01Residents at Paradise Park in Harlingen are sharing their blessings this year by gathering donations for a couple of organizations. They are gathering donations for Dr. Bill Harrison’s Sow the Word mission in Nuevo Progresso and for Loaves and Fishes food pantry in Harlingen.

The park has a reverse advent calendar set up where they ask residents to donate a designated item each day. For example, today, December 11 is 105 ounce can of veggies, and tomorrow is a bag of rice. The list doesn’t only include food items. The list also includes items such as soap, shampoo, crayons and coloring books.

The Winter Texan Times went and visited the park last week just to see what they were doing.

Criss Hastings, one of the organizers, said they have been blessed with the amount that has been donated already. In just six short days, residents had nearly filled up the front of small trailer home with the donations already given.

“The amount of donations for the Reverse Advent is already amazing,” said Hastings.

Hastings and her husband Jeff, park chaplain, and Sharon Bargel are leading the gathering.

Even though they are collecting items through December 24, they are having a big celebration on Friday, December 20 during their Burger Friday and jam session.

They will collect a big portion of their donated items and present them to Dr. Harrison.

Jammers start playing at 10:45 a.m., lunch is served at 11 a.m. and announcements will be made at noon. Residents also wear read on Fridays to Remember Everyone Deployed.

Hastings thinks the stage will be a sight to see with all of the donations gathered around.

If you want to help out call Sharon at 320-248-2167 or head on over to the jam session on Friday, December 20. There is a fee for lunch. The park is located at 1201 N. Expressway 77, in Harlingen.

Christmas: Traditions and Magic

WEB On The Road HeaderOh, to be a kid again. What a magical time of the year. A wonderful time of the year when traditions are born, and memories are made. Homes will be filled with Christmas trees and pine boughs that exude the smell of Christmas! Nutmeg and cinnamon, chile and roasting turkey lend their mouthwatering smell to the mix of fresh baked sugar cookies. Daddies are out stringing Christmas lights and inflating reindeers and Snoopys and Charlie Browns as one neighbor tries to outdo the other to see whose yard will attract the most attention.

Every community is offering something special for us to enjoy with their traditional offerings... lf we could take advantage of all the festivities being offered, we would be busy every weekend traveling from town to town to enjoy parades, special music, theater, sand sculptures, Christmas lights, Holiday Villages, Christmas tree forests and manger scenes.

A Sandcastle Village will be on display at South Padre Island, near Louie’s Back Yard and Gravity Park. Viewing started November 25 and will last until January 13. The sand sculptures all have a holiday theme. The weather has been beautiful for a visit to South Padre Island, so pile the kids, or your group of friends, in the car and head for the island.

Brownsville has developed a tradition in their Holiday Village Display. Now in its 10th year, the display has grown from 10 to 33 miniature houses all decked out in holiday finery. Go early perhaps to start your trip with a visit to Gladys Porter Zoo. The lights turn on in the houses at dusk, but if you wait too late you will have difficulty finding a parking place.

Museums in both McAllen - the IMAS - and in Harlingen - Harlingen Arts and History Museum - have Christmas Tree Forests. These displays have become a tradition when individuals, clubs or businesses, elect to decorate a Christmas tree with a special theme.

I entered a tree for several years. One year I used my late husband's collection of Micky Mouse memorabilia for the decorations. Another year, I used my daughter's collection of dolls from around the world. Once a local antique store decorated her tree with teacups, saucers and lace doilies for a very feminine and original presentation. Each tree has something different and interesting for visitors to see.

Viewing of the Christmas Tree Forest at the IMAS is included in the cost of admission. The trees will be on display through January 4, 2020. Donations are welcomed at the Harlingen Arts and History Museum as there is no entrance fee. The trees are on display until early January.

Hidalgo celebrates with their Festival of Lights with daily live performances from December 1st to the 30th• The free performances start at 7 p.m. and last approximately one hour. The Festival is held outside in front of the Hidalgo City Hall where the grounds are decorated with lighted life size presentations. Trolley rides are offered for a small fee and will take you through a fairy land of Christmas lighting.

The biggest extravaganza of all may well have been in McAllen for their parade of giant inflatable balloons that followed a set route. This extraordinary, super display has become an annual event so if you missed it this year, there will be a next year. The parade follows a set route, but there is also a chance to purchase reserved seating.

At least one church will be hosting a live Nativity December 21 and 22. The First United Methodist Church of La Feria will host its Live Nativity from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on the Saturday and Sunday mentioned. The church parking lot will become the town of Bethlehem and visitors can either walk or drive through the village and see the original Christmas story of the birth of Jesus.

The gifts may be piling up under your Christmas tree but let us remember that not all families will be able to visit the beautiful Christmas displays. Lack of a car or lack of money to buy gas may prevent some families from sharing in the wonders of Christmas. There will be some who cannot afford the Christmas tree nor the gifts to go under it. Churches, schools and many organizations join in another traditional happening - the drive that is organized for Toys for Tots. We can all share in the gift of Christmas by donating to this drive. Even a small gift will make some child happy.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year! Let's make it a wonderful time of the year for all!

Warthogs now on exhibit at Gladys Porter Zoo

They have finally arrived! Two male warthogs (Phacocherus africanus) have made their debut recently at the Gladys Porter Zoo. These two brothers, Leonardo and Rollo, arrived from the Indianapolis Zoo and have earned the title of Gladys Porter Zoo’s very first warthogs. They may not be the most attractive looking mammals, but they are incredibly intelligent and can quickly adapt to their environment.

Native to Sub-Saharan Africa, warthogs will typically eat vegetation such as roots and grasses but will occasionally eat meat when the opportunity arises. When startled, warthogs can run up to 30 miles per hour, or when necessary, may use their face bumps and sharp tusks for self-defense.

Although their conservation status is listed as Least Concern, warthogs are targeted for their tusks and still face endangered habitats and fractured breeding grounds.

Visit the zoo to see soon them for yourselves.

San Antonio group brings light show to Illumina Fest

sa illumina fest flowboticsFlowbotics of San Antonio will light up the night at Quinta Mazatlan’s premier celebration - Illumina Fest! The two-day art and music event is a global celebration of light taking place December 13 and 14. Guests will travel the quarter mile Luminaria Trail and get a glimpse of how the world celebrates with light across the seven continents; experiencing unique performances, like Flowbotics, along the way.

“We are thrilled to light up the night with McAllen, Texas!” stated Flowbotics Founder Whitney Watts.

Flowbotics Hoop Troupe is a Flow Arts Performance group that specializes in Daytime, LED, and Fire hula hooping, as well as other flow props. Flowbotics is dedicated to promoting and advancing the performing, visual, and creative art of flow arts through ongoing series of local and special events, workshops, and other community outreach programs by inspiring health, wellness, and creativity. While the simple love and joy of a hula hoop originally drew the team together, today, the team consists of five talented flow artists including Founder Whitney Watts, Co-Founder Tori Villarreal, Cassandra Flores, Amber Guitron, and Michael Morejon.

“We are so excited to have Flowbotics sharing their light at Illumina Fest and invite everyone to come shine their light. You never know how much light you have to give, until you share it with others,” said Lisa Ramirez, supervisor at Quinta Mazatlan.

There are two ways for guests to share their light at Illumina Fest - dress illuminated for chances to win prizes, and bring a decorated paper lunch bag (luminaria) to place on the luminaria trail. Compost will be provided to weigh down the paper luminaria bag, along with an LED tea-light. Children who bring a paper luminaria bag for the trail, will receive a glow band as a gift for sharing their light.

Illumina Fest is Friday and Saturday, December 13 and 14 from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person. Tickets may be purchased at Quinta Mazatlan prior to the event, or at the gate. Skip the lines and purchase tickets online at Ticketleap.com (search Illumina Fest) with no service fees. For more information on Illumina Fest, call Quinta Mazatlan at (956) 681-3370.

Quinta Mazatlan hosts Nights at the Mansion speaker series

quinta nights mansion forest smithNative plant communities are the foundation of healthy wildlife populations, functional ecosystems, and sustainable land use. On Thursday, December 5 at 6 p.m., Quinta Mazatlán will host Director of the Texas Natives Seeds Program, Forrest S. Smith, for Nights at the Mansion speaker series. Forrest will present his research and work within the Texas Native Seeds Program.

Forrest S. Smith is the Dan L Duncan Endowed Director of the Texas Natives Seeds Program located at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in Kingsville within the Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) campus. He earned a degree in Range and Wildlife Management from Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2003. Forrest has worked with CKWRI since 2001 and has led the native plant conservation and restoration programs there since 2008.

Forrest has published numerous scientific and popular works, and notably, his editorial in the journal Ecological Restoration titled Texas Today: A Sea of the Wrong Grasses remains one of the top 10 read most-read articles of the journal since it was published in 2010. In November 2019, Texas A&M Press released the book A Photographic Guide to the Plants of the South Texas Sandsheet which was co-authored by Forrest.

Forrest is a frequent speaker on native plant restoration and conservation, including giving invited talks at the 2015 World Conference on Ecological Restoration in the UK, and a keynote address at the 2019 Wildlife Society Annual Meeting in Reno, NV. Under his direction, in 2019, the TNS Program was awarded both the Texas Environmental Excellence Award for Agriculture and The Wildlife Society’s Group Achievement Award.

Nights at the Mansion speaker series presents noteworthy speakers and scholars to present lectures related to our global environment, local cuisine and the arts and culture. The program takes place on Thursday evenings through May 2020. The program fee is $3 per person and no advance reservation is required.

Quinta Mazatlán is located at 600 Sunset Drive in McAllen, one block south of La Plaza Mall on 10th Street. For more information, contact Quinta Mazatlán at (956) 681-3370 or visit www.quintamazatlan.com or the Facebook events page facebook.com/McAllenQuintaMazatlan.

Celebrate the holiday borderland culture at MOSTH

mosh img 4874The Museum of South Texas History (MOSTH) presents Fiesta de Noche Buena Sunday, December 8, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Enjoy this border-spirit event with traditions, stories, crafts and performances.

Returning this year is the popular “Posada Por Tiempo,” which takes guests through the museum’s exhibits while telling the biblical story of María and José’s search for an inn. “Posada Por Tiempo” is scheduled 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Capture the holiday spirit with fun activities such as free make-to-take-home crafts: Memory Ornaments and Felt Poinsettia Ornaments. Cowboy Santa will also be on hand for pictures.

If you love singing carols, Bellasea Entertainment will host “Holiday Karaoke” in the Grand Lobby from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Be sure to practice your favorite holiday song or carol.

New this year is the Christmas comedy play, “Pastorela,” which is another retelling of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter. The play, however, focuses on the challenges laid out by the Devil and a saving moment by Michael the Archangel. Two local groups will perform their own renditions in Spanish in the Courtyard Gallery. At 2 p.m. the Edinburg Municipal Auditorium Community Theater will perform “Cómo te quedó el ojo, Lucifer” by Norma Román Calvo and directed by Dr. Edna Ochoa. At 3:45 p.m. Latino Theatre Initiatives will perform “La Apuesta” written by Hugo Rodolfo Gomez and directed by LTI President Francisco Garza Rincones.

It isn’t a party if there is no food to enjoy, so bring some extra cash for some Mexican dishes and beverages. You can enjoy pozole, tamales and champurrado or snacks such as elote en vaso, fritturas Mexicanas con queso, marranadas and gummy bears with chamoy to be sold by E&B Elotes. Pair your choice of food with a soda, agua fresca or hot chocolate, which will be sold by the Scouts.

Admission fees for Fiesta de Noche Buena are $8 for adults (ages 18+); $6 for seniors with ID (ages 62+), active military and students with ID (ages 13+); $5 for children (ages 4 to 12) and free for children ages 3 and younger. FRIENDS of MOSTHistory are admitted free as a benefit of FRIENDship and must provide an active FRIENDship card to enter free.

The museum is located in downtown Edinburg at 200 N. Closner Blvd. on the Hidalgo County Courthouse square. Hours of operation are Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m. and Tuesday–Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information about MOSTHistory, including becoming a FRIEND, visit MOSTHistory.org, find the museum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube or call (956) 383-6911.

Christmas tree lightings and other events

img 9968 tree lightings other thingsLights, lights and more lights! Cities in the Valley are taking part in holiday celebrations with lightings, parades, and other events. The City of Mission had theirs on November 23 with a tree lighting in their downtown plaza with kids waiting in line for their pictures with Santa Claus. Mission also had vendors and entertainment for visitors to enjoy throughout the weekend.

Hidalgo Festival of Lights kicked off this week and will run through December 30. The city’s colorful and Winterland themed parade will be held on Friday, December 6 at 7 p.m. in front of city hall along Ramon Ayala Dr. There will be illuminated floats, marching bands and performers from across the Valley. The city has a full list of entertainment, light tours, food, a carnival, and so much more. You can find out their list of events at https://www.hidalgofestivaloflights.com/.

South Padre Island will have their tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. at their city hall on Friday, December 6. After the lighting ceremony, visitors can stick around for their parade. Their festivities continue Saturday, December 7 with a lighted boat parade at Jim’s Pier at 6 p.m. There will be designated viewing areas throughout the route. SPI also has their Holiday Sandcastle Village that will be on display through January 13. Visit the village that will have unique holiday sculptures including a sand snowman and Sand-ta. The village is located near Louie’s Backyard and Gravity Park.

The City of McAllen already opened their holiday celebrations with their tree lighting ceremony just before Thanksgiving, but their big event is their parade that will be held on Saturday, December 7. Refer to the story that starts on page one for more details.

Weslaco, along with celebrating their 100 year birthday, will be having a tree lighting ceremony on December 4 at Weslaco City Hall at 7 p.m.; Carolers and a book reading by Mrs. Claus on Saturday, December 7 and 8, 12 to 4 p.m., at the Weslaco Museum; a Christmas Carol Sing-Along on Sunday; and a Christmas Tree Forest at the Performing Arts Center on December 9 and 10. A Weslaco Centennial Christmas Parade will be held on Texas Blvd. from Pike to 6th St. on December 7 at 10 a.m. The parade will feature highlights of Weslaco’s 100 years. Celebrate Weslaco through the decades while watching the parade.

Brownsville already opened their Christmas fun with their annual Holiday Village, but will have a Christmas tree lighting on Thursday, December 5 in Washington Park at 5 p.m. Also, in Brownsville, Texas Southmost College will have a tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday, December 4 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. There will be music, performances, hot chocolate and sweet bread after the ceremony.

Edinburg will have a tree lighting on Thursday, December 5, 6 to 8 p.m. at 415 W. University Drive. They will also hold a Night of Lights Parade: Christmas Around the World on Friday, December 6, from 7 to 11 p.m.

Harlingen will be Lighting the Arroyo on Thursday, December 5, at 6:30 p.m., and San Benito will have their tree lighting on Saturday, December 7.

Mercedes will have their own Christmas Parade on Friday, December 6 at 6 p.m. The event will start on 6th and Texas Avenue and go north. The Mercedes ISD Festival of Light will follow at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Showgrounds.

Tree displays will be going at several museums too, including IMAS and the Weslaco Museum.

We are sure other cities around the Valley are holding their celebrations, so check with your city hall or park and see what is going on in your neighborhood.

Memorial High Students Are “Letting It Go” in Frozen, Jr.

McAllen Memorial High School is excited to present the musical Frozen, Jr.! The show is based on the animated Disney film Frozen and is sure to warm the hearts of everyone young and old. Join Elsa, Anna, Olaf and your other favorite characters as they journey through life and find what is really important – family and love. You will hear your favorite songs – Do You Want to Build a Snowman, Love is An Open Door, Let It Go – plus some new ones – Dangerous to Dream, Colder by the Minute, Let the Sun Shine On.

Performances will be at the William Hetrick Auditorium at Memorial High School on Thursday, December 5 and Friday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9 at 2 p.m.

Memorial High School is located at 101 E. Hackberry in McAllen. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at: www.frozeninmcallen.eventbrite.com or at the door.

“The Children’s Christmas Tree” at Llano Grande Resort

For seventeen years, Llano Grande has participated in the “The Children’s Christmas Tree” program at Christmas time. In our area, “The Children’s Christmas Tree” is administered through Child Protective Services, which is a division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The mission statement of the DFPS is to promote safe and healthy families and protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. In reference to “The Children’s Christmas Tree,” they focus on taking care of foster and other children in need.

In 2002, Dick and Pam Gall brought the “The Children’s Christmas Tree” program to Llano Grande Resort, as a result of getting to Joe Catreal, long time member of the DFPS team, in a summer baseball league. Intrigued by the “The Children’s Christmas Tree” concept, Dick and Pam originated and led the “The Children’s Christmas Tree” program at Llano Grande. They continued in chairing the program for several years.

Phyllis Mumm then took over the helm for eight years. Phyllis was succeeded by Linda Poyer. The program this year is chaired by Dara Marvin and Carol McKinney, sisters of the Galls, and residents of Llano Grande Resort.

Getting involved with the “The Children’s Christmas Tree” project is easy at Llano Grande. Beautiful Christmas trees have been placed in several locations around the park. These trees have colorful tag “decorations” hanging from them that list the names and pertinent information concerning each child’s age.

A donor simply selects a tag and goes shopping for that child. Or, if shopping is not possible, residents may just donate a cash amount and Carol and Dara will do the shopping. Gifts are then deposited into large “present” boxes which are located by the Christmas trees. The hosts of the project then deliver the gifts to the CPS headquarters for distribution.

Another way to be involved in the project is to help wrap the gifts. Carol and Dara will host several “wrapping parties” over the next few weeks. All they require is a happy heart and your best packaging skills.

This year Llano Grande is proud to be sponsoring over 350 children. Residents at Llano Grande are thrilled for the opportunity to work with CPS to brighten the holiday season for some pretty special kids.
For more information call Carol at (956) 565-6125 or Dara at (419) 908-8239.

Christmas Villages, Parades and Mangers

WEB On The Road HeaderDecember is such a wonderful time of the year! Children's eyes grow big with anticipation as they wait for the opening of gifts on Christmas morning. Adults wonder how far the money can stretch and grow exasperated as they assemble special gifts and -find that one last important screw is missing. Families shop for the prettiest and freshest Christmas tree to adorn the living room. Once purchased, the boxes of ornaments that have been carefully stored will be pulled from the closets to decorate the tree. Special presentations, parades and visits from Santa Claus are planned for these special days.

The nicest thing about these special presentations is that they are free to the public so that all can enjoy. Most cities kick off the Christmas season with their annual parade generally scheduled for the first weekend of December.

This year, Brownsville was possibly one of the first cities to start the special festivities when on November 25th the lights were turned on in thirty-three miniature houses all decorated for Christmas. The presentation is outdoors at Dean Porter Park and will last for six weeks.

Now in its tenth year, the display in Brownsville started with only ten little houses. Today, there are thirty-three houses. The diminutive structures feature the historic Stillman House, Santa's Hunting & Fishing lodge, Gingerbread Bakery, General Store, Santa’s Workshop, Hanukkah by the Sea, Village Library, North Pole Clinic and the Elf’s Bunkhouse. The idea was conceived by Brownsville resident Mellena Conner. Today the event is sponsored by local businesses, government entities and foundations and it is still free to the public.

This exhibit intrigues both adults and children - adults will marvel at the craftsmanship and decorations displayed in the construction and presentation of the small houses while the youngsters will marvel at the wonder of it all. If the youth wish, they can participate in a race to see who can find the Elf on the Shelf who will be well hidden. A prize is awarded to the youth who first discovers the elf.

This venue has proven very popular in the past, but parking is at a premium. Since the exhibition will last for six weeks, perhaps the crowds will diminish after Christmas Day. If you plan your trip before Christmas, it would be wise to go early. The lights will be turned on at dark or at 6 p.m. It might be a good idea to go midafternoon or earlier with a visit to nearby Gladys Porter Zoo followed by a visit to the Holiday Village that is just across the street. Food booths are available, and the zoo even has a restaurant. Even though there is no entrance fee to the Holiday Village, there is an entry fee to the zoo both for adults and youth.

Another part of the holidays in the Valley, all of the cities will have their Christmas Parades. The one in McAllen is probably the most extravagant with special large, helium filled presentations. The parade claims to be the biggest in Texas. Special reserved stadium seats can be purchased, or you can elect to see the mile and a half long parade on the designated routes for free. The parade ends at Archer Park where, among some of the sights to behold, will be a thirty-foot-high illuminated Santa’s Castle. Even my eyes are getting bigger just thinking of that.

Many of our local churches are also preparing for Christmas ... after all, December 25 is the celebrated day of the birth of the Christ Child. Christmas trees decorate some of the churches and many will have special displays of the manger scene. One of the most complete is created by a member of St. Joan of Arc in Weslaco. Other churches may have live Nativity Scenes. The First United Methodist Church in La Feria has scheduled a live nativity scene for December 21 and 22 for evening viewing. You may know of other churches with special or outstanding manger scenes.

To bring home the meaning of Christmas, perhaps a children’s birthday celebration for the Christ Child could be in order with a star shaped birthday cake and a special visit to a church with a Nativity scene.

Let your imagination run wild just as the lady in Brownsville did when she initiated the Holiday Village or just as the McAllen Assistant City Manager did when he dreamed of the largest parade in Texas.