Lights, 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.
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.
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.
December 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.
By Herb Moering
“Five...four...three...two...one” and at the end of the countdown the lights blinked on Monday evening, November 25, for the 10th season of the popular Holiday Village in Brownsville.
The yuletide lighting ceremony of the 33 small cottages in Dean Porter Park drew hundreds of spectators, who were treated to Christmas music by the Sabas Band on the big stage before the lights went on for the first time. Visitors were invited to have one of the thousand free Krispy Kreme donuts handed out, plus participate in a drawing for $1,000 in door prizes. There were also nearly a dozen food vendors on hand as well for those who were hungry and thirsty.
Once the lights went on the crowd turned to looking in the windows of the cottages, including the newest one, the Toy Hospital with its stuffed animals in need of fixing up, which was sponsored by Valley Baptist Medical Center.
Besides the “hospital” the village contains all the buildings one would expect to find in a community and a few unexpected ones, including a courthouse, bank, dental office, gingerbread bakery, sweet shop, accountant’s office, library, holiday mart, Santa’s fisherman shack, dance studio, elf bunkhouse, tree farm and Santa’s workshop.
A number of them are modeled after some of Brownsville’s historic structures, such as Immaculate Conception Cathedral of 1859 and a Victorian home. A couple unusual ones are the school bus and Santa’s Holiday in Space.
Visitors will come from all over the Rio Grande Valley as well as Mexico to see the lighted village. Winter Texans from all over the U.S. and Canada also make up a huge junk of the crowds.
One of those in the crowd was Mellena Connor, who originated the idea of a holiday village in 2009 after seeing something similar that was done in a city in Utah. The Holiday Village was part of her vision to bring something wonderful to the community as part of a renovated Dean Porter Park that now includes the Camille Playhouse and Children’s Museum. The Brownsville native headed the village cottage project for the first six years.
And then the Holiday Village Brownsville Committee members took over, with Laurie Ray taking on the chairmanship in 2015. Ray, who has her own cottage, the library, noted all the cottages are designed by a local architect. About a third of them have been constructed through a Youth Build program for high school students.
The family-friendly attraction remains free to the public through its funding by grants and sponsors. This year’s sponsors included HEB Helping Here, Mitte Foundation, Parra Furniture, Valley Baptist Medical Brownsville, Village Accountants, Big Give Brownsville and City Parks and Recreation. Cottage sponsorships normally run for five years, Ray said, and most usually renewing the commitment year after year.
The retired librarian says her volunteer job is a year-round effort. It begins in January, assessing the condition of each cottage. Which ones will need refurbishing and do sponsors want to add items to the interior displays? Then there are the cottage sponsorship renewals to check out during the year along with who will be major sponsors.
She has seven other volunteers working with her and three or four more who come part-time starting in the fall each year. They see to the parade of cottages through Brownsville from their storage site in a part of the city’s warehouse at the airport. Each 8 by 10-foot building, which are limited to 14 feet in height, are mounted on wooden pallets. That allows for moving them about and placing them on site.
The only missing element on opening night was Fritter the tiny elf, based on a book about a home with an elf on a shelf, watching a child’s behavior that might be reported to Santa. Fritter didn’t make a hide and seek appearance inside one of the cottages until November 29. Children are encouraged to look for him at a cottage and have a picture taken with him for posting on Facebook, that would enter them in a drawing for daily or weekly prizes provided by Krispy Kreme donuts.
The on-going event, with lots of picture opportunities, also will include local dance and school groups, choirs and others appearing at the park. Check the HolidayVillageBrownsville.com website for listings of the various groups over the next four weeks. And for the kids, Santa Claus will be at the gazebo and available for free pictures every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night in December.
Holiday Village will be open through January 1 with hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The lights come on at 6 p.m. each evening.
Piercelyn Murray, 8, stared at the green candy dot in her hand.
“Do we need this piece for anything,” she asked.
Her younger sister, Andrea Flores, immediately responded “it goes here.” Then she licked some icing from their gingerbread house off her finger. The piece of candy made it onto the house, but another one soon disappeared, and the look of mischievous victory suddenly glowed from Piercelyn's face.
Victory, excitement and laughter could be heard all over the McAllen Convention Center grounds as Frio – a Winter Fiesta full of thrills, funs and photo opportunities for all ages – got underway at the McAllen Convention Center and its oval park last week.
As thousands of Winter Texans have arrived or are on the trek south to escape the cold and snowy north, they'll be glad to know that if they miss that weather too much, there's always Frio. There's ice, real snow, ice skating and more inside the convention center. Outside – just in case one doesn't want to relive, or get a taste, of what life is like up north during the winter months – there's food, castles, swans, penguins and so much more.
“This is real nice,” said Helen Cepeda, who was with her family celebrating her seventh birthday at the event during its opening weekend. “I got to ride down the penguin slide and make a snowman.”
McAllen also has a 64-foot pre-lit Christmas tree, that stands near the entrance of oval park in the Palms Crossing shopping center. The entire park area and convention center has been transformed into a colorful, bright and cheery winter display (all the bright sides of winter as opposed to the shoveling of snow, melting of ice and bundling in layers like the true north) as the city has become the “official South Pole of Texas.”
People from all over the Valley visited during the first weekend of festivities at the convention center.
Jesuse Cantu and his family came from just down the road in Mission. They had yet to visit the indoor events though, enjoying the spectacular outdoor displays.
“I really like the swans,” Ryleigh Cantu said. “They're so pretty.”
There are a variety of ticket packages for the event, which runs daily until Jan. 6. A general admission ticket costs $4.95 but there are bundled packages to fit different size families and a variety of the attractions, including unlimited rides on the Pinguino Plunge Ice Mountain.
For more information, visit www.friomcallen.com.
PARADE THIS WEEKEND
The McAllen Holiday Parade is right around the corner, and organizers are continuing to unveil new exciting features that will delight attendees, all in the spirit of the magical holiday. Kicking off this year’s parade on Saturday, December 7, will be a Holiday Musical Extravaganza, that will feature international singing sensation Mane de la Parra, joined by five hundred fourth and fifth grade choir students from McAllen ISD, and the Valley Symphony Orchestra. Also, part of the Extravaganza will be a Tuba Christmas, as well as local dance group sensation, Razz Matazz. Singing cultural and holiday favorites, the performance will start at 5:30 p.m., in mid-field of McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium. The performance will be complete with a dazzling fireworks display and decorations that will bring the South Pole of Texas theme to life. A ticket is required for the Extravaganza, but is included in the VIP Stadium Parade seating ticket.
“Each year, we find new ways to make the McAllen Holiday Parade, presented by H-E-B, bigger and better than ever,” said McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. “Everyone who experiences the parade leaves with smiles of wonder and awe and this year will be no different, seeing our own McAllen ISD kids performing with such an iconic and world-renowned celebrity. I really can’t wait!”
Getting to the parade will not be difficult, as the City of McAllen, in partnership with South Texas College, will offer a free McAllen Holiday Parade Park and Ride Polar Express Shuttle from the STC campus on Pecan Boulevard and 29th Street. Starting at 12 p.m. on Saturday, December 7, trolleys will make a continuous loop approximately every 10 minutes, from the pick-off point at STC at 31st Street and Quince Avenue, that will take parade and Christmas in the Park goes to the parade drop-off/pick-up point at Quince Avenue and 23rd Street. The Park and Ride Polar Express Shuttle will run until 12 a.m. People with disabilities, including those in regular or motorized wheelchairs and walkers, should utilize the ADA shuttle pick-up point from 31st Street and FM 495. Strollers are welcome, as are service dogs.
The McAllen Holiday Parade has been named the Best Parade in the World and the Best Parade in Texas, three times. The McAllen Holiday Parade features 55 floats that boast a wattage power of 153,000 watts from just under five miles of rope light; 39 giant character balloons utilize 34,000 cubic feet of helium; and 50 vehicles provide 12,000 horsepower to pull floats along the streets of McAllen.
This year’s McAllen Holiday Parade will be held on Saturday, December 7, 2019, stepping off at 6 p.m. from McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium, 2001 North Bicentennial Boulevard and is generally thought of as the best seat in the house. General admission and reserved tickets are now on sale. General admission tickets are $10 and are exclusively for the east side of the stadium, while reserved tickets are for $20 or $35 for the west side of the stadium.
Tickets may be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com; expect additional service charges or at face value at the McAllen Convention Center Box Office, located at 700 Convention Center Boulevard. VIP chairs along the route are available for $8 or free seating is found on a first come basis. Go to www.mcallenholidayparade.com for tickets and information.
Have you ever stopped to consider, what would happen in the RGV if the Rio Grande (river) dried up? Would it be a catastrophe? Would we be a thirsty region?
“In reality most people take the river for granted when it comes to acknowledging it’s most important resource,” says Pharr Community Theater Artistic Director Pedro Garcia.
“I happen to be a large fan of el Rio Grande and it’s nearly 1,900 miles of trajectory starting in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, running south through the entire length of New Mexico, down to El Paso, where it bends southeastward on its way to the Gulf of Mexico via Boca Chica in Brownsville. In our play the river has a lead role, so to speak.”
A Tejano Christmas Carol is a comedic and dramatic play where Mr. Ezequiel Codos (a scrooge equivalent) is a powerful, avarice RGV attorney and water broker. For some time now Mr. Codos has been brewing up plans to sell large amounts of water rights from his vast property along both sides of the river.
“This deal is gonna make me a multi-millionaire”, he says to his nephew and water rights activist, Beto, played by Danilo Zepeda, from Edinburg, who invites him to Christmas dinner in spite of his rudeness.
Of course, many of us know the Charles Dickens story from which the play is adapted including visits by ghosts. In this tale the ghost of Christmas past is La Rielera de la Revolución Mexicana played by veteran stage actress, Armandina Sesin, from Mission.
“I’ve performed the role of La Rielera for the last four years and I always have a good time as my character tries to instill some good sense into the tight-fisted Mr. Codos.”
Even the late, great conductor/composer Laurence Welk makes a youthful appearance as a ghost played by 16-year-old Frankie Sharp Hooton from Weslaco.
“He’s a popularized 1950’s-1970’s TV entertainer, he performed lots of music and interviews but mostly he was a big band conductor, an orchestra person. From the research I did, he seemed like a fun guy although a mono-tonal person which I’m not, but I had to learn how to dial it down while racking it up at the same time. For me it’s a difficult role to play but ultimately the part is doable with practice and a whole lot of fun.”
The two-act family play, in English, is set in 2007 when the RGV had a big snowfall on Christmas eve. The play returns to Pharr by popular demand with a local cast of nearly 20 adults and children combined and is directed by Seres Jaime Magaña. Claudia Jimenez is stage manager and longtime Screen Actor Guild member Pedro Garcia, co-produces and plays Codos for the 4th year in a row.
“Next time I’ll be glad to give up the fun role to someone else and see another local actor take a turn at it,” said Garcia with a chuckle.
“It’s a family play for the holiday with a grand message and something fun to watch for this season, plus we have a versatile, creative and disciplined cast,” added director Magaña.
A Tejano Christmas Carol plays December 4-8, at Pharr Community Theater, 213 W. Newcombe Ave., Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are only $5 students, seniors and military or $8 general admission. Seating is limited to 55 persons per show and tickets will be sold at the door starting one hour before curtain upon availability. You may also reserve your advance tickets by texting or calling (956) 239-0412 or (956) 655-9308
A final show will be held on Thursday, December 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the spacious Pharr Events Center at 3000 N Cage Blvd. Tickets will remain the same price.
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The UTRGV Center for Latin American Arts will present an evening with the Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad Veracruzana, 7 p.m. December 7 in the Performing Arts Complex on the Edinburg Campus and Dec. 8 at the TSC Performing Arts Center in Brownsville.
The world-renowned ballet folklórico will present its show, “Raices de mi pueblo,” a performance that honors Mexico’s beautiful cultural traditions through dance and music.
Dr. Steven Block, dean of the College of Fine Arts; Dr. Katherine Moore McAllen, director of the center; and Miguel Peña, director of the UTRGV Ballet Folklórico program, have invited the celebrated ballet folklórico dance company from Veracruz, Mexico, to present performances at UTRGV.
Guest performers will offer two shows open to the public and will team with UTRGV university students and dance professors to host ballet folklórico dance clinics for students at various public schools throughout the Valley.
The clinics will be held at different studios in several high schools, including PSJA Southwest, La Joya High School, Dancentre of Edinburg, Edinburg North, Economedes, Hidalgo Early College, Edinburg, Valley View High School, PSJA North Early College, Juarez Lincoln, and PSJA Memorial.
The dance company also will give three large clinics at the UTRGV dance studios at both campuses.
The Center for Latin American Arts hopes this event will engage the community and create a greater awareness and appreciation for Mexican culture and traditions. All proceeds from the ticket sales support future programming projects at the Center and enable the CLAA to fund faculty and student research initiatives and provide salaries of graduate student staff members.
Tickets, available at http://patron.utrgv.edu/CLAA, are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors.
Event contacts are McAllen at CLLA@utrgv.edu or email@example.com and Peña at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit https://www.utrgv.edu/claa, https://www.facebook.com/UTRGVCLAA or https://www.utrgv.edu/cofa