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RGV low cost of living appeals to Winter Texans

20190313 WT Cost Don Wes Flea Market DSC 0701 KODavid Howard and his wife live 4,200 miles from the Rio Grande Valley.

The couple will take their time each year, leaving their home in the Canadian province of Labrador and Newfoundland to arrive at their summer home at Bit-O-Heaven RV Park in Donna. They will take 10-12 days to reach their destination, knowing full well that the trip to Florida's winter resorts would be closer.

“But it's so much cheaper here,” Howard said. “The amenities are just as good, and the people are nicer. It's worth the drive without a doubt.”

As a younger generation move to the Valley, it seems they are more frugal when it comes to where they go. They want to have a great time, but they don't want to spend the money they've saved and earned to go just toward living expenses. They want to live it up – from dances and shows to trips to South Padre Island and Nuevo Progreso, Mexico and, of course all the free events that take place on a daily occurrence at the RV resorts.

Progreso is as much a Winter Texan hotspot as any place on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. Arts, crafts, medicine as well as deliciously prepared adult beverages (which some may consider medicine) and a world of exquisite fajitas, enchiladas and other Mexican fare call out to visitors from the north on a regular basis. Some will drive across and park on the one main street that is crammed with shops, restaurants and pharmacies on both sides of the road. Others will take the short walk across the Progreso International Bridge and enjoy the small tourist destination that way.

20190313 WT Cost Progreso Winter Tourist Appreciation Day MOERING DSC 0431The annual “Best Places to Live” index regularly has cities such as Harlingen, McAllen and Mission in their top 100 in the nation, and top 15 in Texas. The median cost of homes is usually the greatest contributor to that, and other, indexes but other categories that rank high include cost of groceries, health care, utilities and housing in general.

“As a Winter Texan, we enjoy the weather, cost of living, fresh fruit, veggies. There's great medical care and in 10 hours by plane we can be back in Alaska,” said one Winter Texan – and Arizona is closer to them.

While the cost of living is very economical for the area, the Winter Texan parks offer a whole other type of economies. Entertainers from Nashville, Vegas and Branson, Mo. such as Mario Rosales, Tavie Spivey, Jason “The Piano Man” Whorlow and dozens more will enjoy in the low cost of living while putting on shows here during the winter months; some entertainers – affectionately known as “Wintertainers™” - will perform at 40, 50 or more RV and mobile home parks/resorts. The usual charge per person is only $7 or $8. For a two-hour show, sometimes with 250 or more in attendance, it's a win-win for everyone. Even the lunch specials offer amazing prices – all you can eat pancake breakfasts for as little as $4, or a burger, fries and a drink for $5 are just two examples.

Talking about “win-win,” there may not be a better area in the nation that offers such a wide variety of products as the local pulgas, known everywhere else as flea markets. The Don-Wes Flea Market is truly one of a kind. When you first pull in, you may not be wowed because, well, it is a flea market. As soon as you step inside the covered area, however, treasures are everywhere. There's Amish cheeses and homemade jellies and jams from Wisconsin (Winter Texan proud), fruits and veggies (also at several farmer's markets). There's jewelry, gadgets, clothes – even a doggy day spa. In other words, you can find everything you want – and some things you didn't realize you wanted at these flea markets.

AARP also wrote that Texas was the best state to retire because it had the lowest taxes, and no state income tax. And homeowners can claim a homestead exemption and have their taxes frozen if they are 65 or older.

Finally, the big sell when it comes to the economical reasons, the lots and homes themselves are sold at amazingly low prices. When a Winter Texan decides to not return for health or family reasons (plenty of new grandchildren for example), they will sell or lease their lots/RVs and/or mobile homes. Newcomers can usually find amazing deals on homes, many fully furnished.

While the low cost of living is just one of the reasons Winter Texans love the Valley, it surely is an important one, as it allows retirees to stretch their retirement income and enjoy those golden years.

“We've worked a lot of years and sacrificed so many things for this time,” said Debbie Lorenz, who has lived in the Valley with her husband Arnie for five years. Their northern home is in Malden, Ill. “We've planed accordingly for this part of our lives. We are enjoying it and are determined to keep right on enjoying it.”

Warm weather draws Winter Texans to South Texas

20190313 WT Weather Softball Canada vs USA MILLER IMG 6737Terry Hirschfeld was in her Kentucky home when she started making a list of “warm states.” She was tired of the cold.
Texas made her short list.

Now that she and her husband are here living on South Padre Island, they are thrilled that they chose Texas over their other two finalists – Arizona and Florida.

“We love it here,” Hirschfeld said during the WinterFest at South Padre Island.

The beautiful subtropical weather of South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley is definitely one of the biggest attractions for Winter Texans. There could be as much as a 100-degree difference between South Texas and places like Northern Minnesota or South Dakota.

I'm thawing out right now,” said Fred Mastellar, bus driver for Hart Travel, a tour company that brings 25-30 Winter Texans to the Valley as one of their stops on a multi-week tour. Speaking of the weather when he left Minnesota, Mastellar said, “This was the worst weather to drive in that I've ever had to deal with.”

20190313 WT Weather GOLFERS Miller IMG 9335The group of Winter Texans hail from Minnesota and South Dakota. Ernie Hart, owner of the company, said that each year the group tries to talk him into staying in the Valley for longer periods of time. He added that he may be convinced after the most recent weather in Minnesota.

The Rio Grande Valley is definitely a joy to live in, especially if the other option includes snow, ice and all things frozen. The average high between December and February runs from 70-74 degrees (but can reach into the 80s) and lows are generally between 49 and 54 – with the token warning once a year that a frost is on its way, sending full-time residents scurrying to cover their outdoor plants.

The mild winter temperatures – and no snow – allows folks to get out and be active during the winter months. For Winter Texans that means playing golf, racing RC cars, playing pickleball, shuffleboard, horseshoes, cycling, bird watching and many other outdoor activities – often with temperatures in the 70s.

Not only is there joy in leaving the frozen tundras, but there are also health benefits. Jim McDermid of Minnesota said he has heart and vascular disease and in the Valley the weather is good enough that he can walk almost every day and the land is flat enough that he does not have to climb while he walks.

Ed Martens runs the Senior Texan Softball League and its all-star games every March. He said he has benefited from his years of living in the Valley, even though he may not be playing softball any more. “It keeps me active,” he said. “There's no way I want to live where it's snowing and frozen. I love that we can play softball pretty much all year.”

The nation's warmest “Polar Bear Dip” also takes place on South Padre Island every Jan. 1. Hundreds of Winter Texans join locals sprinting into the Gulf for a quick plunge. The event is highly popular in areas where the courageous jump into 35-degree water. That's something that South Texas “dippers” don't have to worry about.

20190313 WT Weather Borderfest GU6C0A1148The weather is also perfect for golf during the Winter Texan months. Several parks have groups that schedule scrambles on a weekly basis to play one of more than 20 different courses spread throughout the Valley.

“We have perfect weather for our Winter Texan friends to come and play a round, something they certainly couldn't do back home during the same time,” said Carlos Espinosa, golf director at Palm View Golf Course in McAllen. “They keep our business going during those months and we are glad to accommodate them.

An unofficial record of -38 degrees was recorded on Jan. 19 in Illinois this year, as much of the Midwest plunged into sub-zero temperatures. On that same day in Mission, Texas the high was 74 degrees – a 112-degree difference.

“There's no sense in staying in weather like that,” former Kansas resident Dorothy Plowman recalls telling her husband.

“There's nothing here for us here; there are no neighbors nearby and I'm sick and tired of all this cold. We moved to Texas and it's the best thing we could've done.”

They come to Texas because it’s fun!

20190313 WT Fun 01When winter visitors come to South Texas, they want to have fun!

And that’s what the activity directors in the mobile home and RV resorts do best. They make sure there are plenty of fun activities for their park residents to enjoy.

The activity schedule at most parks is extensive, offering a wide array of activities and entertainment. While Winter Texans still enjoy many of the traditional activities such as dances, movie nights, park socials and live entertainment by performers from Branson and Nashville – at low, low prices – some new trends have emerged as younger retirees discover the Rio Grande Valley.

Pickleball, RC (remote-control) racing, and rock ‘n roll music are all the rage for Winter Texans in South Texas. These are just a few of the newest activities added to a menu of fun things to do.

These activities have exploded onto the Rio Grande Valley scene over the past two to three years and the local mobile home and RV resorts are quickly building new pickleball courts, constructing oval and figure-eight RC tracks, and booking more rock ‘n roll entertainment to provide more reasons for retirees to spend their winters in South Texas.

Bean Bag Baseball Too!

20190313 WT Fun 02But there's another activity that is coming on strong. It's one that Bentsen Grove Resort activity director Peggy Creach said just kind of snuck up and became an overnight sensation. That's the good old bean bag toss, which many parks have turned into a competitive game of bean bag baseball.

“A lot of people come out to play it every week,” Creach said. “It's something that everybody can play and it became really popular, really fast.”

The baseballs are the bean bags and the targets are holes inside a wooden board placed 17 feet away from the batters. The batters aim for holes designated 1B (single), 2B (double), 3B (triple) or Home Run, while trying to avoid the negative consequences like “out” and “strike” holes.

Multiple games are played at the same time at Country Sunshine RV Park, said Activity Director Debbie Stout, who saw the game played first at Mission West and introduced it to both Country Sunshine and Southern Comfort RV parks; so far it has been a hit.

Pat Stillar, a Minnesota resident, has become a pro of sorts – in the sport. Not only does he play at the park, but he also competes in the Senior Olympics.

“I love sports,” he said. “I’m involved in the senior Olympics and love to throw horseshoes – I’m pretty good at that – and bean bag toss and pool.”

Thirty-two teams from different Wilder Resorts converged on Texas Trails RV Resort to hold their first bean-bag tournament – that's how popular that activity has become overnight.

Pickleball Grows in Popularity

Pickleball, which combines elements of tennis and badminton, is a game of strategy and teamwork. Unlike tennis and badminton, it's not about power, but more about precision. Bentsen Grove, Llano Grande, Pine to Palm, Texas Trails, VIP La Feria, Victoria Palms, and several other parks have either adapted their tennis courts to be pickleball courts, or built new courts.

20190313 WT Fun 04Larry Vermeesch, director of pickleball at Bentsen Grove Resort, said that there are more than 100 registered players for pickleball. The park built a 65-foot by 60-foot indoor, air-conditioned court that has been hugely popular.

“This is great for recruiting new Winter Texans to the park,” he said. “It's also great to play because it doesn't require as much running as tennis. But it sure does get intense.”

Some of the local cities, such as Mission, now offer pickleball as a regular part of their Parks & Recreation program.

Lou Dewaele, activity director at Texas Trails RV Resort, said that they started out with about six to eight pickleball players. Now they have closer to 50 and have “lined up” two indoor pickleball courts as well as three outdoor ones.
RC Racing

RC racing has also taken South Texas by storm. From Penitas RV Park, which has offered RC racing years before everyone else joined the fun, to some of the newest tracks, including Bit-O-Heaven, Alamo Palms, Alamo Rec-Veh and Texas Trails RV, among others. Most tracks are oval or figure-eight tracks, but there are a couple of trawler tracks for those who want to bring out their “monster” RC trucks and battle the obstacle course.

“This is something the residents wanted and it has grown unbelievably fast,” said Rocky Ramirez, manager of Alamo Palms – an avid RC competitor. “We want to get other parks involved and compete against others and make this something that's huge because people are really enjoying it.”

And So Much More

20180306 GulfcourseRace Mission GU 4335There are so many more things to do for fun at the parks – shuffleboard and cycling are still very popular, as well as woodworking, dances, socials and dinners, movie nights, and arts and crafts. Some of the resorts even offer lapidary shops, many have quilting, sewing and craft rooms and at least one has a gun range. And, of course there are top-of-the-line entertainers who regularly perform in the resorts, as well as jam sessions, with rock ‘n roll music becoming increasingly popular.

“We had to change our lineup around for more rock 'n roll jams,” Creach said. “There's a new generation of Winter Texans coming and they love that music.”

It's not unusual to hear stories of 200, 300 or more people filling recreation halls to listen to, or participate in the rock 'n roll jams.

McAllen Mobile Park opened its season with an invitation only rock 'n roll jam. Not only were some of the Valley's finest performers there but the hall was standing room only.

Country music jams are still incredibly popular, but rock is pushing its way to the top.

Indian Pow Wow planned Saturday

20190306 Pow Wow PR 0452The Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas will hold the 49th Annual Dak' ee si Pow Wow Saturday, March 9, at the Lark Library & Community Center in McAllen.

The Pow Wow will highlight the American Indian culture and history with drumming, singing and dancing by native Americans – many of whom will be wearing their colorful tribal regalia. Everyone is invited for a day of celebration.

Doors open at 10 a.m. Saturday, There will be a Grand Entry of all Indians at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Gourd Dancing demonstrations will be held at 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The Sayani dancers will perform at 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. with special guest singers Jorie and Christie West. Admission is free and the public is welcome.

Read more: Indian Pow Wow planned Saturday

New museum exhibit opens February 26

20190306 MHM Sister City Chinelos Costume courtesy‘Traditions and Culture of Mexican Textiles & Designs’

Special to Winter Texan Times

A new exhibit opens this week at Mission Historical Museum. The special exhibit, “The Traditions and Culture of Mexican Textiles & Designs,” incorporates seven beautiful Mexican dresses, each representing a different region in Mexico. The dresses are part of a cultural exchange through Mission’s Sister City program.

“This exhibit is beautiful and one of a kind in the Valley, created to develop a learning experience for everyone to appreciate and enjoy,” said Cynthia Stojanovic, director of Mission Historical Museum.

The City of Mission has been a partner in Sister Cities International since 1993 and currently has relationships with 24 Sister Cities from Mexico, Panama and Guatemala.

The exhibit examines the distinctive styles of dress for each region represented, including the artistic elements, the area’s products, architecture and lifestyle reflected in the dresses’ unique designs.

Sister Cities International was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to foster friendship, peace and prosperity between people from different cities around the world.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Mission’s Sister Cities Committee, and generous donors to the museum. The exhibit opened Feb. 26 and will continue through April 2019. Admission is free to the public. Museum hours are Tuesday thru Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Mission Lions Club Market Days is Saturday

The Mission Lions Club is planning a new outlet for artisans, craftsmen, artists and small businesses to sell their products with very little overhead. The new citywide venue is Mission Lions Market Days.

Mission Lions Market Days will be held on the second Saturday of each month in March and April, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the newly renovated Leo Pena Placita Park in downtown Mission. The park is located at Conway Ave. and 9th Street (Business 83), across from H-E-B.

The event will feature food, vendors, free Community Bingo games, door prizes and music for a festive, inviting atmosphere. The public is invited, and admission is free. Non-profit organizations can also use the event to help raise funds for their group, receiving a special non-profit rate for a booth at Mission Market Days. Commercial booths will also be available for local businesses.

Read more: Mission Lions Club Market Days is Saturday

Split Rail Country Jam:

20190306 SplitRailJam IMG 2795Every Jammer has a story to tell

Ike stood out immediately from the crowd. It was the weekly country jam at Split Rail RV Park in Mission and about 40-50 musicians were tuning and testing and fiddling with their instruments as they waited for Sara Weihmiller to explain the house rules and order of performers for the musical show.

Seated front and center, wearing a white button-up cowboy shirt emblazoned with roses along his collar, a belt spelling “IKE” in rhinestones and holding his rare C melody saxophone that he’s been playing since 1943 is Ike. Ike commands attention without asking for it – or expecting it.

Read more: Split Rail Country Jam:

Victoria Palms hosts Style Show

20190319 FashionShow IMG 3254The 22nd annual Victoria Palms Style Show and Luncheon proved once again that fashion never dies, it just changes over time – and sometimes it reverts back to fashions of yesteryear.

A crowd of 267 people took in fashions from locally owned stores, including Boots n Jeans, Lionel’s Western Wear and Boutique and Wells, all from Weslaco, along with Bec's Fashions in McAllen. Each store dressed four models from Victoria Palms and had a runway set up to explain the new fashions. While most were country and western themed, there was a wide variety including handbags, exotic earrings, bonnets, boots, dresses, jeans and more.

Read more: Victoria Palms hosts Style Show

Activity directors honored at Activity Directors Appreciation Day

20190306 ActDirAppreciation IMG 3369Activity directors carry the wrong title. It's not inaccurate, per se, but it doesn't truly reflect the scope of their many duties are – kind of like being a mom.

Something more to the effect of Super-uber-non-stop-movers-and-shakers and lifeblood of their park seems a little more accurate.

But that sure would take up a lot of space on those little name tags they wear.

Read more: Activity directors honored at Activity Directors Appreciation Day

Golf Cart Rodeo can be perilous!

20180306 GulfcourseRace Mission GU 4387When Winter Texan Times Publisher Jim Brunson told me he was intrigued by the item in the calendar stating Chimney Park RV Resort in Mission was having a golf cart rodeo, and told me to check it out, I had no idea what it was. Now in its ninth year at Chimney Park, I found that the driver and his/her assistant must complete a 150-yard course which consisted of weaving in and out of three milk or water jugs full of water and then circling a plastic barrel in the road twice before pulling into the driver’s pit and the end of the course. The grass on the edges of the course also had intermittent water bottles.

Read more: Golf Cart Rodeo can be perilous!

W&I Resort shows respect for the flag and veterans

20190227 Veterans IMG 2956MISSION — David Chevalier’s dad greeted the local sheriff as he walked into the yard.

“Excuse me, do you have a son named David Chevalier,” the sheriff said.

“Yes, I do,” dad said, probably chuckling in his mind because he knew what the next statement was going to be.
“Why hasn’t he replied to his draft letter,” the sheriff asked.

“It’s because I was already in the Navy for almost a year at the time,” David said to the crowd at W&I Resort in Mission during the presentation of quilts, made by park residents, to 22 veterans. “I got my draft letter when I had already been in the Navy for six months.”

Read more: W&I Resort shows respect for the flag and veterans

New museum exhibit opens February 26

‘Traditions and Culture of Mexican Textiles & Designs’

Special to Winter Texan Times

A new exhibit opens this week at Mission Historical Museum. The special exhibit, “The Traditions and Culture of Mexican Textiles & Designs,” incorporates seven beautiful Mexican dresses, each representing a different region in Mexico. The dresses are part of a cultural exchange through Mission’s Sister City program.

“This exhibit is beautiful and one of a kind in the Valley, created to develop a learning experience for everyone to appreciate and enjoy,” said Cynthia Stojanovic, director of Mission Historical Museum.

Read more: New museum exhibit opens February 26

Pickleball is growing in popularity throughout the RGV

20190227 GAO Pickleball Moering 0145Pickleball is not just a growing phenomenon in the Rio Grande Valley, but is actually national in scope. The sport is similar to tennis, but the court is only half the size and a whiffle ball reduces the speed a bit in the back and forth volleying.

That’s the picture provided by Warren Lock, an avid player, who spent most of his life coaching tennis, along with some playing tossed in. The Winter Texan from Iowa City, Iowa called pickleball a perfect game for retirees because of its combination of learning a new skill, getting good exercise and the social aspect of meeting new people. The attraction he said over tennis is less movement required. And the cost is minimal to play, he added.

Read more: Pickleball is growing in popularity throughout the RGV

Alamo Rec Veh Veterans Quilts

20190227 Alamo Rec Veh Veterans Quilts groupAlamo Rec Veh Park quilters from the Busy Bees, Helping Hands and Creative Expressions created various Patriotic Quilts to give to Veterans in our park. All Veterans given quilts were from the Vietnam era, Dessert Storm and the Gulf War. These Veterans were given the quilts on Feb. 20, 2019. Veterans from WW2 and Korean Wars were honored on March 1 last year. A total 111 quilts were donated and given out.

Alamo Rose Quilt Show March 6

20190227 Alamo Rose 2019 Quilt Show QuiltAlamo Quilt-A-Bees will hold its annual quilt show on Wednesday, March 6, from 12 noon till 3 p.m. at Alamo Rose Park, 938 S Alamo Road, Alamo,Texas. Pictured is the Opportunity Quilt quilted by Lori Boyd, which will be raffled. Quilts to be displayed include Barn Quilts and a This and That quilt pattern that members made in colors of their choice. The show will have vendors, a Second Hand Rose Table, prizes and appreciation gifts. Admission $2.

Magnolia Village Arts & Crafts & Show & Tell

20190227 can tankMagnolia Village, located at 3707 East Bus. Hwy 83 in Donna, will hold an Arts and Crafts and Show and Tell event from 3 to 4:30 p.m. March 3. Among items that will be on display include an Army tank, built with 1,528 aluminum cans. Larry Ergen built the tank over the course of two months inside an enclosed trailer. The tank was painted by his brother Duane Ergen. The tank is approximately three feet tall, eight feet long and 30 inches wide. Duane Ergen will also have on display a horseless carriage he built. Artwork, wood carvings, needlework, sewing projects and many other items will be on display. Call (956) 464-2421 for more information.

March 1: Activity Director Appreciation Day

20190227 Robert n Billie Ferguson 1Activity Directors are the heart of the park. They don’t just keep the calendar, hire entertainers, make sure the Bingo players are happy, and sell ice cream, they provide their residents with a fun-filled winter with new ideas and plans to encourage fellowship and make great memories. While most of us are attending happy hours, swimming, or looking for a new place to eat, they are busy keeping everything on an even keel. They work many, many hours that nobody realizes. March 1 has been designated as a day to show them how much they are appreciated.

Read more: March 1: Activity Director Appreciation Day

2019 BorderFest features music and entertain

20190227 Borderfest GU6C0A1148South Texas’ largest music, culture and heritage festival, “BorderFest,” kicks off this weekend at the Hidalgo BorderFest Fairgrounds, located next to the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo. The three-day festival, held March 1-3, is packed with entertainment, food, vendors and parades.

The festival officially begins at 9 a.m., Friday with the Traditional Abrazo and Square Dance in Reynosa at the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge. This is a free family event offering a Mexican lunch, drinks, souvenirs, mariachi folklore and many other surprises. This event is sponsored by the City of Reynosa and the City of Hidalgo.

Read more: 2019 BorderFest features music and entertain

Over 300 attend Red Hat Festival of Tables

20190206 Red Hat Festival of Tables GU 4036The eighth annual Red Hat Society Festival of Tables was a great success with over 300 women attending at Casa del Sol in Donna on Feb. 6. Ladies decorated 38 tables with a variety of themes. While the table hostesses stayed with their table, guests drew a number when they entered the room that assigned them to a table. That placed ladies from all different parks seated together allowing them to visit people they might not have previously met.

One of the tables featured an antique sewing machine in the middle and two sewing machine music boxes at each end. Sue Martin and Grace Tracy were hostesses. Martin said the 1955 portable Singer sewing machine belongs to her and she still uses it when she works in groups quilting. “It’s small enough to transport easily and sews straight seams just as well as it did in 1955.”

Read more: Over 300 attend Red Hat Festival of Tables

Winter Texan Ambassadors Wanted

If you love coming down to the Rio Grande Valley each winter, you’re invited to become a Winter Texan ambassador. The job is simple: share with your friends all the good times you have in the Valley each winter – away from the snow and ice. In a place where you can play golf almost any winter day. In a place where your MH & RV resort is a community of its own with lots of friends to share in a whole array of fun activities.

You’ll want to tell your friends about the dances in your park, the jam sessions, craft sales, pancake breakfasts, ice cream socials and the wonderful Wintertainers™ performing daily in the resorts. If you like country music, there’s a jam for you and a number of quality bands performing for country-western dances. If your preference is rock-n-roll or bluegrass, you’re not disappointed. There are many talented performers who come to the Rio Grande Valley from Branson, Nashville and other locales during the winter season.

Read more: Winter Texan Ambassadors Wanted

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