Wednesday, March 20, 2019
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20190216 Winter Texan Fiesta JB 1 017Fred Mastellar has driven more than 2.5 million miles for Hart Travel. He said that this most recent trip from Minnesota to South Texas was the most difficult he's endured in all those years.

“It was rough with all the freezing rain and snow and cold,” he said. “There's probably a wet spot under me because I'm still thawing out.”

Mastellar and Ernie Hart were sitting on a set of bleachers enjoying the 80 degree weather at the annual Winter Texan Fiesta, held at the Mission Event Center in Mission. Hart Travel brings a group of people from Minnesota and North Dakota to the Valley each year. They stay at a local hotel and travel to the island and other events. This year they are staying for 16 days and Hart said they were fortunate to be in the Valley during the annual Fiesta that celebrates all things Winter Texan.

Entertainment, food, crafts and more were set up inside and out at the event center as thousands of Winter Texans flocked to the venue to enjoy the camaraderie, the great and varied entertainment lineup, the weather, and the deals from the Artesano Market indoors featuring many hand-crafted items and products from Mexico.

The celebration of Winter Texans is three events rolled up into one big, two-day “Thank you Winter Texans” celebration.

20190220 WinterTexanFiesta IMG 1462Shary Municipal Golf Course hosted the “Fiesta on the Greens” golf tournament on Friday, Feb. 15, while the Mission Historical Museum hosted the Mexican Artesano Market Days on Friday and Saturday and the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce hosted the Winter Texan Fiesta concert on Saturday.

Carol Belscham was perusing the indoor market vendors and found something that caught her eye.

“I picked up a pretty pair of earrings, butterfly earrings,” said the Winnipeg, Manitoba resident who resides at Canyon Lake RV Park in the winter. “I love butterflies.”

This was the fourth time she said that she's been to the Fiesta, attending with some friends. She and her husband have come to the Valley for the seven years, but didn't come last year – choosing to vacation in Portugal.

Gordon Schwitzer stays at Bit O Heaven RV Park in Donna and this is his second year. He had just arrived at the event but purchased a Mexican coconut candy. “It's my energy to get started,” the Saskatchewan, Canada resident said. “I just started but this is a good event. I'm looking forward to seeing what else is here and to check out the entertainment.”

A long line of Winter Texans waited patiently in line Saturday morning. There was one line for a free Mission T-shirt and another line for a free Chik-Fil-A sandwich lunch. Other vendors had giveaways and contests. There were also agua frescas (fresh fruit drinks), potato spirals on a stick, tacos, sodas, water and more for sale around the grounds.

The Winter Texan Fiesta concert featured a full afternoon lineup of entertainers, including Bob Dolle & Friends, the Kody Norris Band, William Florian with “Those Were the Days,” South Texas Whiskey Band, and the Mission Eagles High School Mariachi Aguilas.

20190220 WinterTexanFiesta IMG 1506The uber-popular cowboy poet Rich Bellert emceed the event.

Bob Dolle & Friends variety band kicked off the entertainment portion of the fiesta. The band specializes in western swing, 50s/60s rock & roll, and then classic country without missing a beat.

The Kody Norris Show brought their rhinestone outfits and their high-energy bluegrass show to the stage and engaged the audiences with their unique style of music, two-stepping, fiddling and the electric voice of Kody Norris, mingled with some comedy to add to the entertainment.

William Florian, former singer of the famous 60s group, The New Christy Minstrels, performed songs and shared stories from his two shows, “Those Were the Days” and “The John Denver Story” that he performs internationally and in the Valley.

Florian took the audience on an upbeat musical journey of America’s greatest folk and pop songs of the 60s, with a smattering of Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, The Mammas & the Papas, John Denver and more. He actively engaged with the fans as the temperatures continued to rise on a day that reminded Winter Texans of one of the reasons they love the Valley – warmer weather.

The South Texas Whiskey Band and the Mission High School Mariachi Aguilas concluded the day’s entertainment.

“When we first came down to the Rio Grande Valley with our tour bus, it was for only three days,” said Ernie Hart, owner of Hart Travel. “Then it was two weeks and now 16 days. They're already trying to talk me into three weeks or more. After the winter we had up north – and it's still going strong – I may have to consider that.”

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