Tuesday, July 16, 2019
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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.”

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