Wednesday, March 20, 2019
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20190313 WT Friendly Progreso Winter Tourist Appreciation Day MOERING DSC 0445Alan Johnston remembers coming to the Rio Grande Valley from Minnesota 29 years ago.

One of the first things Johnston saw were signs that said “Welcome Back Winter Texans.”

After the couple's unimpressive experiences in Arizona and Florida the previous two seasons, the warm welcome in South Texas was just what they needed. The friendly people here made them feel right at home.

“We went to Florida first and the people on the East Coast, they were too much, and the ones on the West Coast said, ‘When are you going to go back to Minnesota.'” Johnston said while the couple enjoyed BorderFest in Hidalgo. “Then the next year, we went to Phoenix, and we couldn’t get a place to park our motorhome unless we were going to stay for a month. That snobbishness didn’t appeal to us.”

20190313 WT Friendly DARLENE NEELAs new Winter Texans get situated in their park, they are already making new friends. Those open arms and friendly, caring faces are a big reason that Winter Texans stay, and share word of how much they enjoy their new – or returning – winter home.

Larry Boggs, a Winter Texan who hails from Branson, Mo. said, “They welcome you with open arms from the moment you get here. We have made so many friends here. We have more friends here than we do back home.”

“We've been to Florida,” said Darlene Neel, of Tinley Park, Ill., as she and her husband spent last winter at Chimney Park in Mission. When they were looking for a place to move, they checked out both Florida and Arizona – and the decision to come to South Texas was an easy one. “It's not anywhere near as friendly [as Texas].”

Chris Carney is a veteran who stays at Mission Canyon Lake Resort. He took on a position with the Air and Marine Division of Border Patrol and was told about these “campgrounds” by his supervisor. He started researching and found Canyon Lake. Before he unpacked, a neighbor came over and the two started chatting.

20190313 WT Friendly LARRY BOGGS“He took no time to come over and introduce himself,” Carney said. “I really am enjoying it here – the people and the owners and administrators are terrific.”

Johnston said the friendliness isn't limited to the folks in the parks, but it is just a part of the local culture in the community as well. He said it feels very much like that Midwestern hospitality that he's used to.

“We went to buy a piece of jewelry and the gal that was working at the retail desk said, ‘There’s one on the Internet that costs the same amount that’s got twice as much grams of gold,” he said. “That’s the kind of service that we saw 28 years ago in the Valley and it’s still here.

“We love it because it’s not a (typical) tourist area; it’s a place that we feel very comfortable and people have the Midwest values. God bless the Valley! We just love it here!”

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