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.
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.
Quinta Mazatlan is preparing for their First Annual Illumina Fest that will be held on December 13 and 14, from 7 to 10 p.m. Thousands of luminaries will line the forest path. The two-night event is an interactive global celebration of light, recognizing a world of holidays.
The interactive festival will feature the amazing Media Artist Joel Laviolette of Austin, Flowbotic-LED & Fire Dancers of San Antonio, as well as many local community choirs and instrumentalists.
In addition to visits with Santa Claus, attendees will travel the trails and get a glimpse of how the world celebrates with light across the seven continents. From Africa’s Kwanzaa candelabra to Asia’s lanterns in the water. Food and drinks will be available for sale by local vendors.
If you are interested in learning about sponsorship opportunities for Illumina Fest, contact Colleen Hook at (956) 681-3370 or email@example.com. Advanced tickets sales will be available. Both presale and onsite ticket purchases will be available at $5 per person. For more information about the fest visit www.quintamazatlan.com.
The halls of the International Museum of Art & Science (IMAS) are heavy with anticipation for the annual exhibition of community-decorated Christmas trees. The Christmas Tree Forest is a five-decade tradition originating shortly after the opening of the 53-year-old museum, then the McAllen International Museum or MIM. This annual holiday event is the brainchild of the IMAS Guild which began the tradition of organizing community entries featuring a unique tree resplendent with hand-made ornaments and decorations showcasing the chosen theme.
As a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar landing and the popularity of the Space Age, this year’s theme is Nostalgic Christmas of the 60s and 70s. Entering school and community groups are encouraged to incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Science (STEAM) along with a spirit of goodwill. Trees will be decorated in the days leading up to the November 24th opening. The public is invited to attend the awards ceremony on December 8, at 2 p.m. when the IMAS Guild with the help of a celebrity panel of judges this year – Dora Brown, Senior Vice President and Marketing Manager of IBC Bank; Albert Alaniz, Owner of JohnAlbert Talent and Models Agency and A JohnAlbert Salon; and Charles E. Thompson, Jr., long-time museum supporter – will announce the winning trees. This esteemed panel are all McAllen citizens with a heart for the community.
“As a community-created museum, IMAS is honored to partner with community groups in presenting the traditions and cultures of the people in the RGV,” said Ann Fortescue, IMAS Executive Director. “Museums have important roles in their communities to serve as crossroads of discovery where audiences of all ages are invited and encouraged to learn through museum experiences.”
Community engagement is year-round at the IMAS. Student art exhibitions from both McAllen ISD and Sharyland ISD are featured annually in the Welcome Pavilion. This year, the UTRGV philosophy department is presenting a series of community talks at the museum exploring the connections between art and science. Cultural festivals and events are presented in collaboration with community organizations and groups. The exhibition of community-created Dia de los Muertos altars anchor the annual celebration of this popular event, and Lunar New Year engages Asian communities in the RGV who come together to share their cultural traditions of welcoming in a New Year. Lunar New Year will be celebrated at the IMAS on Saturday, February 8, 2020.
The Christmas Tree Forest will be on exhibit November 24, through January 4, 2020, in the Welcome Pavilion of the IMAS and is included with daily General Admission. Sunday admission is free thanks to the support of a grant from the H-E-B Tournament of Champions.
The museum is located at the intersection of Bicentennial Way and Nolana Avenue at 1900 W. Nolana in McAllen, Texas. Hours of operation are closed Mondays; Tuesday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. On the first Thursday of each month, IMAS is open until 8 p.m. Log onto https://www.theimasonline.org or call (956) 681-2800 for more information.
Standing tall in downtown Weslaco is a 100-foot-tall water tower, El Tinaco. Completed in 1941, it was a marvel of modern construction. The tower, standing on six concrete pillars, is crowned in gemstone lights, showing the pride of Weslaco. In 1982, the Texas Historical Commission placed a marker on the tower, a testament of the heart of the community, says Mayor David Suarez. As tall as the tower stands, Weslaco is now prepared to celebrate their centennial on December 10 with events planned the entire week preceding the birthday.
A Little History
The history of the city goes back to 1790, to the original land grant owner Juan Jose Ynojosa de Balli. At his death, the land was divided between his children. The land that is now Weslaco went to his daughters Manuela and Maria. The family maintained and ranched the land until 1852. By 1904, the railway was extending to the area. Most of the land was purchased by the American Rio Grande Land and Irrigation Company by 1913.
The irrigation company sold 30,000 acres at $90 an acre to the W.E. Stewart Land Company on December 14, 1917. Here is where the name WESLaCo derived. The town site was then sold to Ed C. Couch, Dan R. Couch, R.C. Couch and R.L. Reeves. Two of the men backed out of the venture before it was platted on September 18, 1919. Nearby communities actually circulated flyers discouraging settlement at the proposed town. The sale of lots was held on December 10, 1919.
How was the land sold? Prices ranged from $50 to $400 per lot. If you were interested in a lot, all you had to do was camp out on it until the day of sale. Church groups received free lots. During the sale, three cars were also given away.
And so, the City of Weslaco began. Today, Weslaco is a city with a population with its own government, police and fire department, parks, schools and commercial endeavors. It is a city of diverse people and strong service, charitable and civic organizations.
Now the city is inviting the Valley to help them celebrate their 100 years.
The city has a huge lineup of events planned from December 4-10. The events include a Pioneer Families Exhibit at the museum, guided tours, entertainment, a BBQ cook off, and so much more. Christmas events will also be held during the week including their tree lighting ceremony on December 4 at Weslaco City Hall at 7 p.m.; Carolers and a book reading by Mrs. Clauson
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.
Entertainment at the event features Ruthi, Jeff Gordon, Legendzz Band and Chris Marshall.
Jeff Gordon is a charismatic entertainer who captivates audiences with his vocal ability singing rock n’ roll and country spanning from 1950-1980. He is also known for his Tom Jones and Elvis impersonation shows. He will be performing on Saturday, December 7, from 2 to 5 p.m.
Ruthi is an award-winning singer/songwriter who has been well known to the Valley for over 10 years. Ruthi’s Rock-n-Country offers upbeat country and rock, killer slow songs and blues. She performs from 12 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 7.
Legendzz Band is one of the hottest variety bands in the Rio Grande Valley. The play a wide array of hits from the most popular genres of music. They perform from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 8.
Chris Marshall has lit up stages and studios since 2002 with his signature guitar-work, lyrics, and vocals. He performs classic country and rock. He performs on Sunday, December 8 from 4-6 p.m.
Also, on the entertainment lineup is Frankie Jr. y Grupo Caballero, who will bring their own version and spin on the style of Tejano and Conjunto. They perform 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 8.
SA Lights, a touring classic rock tribute act with a light show, will feature three tribute performances to Journey, The Eagles and Mana. They will also cover all genres of classic rock, Spanish rock and country rock. The band has opened for every headliner of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo since 2013. The perform on Saturday, December 7, from 8 to 11 p.m.
Other entertainment will include a Street Dance Through the Years; poetry readings, a fashion show, documentary films, lectures, mariachis, and magician Oscar Munoz.
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. Ce
lebrate Weslaco through the decades while watching the parade. Register with the chamber to participate.
Weslaco will also hold a costume parade on December 8 at 4 p.m. The parade will be held near the downtown fire station. A revived tradition, fun-loving families and individuals with people-friendly pets dressed in family-friendly costumes can join the walking parade. Pets are not required. Prizes will be awarded. Refer to the website for entry forms.
The weekend will feature an IBCA BBQ Cook Off on December 7 and 8. It will be held in downtown Weslaco at Kansas and Bus. 83. The cook off will be all about chicken, ribs and brisket. There will also be beans, fajitas and pan de campo.
For a full schedule of events and full details of dates and times, visit weslaco100.org.For more information on the cook off, and how to enter, call or text (956) 650-2842, or email Weslaco100@gmail.com. Entry forms can be found online at Weslaco.org.
Festival of Lights opens December 1
The Hidalgo Festival of Lights has become a regular Christmas season must see. With the lighting of the tree, millions of Christmas lights, illuminated nighttime parade, trolley tours, dinner and entertainment, there is plenty to do and see for everyone. The festival officially begins with the lighting of the tree on Sunday, December 1 at 7 p.m. in the front of the Hidalgo City Hall, 704 E. Ramon Ayala Drive.
This year’s theme, announced earlier this month, is Winterland. The festivities will feature Anna and Elsa and other characters from the movie Frozen.
One of the main attractions, and part of their kickoff, is the illuminated nighttime parade. The parade welcomes its visitors with a colorful and Winterland themed parade in from of the City Hall at 7 p.m. on Friday, December 6. The parade will bring spectacular performances with illuminated floats, marching bands, performers from across the Valley, and of course, Santa. After the parade, visitors will be enjoy entertainment, food, photos with Santa and more.
The trolley tours, a favorite among visitors, begin on Sunday, December 1 and continue through December 30, from 6 to 10 p.m. Visitors will have a chance to tour the three miles of over 500 illuminated displays and over five million lights for $5. The tour also has a narrated guide with holiday music.
Every evening during the festival, except December 24 and 25, the carnival court will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. Visitors can enjoy carnival rides and delicious carnival food at City Hall Plaza.
Santa’s House will be open from December 1 through 23. Santa will be in town receiving children, and adults, for laughs and pictures. He will be at the City Hall Plaza from 6 to 10 p.m.
The Hidalgo Posada with Ramon Ayala is a long-standing tradition that the Rio Grande Valley looks forward to every year. The “King of the Accordion” and Latin Grammy Award Winner, Ramon Ayala, with the City of Hidalgo, hosts a free concert on Wednesday, December 18 at 5 p.m. The event has garnered over 50 thousand in attendance. The posada begins at 5 p.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The event also celebrates the over 10,000 toys that have been donated by local businesses. The toys will go to low-income children in the area.
Another event you don’t want to miss, the Holiday Artisan Market where visitors can find beautiful, unique products made by local businesses and residents. The market will be at the City Hall Plaza from 6 to 10 p.m., December 1-30.
Sponsors this year include Coca-Cola and HEB. The sponsors will be holding their own special events during the month. Every Monday in December you can meet and take a picture with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear for free. HEB will have lots of surprises for attendees at City Hall Plaza Saturday, December 21, 6 to 10 p.m.
HEB will also have their Super Glide Synthetic Ice Rink available for guests from December 11-23, 6 to 10 p.m.
On December 5-8 and December 11-17, Hidalgo Festival of Lights will offer Dinner and Entertainment packages. The packages are $13 per person. Depending on the day, meals include sautéed chicken breast, Salisbury steak or roast beef entrees. The package also includes VIP seating for the community performance and the narrated train light tour. Dinner times are 5:15 and 6:15 p.m. Call (956) 843-5311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations and more information.
Entertainment at the event includes schools, groups, city organizations such as school choirs, folkloricos, dance teams and more. Other entertainment includes Magic Valley Chorus of Sweet Adelines, rock band The Switch, character performance shows, and more.
Each night will feature talented performers. Also included in the entertainment, and what has become a tradition, is the famous Estudiantina de San Luis Potosi, who come from San Luis Potosi, Mexico to perform. They will be performing December 12-16.
Entertainment will be throughout the month at the city hall courtyard starting at 7 p.m.
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit their website online at hidalgofestivaloflights.com.
This past week one of many Toys for Tots fundraising events were held outside of 5x5 Brewing. TNT Automotive sponsored the most recent event as well as Automotive Innovation Restoration, Brick Fire Pizza, Dairy Queen, Valley Street Scene, O’Reilly, DL Lighting and Audio, and Danny’s Tire and Service. There will be another event at 5x5 Brewing on Friday, December 29.
George Rice with 5x5 Brewing and Mitch Sens with Automotive Innovation and Restoration, both say they are just happy to be able to help out with the program. They said small events like these helps get people out to donate to such a worthy cause, the entertainment, car shows, drinks and other events are just a bonus, and tends to bring more people in.
5x5 Brewing will be hosting their Black Ops Friday on December 29 with another opportunity to participate in the toy drive. The event will also have Santa, games and entertainment.
If you can’t make it to the event, they will be collecting during their business hours. The Winter Texan Times office also has a donation box for those interested in dropping something off for the children in the Valley.
Black Ops Friday will begin at 6 p.m. 5x5 Brewing is located at 801 N. Bryan Road in Mission.
Toys for Tots is run by the United States Marines to collect toys, or monetary donations, to help less fortunate children have a happy Christmas. The organization asks families to apply for the toys in October. Collections start not too long after and continue through Christmas Day.
Marines and volunteers engage local businesses and individuals within the communities to help collect new, unwrapped toys and then help distribute those gifts to less fortunate children – allowing them to experience the joy of Christmas.
Now going on for 72 years, the organization has assisted 258 million children. Last year, the program fulfilled the holiday hopes and dreams of seven million children in over 800 communities nationwide. In Harlingen, and the Valley, the program brought smiling faces to nearly 31,000 children last year.
For more information about Toys for Tots visit toysfortots.org. You can also make monetary donations online. To get in touch with the local representative, call (956) 425-9643 or (760) 717-9555.
A Veterans Day Celebration over Boomerang Billy’s last Sunday, November 10, featured a two-plane formation flight by the Rio Grande Valley Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. The event was sponsored by Padre Island’s favorite performer, Leslie Blasing. The formation fly-over made several passes over the beachside entertainment spot.
Two passengers on the two-plane flight were Lynn Clasen and Marjorie Jacobs. The two women had participated in a fund raising drawing the previous evening. The prize was a flight over South Padre Island during Blasing’s Veterans Day Celebration.
The Rio Grande Valley Wing of the Commemorative Air Force (RGV Wing CAF) is based at the Port Isabel Cameron County Airport. The RGV Wing is one of 84 units, nationwide, of the Commemorative Air Force whose membership numbers over 11,000. The RGV Wing has seven aircraft in the hangar and has organized a walk-in museum featuring World War Two artifacts and memorabilia.
Tentative hours of operation are Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guided tours for groups of five or more are welcome by appointment anytime by calling David Christopher at (970) 397-4604.
Weather permitting, and crew availability, one of the Museum’s planes will be flown during the tour. Plane rides are available for a $250 donation. CAF are a 501c3, not for profit organization.
By Herb Moering
The perfect weather arrived just in time for Mission’s first annual Veterans Festival Parade on Saturday afternoon, November 9.
The hour and a half patriotic parade was part of the city’s Veterans Day observance, which stretched over four days, starting with a flag laying ceremony Friday afternoon at the Texas State Veteran Cemetery in Mission.
It was the parade that drew several hundred spectators along Business 83, including from Mission, flag-waving Jesse Martinez and his granddaughter Jaynee, to applaud the service veterans riding in the parade.
Among those given a ride was the grand marshal, Lt. Col. Arnulfo Esqueda, a 30-year U.S. Army veteran and a Mission native.
“It was a great honor and privilege to represent all the veterans,” he said. “I want people to appreciate the veterans. Veterans want to play a role in the community.”
Esqueda joined the military at the age of 18 in 1965 and was in the Vietnam jungles for four years as a special forces operative. The green beret was a leader of one of the six-member teams involved in top secret cross border interdiction missions. His team, among others, which included two Americans and four South Vietnam soldiers each, were attached to the secret Military Assistance Command Special Operations Group. They operated mainly along the Ho Chi Ming Trail that wound through North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
The retired officer said the greatest fear while deep in enemy territory was being captured. He said they were on their own at night, without communication with allied forces, but by day were back in contact and had U.S. air support if needed. What was also hard to comprehend was the condemning response from the public after returning home. There was no parade for soldiers who fought in Vietnam, he noted.
When his Vietnam tour ended in 1969, he went to college and also joined the Texas National Guard as a 2nd lieutenant, which was a part time situation until 1979. Then he went on active duty with the guard. He received his lieutenant colonel rank in 1993 and finished his service in 1995.
A World War II veteran, Savas Sandoval Jr., got to ride in a Mercedes Benz classic convertible. He served in the U.S. Army in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska from 1942 until 1945. Army 1st Sgt. Victor Fonseca was among veterans riding in golf carts.
One squad of veterans walked the parade route, which began at Conway Avenue and ended at Bryan Road. The lead parade entry was the Mission Fire Department’s 1927 fire truck, followed by color guard units and a contingent of patriotic motorcyclists. The parade included floats, school marching bands and cheerleader groups, scouting units, dance squads, and Texas Citrus Fiesta royalty.
The day also included the first Veterans Cook-off that began at 9 o’clock in the morning. A total of 26 teams competed for $5,000 in cash and trophies in five categories of chicken, pork spareribs, brisket, pan de campo and citrus dessert.
There was live music and food vendors on hand as the cookers worked their magic throughout the day. Head judge for the International Barbecue Cookers Association (IBCA), Eddie Tapia, has been running cook-off competitions for 13 years, which takes him all over the Valley. He said he began with just two events his first year, but now he averages more than two per month. His wife, Judy, helps him in distributing the entries to the local volunteer taste judges.
David Santoy, who heads the South Texas BBQ team, said he recruited eight family members and friends to join him in working the cook-off, which he’s been doing for four years. He’s out about once a month on average to compete.
“I love barbecuing and hanging out,” the Mission resident said. “It’s a ‘win, win’ time.”
Andy Garza, the head cook for the Mi Pedasito Ranch team, also from Mission, said he’s been involved in cook-offs for 10 years. He currently does about five events a year as time permits.
“I love it, being in charge,” he said. “We do it for the love of barbecue.”
His wife, Blanca, said, “We enjoy it, and it’s all family members on the team.”
The first 10 placings in each event received recognition, with the top five earning cash awards and a winning plaque to each first-place team.
The Veterans Cook-off grand championship trophy went to the Cowboy Up Cooking team headed by Ralph Flores of Edinburg. His team earned the top award by winning the pan de campo division, placing third in chicken barbecue, fourth in pork spareribs and eighth in brisket.
The reserve championship belonged to Chew N the Fat squad with head cook Jason Bartimus. Also, from Edinburg, the team topped the pork spareribs category and placed fifth in brisket.
Top finishers in the other categories included BBQ Holics, taking first in the chicken category with Hector Cantu the head cook from La Feria; the Chillin N Grillin team headed by Mario Benavides from McAllen, and Bridget Gonzalez who topped the dessert division.
The festival also included an evening of entertainment with music by several bands on stage in conjunction with the 5x5 Brewery sponsors. Kids rides went on all day.
The festival salute continued on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 10, with a Cars and Stripes car show along with a chili cook-off between five veteran’s teams, with winners chosen by “people’s choice.”
Wrapping up the celebration was the Veterans Day golf tournament, The Fairway to Freedom, a 3-person scramble. The tournament, free to veterans, was played at Sharyland Municipal Golf Course. The event was featured in last week’s paper.