South Texas archaeology is the presentation topic at the October 28 meeting of the South Texas Border Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists.
Guest speaker is Donna Otto, a 25-year member of the Texas Archeology Society, a member of the South Texas Archeological Society and a Texas Historical Commission Archeological Steward. She is a South Texas Border Chapter Texas Master Naturalist.
Read more: Texas Master Naturalist meeting focuses on South Texas archeology
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Superman.
For the Rio Grande Valley, especially in Harlingen, it's a bird. The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival is ready for blast off. Scheduled to begin on November 6, the festival will run through November 10.
Read more: Harlingen – Prefect place to celebrate birds
The Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center (EWBC) invites the community to enjoy free fun during the monthly Spectacular Saturday Series. On the last Saturday of each month, the entry fee is waived for all visitors from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Read more: EWBC hosts Spectacular Saturdays and Butterfly Baiting
Put on your Indiana Jones hat and get ready for adventures in archeology at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park on October 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
At the 13th Annual Rio Grande Delta Archeology Fair, visitors can take part in activities, demonstrations and displays that show the Rio Grande’s connections to prehistory (the native peoples who lived here) as well as battlefield archeology and historic archeology.
The free event invites visitors to dig for buried treasure and figure out what it is and who left it behind. Living historians or reenactors, people who have studied the soldiers of the Mexican-American war and will be on hand to tell about their “life” in the Army. Members of indigenous tribes will teach how to throw a spear using an atlatl. Visitors can also try their hand with a metal detector. Numerous other demonstrations and activities are designed to keep visitors entertained.
The event is designed to introduce people to archeology, local archeological resources, and the value of resource preservation. Visitors can learn about the methods and tools archeologists use and find out about current research. The goal of the fair is to create a feeling of shared stewardship of archeological resources.
The event is cosponsored by are the Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools program (CHAPS) from UTRGV, Southern Archeological Consultants, and the Brownsville Historical Association.
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park is located 600 feet north of the intersection of FM 1847 (Paredes Line Road) and FM 511, between Brownsville and Los Fresnos. For more information, call (956) 541-2785.
The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, going on its 26th year, is nothing new to Harlingen, but this year they plan to shake it up a bit. The RGVBF is keeping things fresh and exciting with a change in location, new field trip destinations, and a few other changes that will be sure to excite the birder and all its attendees.
The festival will be held at the Harlingen Convention Center this year and expects to see hundreds of attendees. Last year the event saw 600 attendees that came from 41 states and six countries. Attendees come to see the many birds that are only seen in the Valley and take part in one-of-a- kind field trips.
Because of the Valley’s unique ecosystem comprised of coastal marshes and plains in the east, desert chaparral in the west and a lush corridor of riparian woodlands along the river, the Valley has 30 unique species of birds. The RGV is also major migration corridor because of the convergence of two major flyways, the Central and Mississippi.
The big numbers aren’t that bad for the Valley birder, and those that come and visit just to see the birds. Of 950 bird species in North America, the United States has over 800, Texas has 600, and more than 500 of those can be found in the Rio Grande Valley.
The birding festival began in 1994 when the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce and members of the birding community capitalized on the RGV’s biodiversity with an initiative to create this one-of-a-kind birding festival. Propelled by volunteers that first year, and funded by sponsors, the festival was a success and served as a model to many festivals across the country and abroad. Birding and nature tourism were making waves and the RGV was on the leading edge.
According to coordinators, last year’s event brought three million dollars to the local economy. According to a recent Texas A&M Economic Impact Study, ecotourism has an economic impact of nearly half a billion dollars on the Rio Grande Valley annually, extrapolating over 6,000 jobs in the Valley.
The success of ecotourism in the Valley has led other cities to create festivals and events where the wildlife is celebrated. The Valley also has the World Birding Centers, nine distinctly different nature centers, that draw thousands of visitors throughout the Valley.
In previous years, donations have been used on projects for the Red-crowned Parrots and Harris’s Hawks. Last year the Tejano Parrot Project was able to purchase telemetry collars and tracking equipment. Volunteers have been able to conduct weekly roost surveys in Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco and McAllen utilizing the tracking equipment on collared birds in three of those roost areas. Funds from this year will be used to purchase additional collars for birds in other Valley communities to continue gathering behavior information on these amazing parrots that visit the Valley.
The Harris’s Hawk project was able to use donations to purchase climbing equipment enabling researchers to access and band chicks in 22 nests. Donations this year will be used to study interaction of these banded birds with the adults from the same nests and to compare and analyze DNA samples extracted during the banding process.
A new project added this year is the South Texas Hummingbird Banding Project. This effort will provide the lower Rio Grande Valley with its first and only hummingbird bander. Buff-bellied Hummingbirds of the Rio Grande Valley will be the focus of this project.
Speaker presentations will be held on Thursday and Saturday afternoons that will give more details of these projects.
This year’s festival will include family activities and nature activities that will be held at the convention center on Saturday and Sunday. Activities include the Kiskadee Korner, a raptor show, a bird walk and the Birders Bazaar. Special events during the festival include a silent auction, a student awards ceremony recognizing artwork area students have drawn, a Star Party on Wednesday evening, and the American Birding Association’s 50th anniversary podcast bash.
Field trips include visits to the local Birding Centers, State Parks and refuges, McAllen Nature Center, Laguna Madre, Bahia Grande, local battlegrounds, a ride on the Riverside Dreamer, biking field trips, breakfast with the birds at The Inn at Chachalaca Bend, a butterfly field trip, South Padre Island, and more. Topics discussed during field trips include ornithology, parrots of the area, banding, Valley raptors, and photography. There will be workshops on how to do birding with technology, how to record bird sightings, learning to listen to the sounds around you, improving field identification skills, and so much more.
The festival will run from November 6 through 10 where visitors will descend on the City of Harlingen, eager to experience all that makes the RGV so special. There will be music, food, wildlife, habitats to explore, and of course, friendly, warm people.
There is a $25 registration fee for everyone attending. Field trips are designed for beginners to advanced. Prices for field trips range – all prices can be found online. Prices for seminars and keynotes range between $10 and $20, but a Kiskadee Pass is available for $30 which allows entry to all of those being offered in the auditorium. These tickets must be purchased during open registration, before the day of the event. Individual tickets for seminars and other events (excluding field trips) can be purchased at the door. The Bargain Bazaar and some other events are free and open to the public. Please visit their website to get a full list of details.
The Harlingen Convention Center is located at 701 Harlingen Heights Dr. For more information and full list of field trips, visit www.rgvbf.org.
The 32nd SandCastle Days was held October 2 through 6 where attendees had the chance to view sandcastles built by 12 master sandcastle builders. This year’s builders came from as far as the Netherlands and Canada.
According to Lucinda Wierenga, one of the organizers of the event, this year’s event appeared to set new records.
“The weather and tide cooperated, and the police had to direct traffic all of Saturday and well into Sunday afternoon,” she said. “But now it is quiet, and the gallery is lovely, especially right at dusk.”
Wierenga added that any who want to see what there is shouldn’t wait too long. With the sandcastles, mother nature will decide when to take them out.
The event features a group sandcastle built by all 12 participants and then a contest between them.
The top three sandcastle builders were first place, Abe Waterman (Canada) for his “Three’s the Charm;” second place was Wilfred Stijger (Netherlands) for “Catch of the Day;” and third place went to Greg Grady (New Hampshire) for his sandcastle “Cosmic Drop.”
Each year the event boasts live music, art booths, great food, and exciting evenings. SandCastle Days also includes activities for all ages and activities for families. Attendees also have the opportunity to participate in SandCamps where they can learn from experienced sandcastle builders. The event is free.
If you missed this year, do not despair, said Wierenga. Just mark the first weekend of October off on your calendar to be on South Padre Island.
If you can’t wait that long, visit SPI in December to see the Holiday Sandcastle Village, which is already in production by the very same artists who competed at SandCastle Days. The sculptures are being constructed across from Louie’s Backyard in the heart of the entertainment district and will feature a dozen holiday-themed sculptures as well as a musical light show.
For more information on SandCastle Days and their other events, you can visit them online at www.sandcastledays.com, or on Facebook.
It’s been a warm one here in South Texas, but it looks like Winter Texans are bringing some of that cool weather with them as they arrive in the Valley.
This past weekend we saw our first cold front of the season and had some nice, cool days to enjoy outdoor activities. Of course, in south Texas, we enjoy our outdoors year-round, even in the heat of summer.
As usual, the Valley is a different place without you. We are happy to see you coming back home.
As the new editor of the Winter Texan Times, I myself, miss you and all that you bring to the Valley. In all of the years I have spent in this office I have made some great friendships and hold dear many memories of the Winter Texans that come through our office doors. I look forward to a great year getting to know even more Winter Texan friends.
During a recent trip to San Antonio, I saw no less than 30 Winter Texans heading south. I only counted vehicles that were pulling a home though, so who knows how many more drivers may have been Winter Texans. I encountered two Winter Texan couples at one rest stop. One couple was out with their cameras and binoculars enjoying the butterfly migration and searching for birds in the trees.
Last week, my husband and I enjoyed a nice lunch at Scalisi’s Chicago Style Pizza and More in Pharr. There we encountered two other Winter Texan couples. (By the way – their food is delicious.)
As we have been gearing up for the season, we have been meeting park managers, city leaders, and area chambers and visitor bureaus. We can tell you they have great plans for this year!
Every other year the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley conducts the Winter Texan Survey with the support of the Winter Texan Times. The information gathered in this survey is vital to helping your communities and businesses that serve the needs of Winter Texans understand the Winter Texan resident and how important you are to our communities. Keep an eye out for that later this year and make sure you fill out your survey.
If you have a great story idea, we love new suggestions. Send us your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. Some types of stories we may be interested in could be profile pieces, unique activities or events in your community, how is your park involved in local charity work, or any of the myriad of great human interest stories we stumble across all the time in our Winter Texan parks.
As you can see from this issue, there are already a lot of events happening all around for you to enjoy. Take a look at our Parks Calendar and our Events Calendar inside.
We here at the Winter Texan Times hope you found your way safely to your south Texas home and enjoy your stay with us this season.
Carina A. Brunson
The Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum will be hosting their A Night in Old Mexico themed Taste of Harlingen on Thursday, October 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. The event will feature over a dozen participating restaurants with food for attendees to enjoy. The event will also include a silent auction.
Some of the participating restaurants include many of your known chains such as Applebee’s, Cheddar’s, Chili’s, Longhorn Steakhouse, Jason’s Deli, Texas Roadhouse and Russo’s NY Pizzeria. Other restaurants in attendance will be Classic’s Bar and Grill, Gracie’s Goodies, Harlingen Country Club, HIME Sushi Bar and Grill, Keto Mini Donuts, La Playa, Schoolhouse Creamery, Taco Palenque and Tropical Smoothie Café.
Taste of Harlingen is the museum’s primary fundraiser that helps with the restoration of the historical building, preserving Harlingen’s history and enable the museum to bring art exhibits for visitors to enjoy. Last year the event drew nearly 600 attendees.
The event allows patrons to taste Harlingen’s local restaurants cuisine while enjoying live music by Jaime G. and the Adel’s. Patron’s will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite restaurant for a People’s Choice Award. The silent auction will feature items donated by local businesses and individuals.
The evening guarantees great conversation, delicious food and enticing aromas. Attendees are welcome to wear themed costumes and visit All Valley Photo Booth where they can choose from props and pose for some pictures to take home.
Advance tickets are available at Harlingen Chamber of Commerce, the Museum, and from board members and volunteers. Advance tickets are $75 or tickets are $85 at the door. The event will be held at the museum at 2425 Boxwood in Harlingen.
For more information, call (956) 216-4904 or visit www.tasteofharlingen.com.
The Raymondville Chamber of Commerce is holding the 20th Annual Wild in Willacy Nature and Heritage Festival this weekend. The event starts Thursday, October 17, with a children’s program where visitors can view exhibits, demonstrations, nature photography and artwork.
Tours begin on Friday, October 18 with planned tours to local ranches. Tours require preregistration. Please visit their website for more details or to see if space is still available. Tours will meet at the L.E. Franks Tourist Center.
On Saturday, October 19, activities will include indoor and outdoor vendor booths, food trucks, live entertainment, school performances, cook offs and much more. This day’s events start at 3 p.m. with live music, featuring Jaime DeAnda, Midnight Run and DDD, starting at 6 p.m.
The festival is a means of showcasing and creating awareness of Raymondville’s, and the surrounding areas, natural treasures and promoting eco-tourism in the Willacy County area. Over the years, the festival has brought hundreds of local and out of town guests into the community. From Port Mansfield, to ranches east and west, north and south, Willacy County has an abundance of diverse and natural treasures. Wild in Willacy offers its guests an opportunity to experience the outdoors through tours of otherwise inaccessible ranches while enjoying bird watching, wildlife viewing and listening to history of the toured ranches.
Programs will be held at the L.E. Franks Tourist Center at 501 S. 7th St. in Raymondville. Artwork will be displayed at the Willacy County Art League building.
For more information visit their website at www.wildinwillacy.weebly.com or call (956) 689-1864.
San Benito Cultural Heritage Museum will host an art exhibit titled Sacred Wisdom: An Exhibition by Jessica Monroe. An opening reception will be held on October 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will be on display until November 27.
Monroe is best known for her large-scale oil paintings inspired by the natural world. Interested in using art as a means to bring awareness of environmental issues, her paintings are full of energy and movement, celebrating the beauty of her subject. Exploring delicate and endangered ecosystems, Monroe often works outdoors using watercolor, pastels and a camera.
Monroe holds a Bachelor of Arts from Southwestern University and studied painting at New York University and the School of Art Institute of Chicago. For over 15 years, Monroe has exhibited her work throughout Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, and taught art to students of all ages.
The museum is located at 250 E. Heywood St. Call (956) 281-0810 for more information.
Mission makes history by earning its first ever All-America City title
Mission, TX- It was a mission accomplished. For the first time ever, the City of Mission was named an All-America City on June 23, 2019 at the 70th annual All-America City awards in Denver.
“I have always known Mission is a city with endless possibilities,” Mayor Dr. Armando O’Caña said. “Being named a 2019 All-America City just emphasizes our place among the great cities of our nation. This is one of the goals I wanted to achieve for our community, and thanks to our civic engagement, our devoted delegation and our great projects we did it!”
The National Civic League recognizes ten communities each year for exceptional civic accomplishments. To win, each community must demonstrate civic engagement, innovation, inclusiveness and collaboration by describing effective efforts to address pressing local challenges. The finalist cities traveled to Denver to make presentations before a jury panel to demonstrate why their community deserved the All-America City designation. The presentations from each city included skits, music, impassioned speeches and testimonials from community members.
This is the first year the City of Mission applied for the award, and they were named a top 20 finalist. Their theme was: Mission Possible, a play off the American action spy films starring Tom Cruise. Part of Mission’s skit included Cristina Garza, the Director of Social Impact at the Mission Economic Development Corporation. Garza dressed up as “Ruby the Grapefruit,” the Mission Chamber of Commerce’s celebrated mascot.
“As soon as I saw the costume, I knew I wanted that to be my role,” Garza said. “I got the job by simply telling people individually that I was going to be the grapefruit, that it was decided. No one contested it or even questioned my assertion. Success is about creating opportunities for oneself.”
For this year’s award, the National Civic League placed an emphasis on creating healthy communities through inclusive civic engagement. Mission’s presentation highlighted the city’s pet adoption program — Mission Pawsible, the expansion of the local food pantry and the addition of outdoor food blessing boxes for families in need after closing hours, along with their tennis program for the visually impaired. The honor came at a time of deep sadness for the city following the death of a Mission police officer.
“A lot of people in the delegation didn't lose a city employee, they lost their personal friend. For many, it was hard to stay focused when their hearts were back in Mission, but their commitment to the competition mirrored their commitment to the city,” Garza said. “More than ever, the delegation wanted to show a united front and to share with everyone the closeness of our community in the face of adversity and pain. The delegation made sure to publicly uphold and celebrate the worth of the community Corporal Espericueta lived to protect and serve.”
Cpl. Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta was killed responding to a call of an armed man. The ensuing exchange of gunfire between the suspect and the responding officers resulted in the deaths of both Espericueta and the suspect.
“Our Mission delegation worked tremendously hard for this award. We arrived in Denver only to deal with the devastating news of the loss of our Mission police officer,” City Manager Randy Perez said. “I boarded a plane early the next morning and left even though I was part of the presentation. It was heartbreaking for our community. Our delegation rallied and they represented the best Mission has to offer and proved what a wonderful place Mission is to live, in memory of Speedy.”
The All-America City Award shines a spotlight on the incredible work taking place in communities across the country. The city dedicated its award to Espericueta.
“We did this for Speedy. Our community came together and honored his memory with this historic win,” Mayor O’Caña said. “We lost our friend and hero in the line of duty as he was protecting our community. The way our city responded with heart and soul shows why we are an All-America City.”
It was an anxious awards presentation for the Mission delegation of 27. Mission was the last city announced as a winner. Garza said the nationwide recognition was well earned.
“Mission won because our values can be measured in the quantity and quality of programs that engage our residents. We had a very strong application that highlighted our inclusive community programs, a great presentation coordinated by Roxanne Lerma and Aida Lerma, and an unmatched delegation of committed Mission residents that passionately represented our city.”
The City of Mission – where anything and everything is possible!