Tuesday, February 18, 2020
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Grapefruit pie showdown, costumes, and shoeboxes

20191211 pie costumes 01Do you bake the best grapefruit pie? Well here is your chance to show that talent. The Texas Classroom Teachers Association is sponsoring a Texas Citrus Fiesta Grapefruit Pie and Citrus Baking Showdown this weekend, Saturday, December 14 from 9 to 11 a.m.

The pie contest is open to anyone who would like to participate. Two pies must be submitted, one for judging and one for display. The pies will be judged on overall appearance, overall flavor and use of grapefruit. The decision of the judges is final. First place will receive a trophy and medal; second and third places will receive medals.

Bring your pie or dessert entries to Krysta’s Event Center at 1706 E. Griffin Parkway in Mission. You can contact Nydia Alonzo at nydalonzo14@sbcglobal.net for an entry form and guidelines. Entry fee is $10. Registration can also be found on Tcta Mission Cta Facebook page.

Winners will be announced at the Texas Citrus Fiesta Product Costume Show that follows at 1 p.m. Contestants are allowed to attend the show free but other guests must pay to get in the show. Admission is $5 per person.

The Product Costume Show will feature participants dressed in outfits that are made from agricultural products grown in the Rio Grande Valley. Costumes are usually tailored to fit the theme of the parade, which this year is Space Odyssey Adventure.

All costumes must have at least 10 percent citrus, but also a variety of other products that are native to the Valley can be used. Products such as onion skin, which is often used for lace, bougainvillea leaves, for pink colors, banana leaves, palm leaves and a host of other products are used.

It takes many hours to make these costumes. The products that have been dehydrated, ground and otherwise prepared are glued to base costumes made of a material with a knap. Each year the designers get more creative and some of the costumes are simply fantastic.

The event will also feature the Shoebox Float Contest. The Shoeboxes are miniature floats created by fourth and fifth graders from local schools. They have been decorated in some of the same manners as the costumes have been using local agricultural products or items found in their own backyards.

The events start at 9 a.m. with the Grapefruit contest with the other events following. They will be held at Krysta’s Events Center.

MHM hosts December lecture series

20191211 mhm 02Join Mission Historical Museum for their lecture series on December 14 at 11 a.m. The lecture will be presented by Dr. Jamie M. Starling on “French Texas? La Salle’s Colony and its Legacy.” Sweets and light refreshments will be served.

Texas is famous for its “six flags,” those of Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States, and the United States. Of the six, the impact of France is perhaps the least apparent in Texas today.

At first glance, the initial French colonial effort led by Sieur de la Salle was decidedly unsuccessful. Of the two hundred French settlers who arrived on the Gulf Coast in 1684, only about fifteen survived by 1690. However, La Salle’s colony was a decisive turning point in Texas history. French claims and interests in Texas had a strong impact on the Rio Grande Valley through the nineteenth century, and impacted the founding of Mission itself, as French priests maintained an interest in this region for centuries after the brief existence of La Salle’s colony.

Dr. Jamie Starling is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He has published five scholarly articles on the history of the Texas borderlands during the Spanish colonial and early independence periods and offers classes on Texas and Borderlands history. He is currently preparing a book on the history of Padre Island.

The Mission Historical Museum is located at 900 Doherty Avenue and are open Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. For more information on this program or any upcoming events contact the museum office at 956-580-8646, visit us at www.missionmuseum.org, or follow us on Facebook.

Madonna exhibit at Alamo Museum

20191211 madonna alamoBy Herb Moering

During the Christmas season the City of Alamo Museum is presenting an exhibit of Madonna and Child and Madonnas, which includes a new foreign figurine.

The collection is on permanent loan from Audry Stewart, a Winter Texan from Woodland, Oklahoma. This year she is adding a Madonna and Child figure that she acquired while visiting the Netherlands. Many of the figurines in the collection came from a visit to China. Others come from Japan, Italy, Germany, Poland and Mexico.

“The opening of the exhibit fits well in this time of the year as many celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus,” according to museum Curator Alejandro Oyoque. “This is a season where love reigns as is the example of the love shown between the Virgin Mary and Jesus.”

The part-time Alamo resident acquired the figurines over more than 45 years.

Stewart said she finds the Madonnas “a significant spiritual experience.” To her “they represent so much more than just an object.”

The exhibit will be on display until April 15 next year, which will include the Easter season. The collection compliments the Angel Galleria with its 1,800 angel figures at the museum, which is on permanent display.

Museum hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon and 1 to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday. The museum is located at 130 South Eighth Street in Alamo. For more information call 956-961-4398.

For more information you may contact Curator Alejandro Oyoque at (956) 961-4398.

You may also contact Herb Moering, Friends of the Museum secretary, at (815) 382-1154 for additional information or at his email happyherbie35@gmail.com.

International Festival – a seasonal tradition in the Valley

20191211 international fest 02Every Saturday since September, parishioners and friends of St. George Orthodox Church in Pharr have been cooking up vast quantities of handmade baklava and other international food delicacies, preparing for this year’s International Festival.

Held on the second Saturday of December each year, the International Festival is a much-anticipated holiday event for the local community, families with children and Winter Texans alike. This year’s Festival will be on Saturday, December 14, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at St. George Orthodox Church, 704 W. Sam Houston in Pharr. It features the sale of a variety of homestyle foods and beverages from around the world, including Greece and Eastern Europe, as well as vendors selling fine handcrafted gifts, handmade soap, local honey, preserves, pickles and more.

With free entry, parking, activities and a wide variety of music and dance performances, there’s always something for everyone to see and do. The festival is a fun, educational event for the entire family. Activities and information will be shared by the Museum of South Texas History, the McAllen Public Library, South Texas Border Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists, Deep South Texas Master Gardeners, UTRGV CHAPS, Milkweed and Monarchs and more. While you shop, purchase some native host and nectar plants to attract butterflies to your yard.

Our favorite RGV Bluegrass music returns to this year’s festival. The day’s entertainment includes holiday favorites from the wonderful UTRGV Tuba and Euphonium Quartet as well as the much-beloved Edinburg Folklorica dancers and the Mariachi Nueva Tradicion. Returning to the festival stage will be the talented colibrí children’s choir. The last performance of the day will be the South Texas Indian Dancers, led by Robert Soto. The entire, exciting entertainment and activity schedule can be found at stgeorgetxfestival.com/entertainment.html20191211 international fest 01

The Festival is a great place for holiday shopping. Pick up some unique items created by local artisans, handicraft and farmers market vendors. Everything from local honey and preserves, bags of specialty coffee from Mexico, to handmade soap, beeswax candles, Eastern European folkart and handcrafted wood items will be available.

Visitors can take a free guided tour of St. George Orthodox Church and learn about the lovely icons, an ancient liturgical artform. Children can decorate homemade gingerbread cookies, create holiday crafts, go “fishing” and also learn about local history and culture.

Whether you like fire-grilled skewers of Greek souvlaki, delectable pastitcio, savory spanakopita or stuffed grape leaves, or if you prefer Eastern European piroghies, blini or cabbage rolls, there is sure to be something you’ll love to eat. A limited supply of vegan and vegetarian options are available for many of these foods. A large tent-covered area with tables and chairs provide a comfortable area for dining. Frozen versions of many international specialties are also available – for you to take home and enjoy later. Bring a cooler along in the car.

Besides baklava, baked goods from around the world will make your mouth water. These make great holiday and party gifts. International soups – both vegan and with meat – are one of the festival favorites. Some people even take soups home to enjoy another day. Try soup with a warm German-style bierock on the side.

Want to just sit a while and watch the performances? Pick up some Russian tea, Greek coffee and some straddle, baklava or other special baked goods from the Russian Tea Shoppe and you’ll be ready to visit with friends, relax and enjoy. Freshly baked scones and muffins start out the morning, so come early – spend the day!

Another reason for the festival is a food and fundraiser for the very active St. George Food Pantry, which serves over 115 families. Bring monetary donations, canned goods, non-perishables, new or lightly used blankets, coats or children’s clothing and receive a homemade cookie as a “thank you” at this annual “Give a Can; Get a Cookie” campaign.

Not able to come on festival day, or just want to pre-purchase frozen items so you can just enjoy festival day without having to keep food frozen? Call (956) 358-8875 to make arrangements to come “shop” before the event at a time when people are working at the church.

To learn more about the festival, see their website at: stgeorgetxfestival.com/index.html or on Facebook at facebook.com/St.GeorgeInternationalFestival/

Quinta Mazatlan brings talent to Illumina Fest

20191211 ilumina fest buddy 01Quinta 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. Folks will enjoy performers, live music throughout the trails, seven continent art installations, as well as festive drinks and eats.

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.

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.

Flowbotics of San Antonio will light up the night at Quinta Mazatlan’s premier celebration - Illumina Fest.

“We are thrilled to light up the night with McAllen, Texas!” stated Flowbotics Founder Whitney Watts.

Flowbotics Hoop Troupe is a Flow Arts Performance group that specializes in Daytime, LED, and Fire hula hooping, as well as other flow props. Flowbotics is dedicated to promoting and advancing the performing, visual, and creative art of flow arts through ongoing series of local and special events, workshops, and other community outreach programs by inspiring health, wellness, and creativity. While the simple love and joy of a hula hoop originally drew the team together, today, the team consists of five talented flow artists including Founder Whitney Watts, Co-Founder Tori Villarreal, Cassandra Flores, Amber Guitron, and Michael Morejon.

Buddy V’s Ristorante will be shining a light full of flavor at Illumina Fest this year. As premier vendor, Buddy V’s Ristorante will be offering festive spirits and holiday treats. Buddy Valastro is one of the most successful and renowned cake artists in the United States. His talent and passion for the family business, Carlo’s Bakery, has earned the straight-talking cake expert the moniker, and TLC TV show, Cake Boss. Buddy brings his family’s classic Italian recipes to tables at his restaurant “Buddy V's Ristorante” in Las Vegas, Nevada, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and McAllen, Texas.

Illumina Fest is proud to offer guests other food and drink vendors as well; offering tacos, tamales, churros, kettle corn, hot cocoa, and other traditional sweet treats.

There are two ways for guests to share their light at Illumina Fest - dress illuminated for chances to win prizes and bring a decorated paper lunch bag (luminaria) to place on the luminaria trail. Compost will be provided to weigh down the paper luminaria bag, along with an LED tea-light. Children who bring a paper luminaria bag for the trail, will receive a glow band as a gift for sharing their light.

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.

IMAS is aglow with Christmas trees

20191211 imas trees 01The International Museum of Arts and Science (IMAS) is aglow until January 4, 2020 with Christmas Trees lining their welcome hall. Over two dozen trees that have been decorated by local school and community groups with blasts from the past.

As a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing and the popularity of the Space Age, this year’s theme for the Christmas trees is Nostalgic Christmas of the 60s and 70s. School and community groups were encouraged to incorporate science, technology, engineering, art and science along with a spirit of goodwill in their decorating of their tree.

The trees feature things that were big during the 60s and 70s that included themes like peace, music, toys, and space.

Each tree featured handmade ornaments. Trees with music themes displayed vinyls with The Beatles, and other popular music from the era. The toy trees had items like Rubix Cube and Etch-a-Sketch on them.

All the trees are quite playful with their theme and especially unique.

The museum is located at 1900 W. Nolana in McAllen. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Christmas Tree Extravaganza in Harlingen

20191211 harlingen trees 01Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum is all alit with Christmas. This year the museum has over 50 Christmas trees that are on display. The display officially opened with a reception on December 5. The exhibit will be open through December 29.

You are greeted by displays of Christmas trees and snow blankets as you enter the museum. A large, tall tree stands in the entry hall as you open the double doors into the main area of the museum.

There are two rooms, one on either side of the main hall, that are filled with lights and decorations. They are beautifully lit and tell a story of each organization that took part in the decorating.

Local organizations, business, girl scout troops, and others, put their hands in decorating the trees with a myriad of colors, glass ornaments, and homemade ornaments to symbolize what they stand for.

Several of the girl scout troops trees have their different merit badges they can earn. Businesses have items that signify what they do. Others were all decked out in one color or another showing their support for Alzheimer’s or breast cancer awareness.

Each tree had something different and unique to it.

There is one tree that has symbols on it representing different meanings – with a plaque behind it telling you what each symbol means. Some trees were hung on the wall – a different form of decorating, unique and individualized.

Nothing brings the Christmas cheer and brightness like a fully lit up tree on Christmas morning – and although it doesn’t have to be Christmas morning to enjoy these trees, they bring that same joy.

The exhibit will be on display until December 29, so make sure to take a drive on out there and visit the museum and their grounds. The outside buildings – Lott’s house, an old hospital, and others – are also decked out with Christmas decorations.

The museum is located at 2425 Boxwood St., in Harlingen. No admission or fees are necessary, but monetary donations are appreciated. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Warthogs now on exhibit at Gladys Porter Zoo

They have finally arrived! Two male warthogs (Phacocherus africanus) have made their debut recently at the Gladys Porter Zoo. These two brothers, Leonardo and Rollo, arrived from the Indianapolis Zoo and have earned the title of Gladys Porter Zoo’s very first warthogs. They may not be the most attractive looking mammals, but they are incredibly intelligent and can quickly adapt to their environment.

Native to Sub-Saharan Africa, warthogs will typically eat vegetation such as roots and grasses but will occasionally eat meat when the opportunity arises. When startled, warthogs can run up to 30 miles per hour, or when necessary, may use their face bumps and sharp tusks for self-defense.

Although their conservation status is listed as Least Concern, warthogs are targeted for their tusks and still face endangered habitats and fractured breeding grounds.

Visit the zoo to see soon them for yourselves.

San Antonio group brings light show to Illumina Fest

sa illumina fest flowboticsFlowbotics of San Antonio will light up the night at Quinta Mazatlan’s premier celebration - Illumina Fest! The two-day art and music event is a global celebration of light taking place December 13 and 14. Guests will travel the quarter mile Luminaria Trail and get a glimpse of how the world celebrates with light across the seven continents; experiencing unique performances, like Flowbotics, along the way.

“We are thrilled to light up the night with McAllen, Texas!” stated Flowbotics Founder Whitney Watts.

Flowbotics Hoop Troupe is a Flow Arts Performance group that specializes in Daytime, LED, and Fire hula hooping, as well as other flow props. Flowbotics is dedicated to promoting and advancing the performing, visual, and creative art of flow arts through ongoing series of local and special events, workshops, and other community outreach programs by inspiring health, wellness, and creativity. While the simple love and joy of a hula hoop originally drew the team together, today, the team consists of five talented flow artists including Founder Whitney Watts, Co-Founder Tori Villarreal, Cassandra Flores, Amber Guitron, and Michael Morejon.

“We are so excited to have Flowbotics sharing their light at Illumina Fest and invite everyone to come shine their light. You never know how much light you have to give, until you share it with others,” said Lisa Ramirez, supervisor at Quinta Mazatlan.

There are two ways for guests to share their light at Illumina Fest - dress illuminated for chances to win prizes, and bring a decorated paper lunch bag (luminaria) to place on the luminaria trail. Compost will be provided to weigh down the paper luminaria bag, along with an LED tea-light. Children who bring a paper luminaria bag for the trail, will receive a glow band as a gift for sharing their light.

Illumina Fest is Friday and Saturday, December 13 and 14 from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person. Tickets may be purchased at Quinta Mazatlan prior to the event, or at the gate. Skip the lines and purchase tickets online at Ticketleap.com (search Illumina Fest) with no service fees. For more information on Illumina Fest, call Quinta Mazatlan at (956) 681-3370.

Quinta Mazatlan hosts Nights at the Mansion speaker series

quinta nights mansion forest smithNative plant communities are the foundation of healthy wildlife populations, functional ecosystems, and sustainable land use. On Thursday, December 5 at 6 p.m., Quinta Mazatlán will host Director of the Texas Natives Seeds Program, Forrest S. Smith, for Nights at the Mansion speaker series. Forrest will present his research and work within the Texas Native Seeds Program.

Forrest S. Smith is the Dan L Duncan Endowed Director of the Texas Natives Seeds Program located at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in Kingsville within the Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) campus. He earned a degree in Range and Wildlife Management from Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2003. Forrest has worked with CKWRI since 2001 and has led the native plant conservation and restoration programs there since 2008.

Forrest has published numerous scientific and popular works, and notably, his editorial in the journal Ecological Restoration titled Texas Today: A Sea of the Wrong Grasses remains one of the top 10 read most-read articles of the journal since it was published in 2010. In November 2019, Texas A&M Press released the book A Photographic Guide to the Plants of the South Texas Sandsheet which was co-authored by Forrest.

Forrest is a frequent speaker on native plant restoration and conservation, including giving invited talks at the 2015 World Conference on Ecological Restoration in the UK, and a keynote address at the 2019 Wildlife Society Annual Meeting in Reno, NV. Under his direction, in 2019, the TNS Program was awarded both the Texas Environmental Excellence Award for Agriculture and The Wildlife Society’s Group Achievement Award.

Nights at the Mansion speaker series presents noteworthy speakers and scholars to present lectures related to our global environment, local cuisine and the arts and culture. The program takes place on Thursday evenings through May 2020. The program fee is $3 per person and no advance reservation is required.

Quinta Mazatlán is located at 600 Sunset Drive in McAllen, one block south of La Plaza Mall on 10th Street. For more information, contact Quinta Mazatlán at (956) 681-3370 or visit www.quintamazatlan.com or the Facebook events page facebook.com/McAllenQuintaMazatlan.

Celebrate the holiday borderland culture at MOSTH

mosh img 4874The Museum of South Texas History (MOSTH) presents Fiesta de Noche Buena Sunday, December 8, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Enjoy this border-spirit event with traditions, stories, crafts and performances.

Returning this year is the popular “Posada Por Tiempo,” which takes guests through the museum’s exhibits while telling the biblical story of María and José’s search for an inn. “Posada Por Tiempo” is scheduled 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Capture the holiday spirit with fun activities such as free make-to-take-home crafts: Memory Ornaments and Felt Poinsettia Ornaments. Cowboy Santa will also be on hand for pictures.

If you love singing carols, Bellasea Entertainment will host “Holiday Karaoke” in the Grand Lobby from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Be sure to practice your favorite holiday song or carol.

New this year is the Christmas comedy play, “Pastorela,” which is another retelling of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter. The play, however, focuses on the challenges laid out by the Devil and a saving moment by Michael the Archangel. Two local groups will perform their own renditions in Spanish in the Courtyard Gallery. At 2 p.m. the Edinburg Municipal Auditorium Community Theater will perform “Cómo te quedó el ojo, Lucifer” by Norma Román Calvo and directed by Dr. Edna Ochoa. At 3:45 p.m. Latino Theatre Initiatives will perform “La Apuesta” written by Hugo Rodolfo Gomez and directed by LTI President Francisco Garza Rincones.

It isn’t a party if there is no food to enjoy, so bring some extra cash for some Mexican dishes and beverages. You can enjoy pozole, tamales and champurrado or snacks such as elote en vaso, fritturas Mexicanas con queso, marranadas and gummy bears with chamoy to be sold by E&B Elotes. Pair your choice of food with a soda, agua fresca or hot chocolate, which will be sold by the Scouts.

Admission fees for Fiesta de Noche Buena are $8 for adults (ages 18+); $6 for seniors with ID (ages 62+), active military and students with ID (ages 13+); $5 for children (ages 4 to 12) and free for children ages 3 and younger. FRIENDS of MOSTHistory are admitted free as a benefit of FRIENDship and must provide an active FRIENDship card to enter free.

The museum is located in downtown Edinburg at 200 N. Closner Blvd. on the Hidalgo County Courthouse square. Hours of operation are Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m. and Tuesday–Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information about MOSTHistory, including becoming a FRIEND, visit MOSTHistory.org, find the museum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube or call (956) 383-6911.

Christmas tree lightings and other events

img 9968 tree lightings other thingsLights, 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.

Christmas Villages, Parades and Mangers

WEB On The Road HeaderDecember 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.

Brownsville Holiday Village is open

By Herb Moeringdsc 0205 brownsville holiday village

“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.dsc 0228 brownsville holiday village

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.

Frio McAllen opens; Parade this weekend

img 9827 frio mcallen 20191204Piercelyn 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.img 9832 frio mcallen 20191204

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.