Time and again, Winter Texans list friendliness as big a reason to live here. Not only does that include their neighbors in the park or other parks, but also the people in the community who are happy to have Winter Texans because they appreciate the economic and other benefits they bring to the Valley.
Alan Johnston remembers coming to the Rio Grande Valley from Minnesota over 30 years ago.
One of the first things Johnston saw were signs that said, “Welcome Back Winter Texans.”
After the couple's unimpressive experiences in Arizona and Florida the previous two seasons, the warm welcome in South Texas was just what they needed. The friendly people here made them feel right at home.
“We went to Florida first and the people on the East Coast, they were too much, and the ones on the West Coast said, ‘When are you going to go back to Minnesota.'” Johnston said while the couple enjoyed a local event last year. “Then the next year, we went to Phoenix, and we couldn’t get a place to park our motorhome unless we were going to stay for a month. That snobbishness didn’t appeal to us.”
As new Winter Texans get situated in their park, they are already making new friends. Those open arms and friendly, caring faces are a big reason that Winter Texans stay, and share word of how much they enjoy their new – or returning – winter home.
Larry Boggs, a Winter Texan who hails from Branson, MO said, “They welcome you with open arms from the moment you get here. We have made so many friends here. We have more friends here than we do back home.”
“We've been to Florida,” said Darlene Neel, of Tinley Park, IL, as she and her husband spent a winter at Chimney Park in Mission. When they were looking for a place to move, they checked out both Florida and Arizona – and the decision to come to South Texas was an easy one. “It's not anywhere near as friendly [as Texas].”
Johnston said the friendliness isn't limited to the folks in the parks, but it is just a part of the local culture in the community as well. He said it feels very much like that Midwestern hospitality that he's used to.
“We love it because it’s not a (typical) tourist area; it’s a place that we feel very comfortable, and people have the Midwest values. God bless the Valley! We just love it here!”
There are “Welcome Home” fiestas as winter guests begin to arrive in the Fall. Most RGV communities host “Winter Texan Appreciation” events at the end of the winter season as well.
Business owners and government officials will talk about relationships that were built, commonly calling the winter visitors more than just part-time visitors.
“We've built relationships with so many of them,” said Jennifer Hart, co-owner with her husband of the popular Riverside Club along the Rio Grande in Mission. “A lot of them have truly become like family to us.”
Texas even coined the endearing name “Winter Texan” for those adopted Texans from up north.