Sunday, July 22, 2018
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welcome partyClimate, friendly people, social activities appeal to Winter Texans

In local Hispanic lore there is a saying to the effect that, “Once you drink the water of the Rio Grande, you can leave, but you will always come back again!” This seems to be true for many Winter Texans who return to the Rio Grande Valley every year. Some even choose to make this their permanent home.

The Winter Texan Survey conducted by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley reveals the top reasons Winter Texans come to the Valley include the climate, friendly people, social activities and the low cost of living.

It’s the Warm Weather

The warm weather is definitely important to Winter Texans coming to the Valley – especially since all that warm weather allows them to get outdoors and enjoy being active.

As Barbara Roeder said, “One can only bake so many chocolate chip cookies or clean the house so many times before going crazy because there are three feet of snow outside!”

John Kussae has been coming to the Valley for 25 years. Back in his native Wisconsin, he was a pipe fitter who worked outside all year round. “In summer it was miserably hot and in winter it was terribly cold.” When he retired he starting coming to the Valley to get away from the cold snowy winters.

Virgil Kappes said he had heard a person could add an additional 10 years to his or her life by wintering the Valley away from the miserable cold weather that required going outside and shoveling snow before anyone could go anywhere.

In general, all Winter Texans from the Midwestern states, who make of the majority up the Winter Texan population, agree that they prefer to be in the Valley away from the cold weather. Many seem to take a perverse pleasure in calling family and friends back home when they know the weather is bad.

On a recent visit to Victoria Palms Resort in Donna, Texas, the sun was out brightly shining and Winter Texans were swimming and sunning. The pool was full to capacity. Those who were not in the pool were wearing bathing suits or shorts and sandals and enjoying the South Texas sun.

Enjoying the sunshine is not the only reason climate is important. Jim McDermid of Minnesota said he has heart and vascular disease and in the Valley the weather is good enough that he can walk almost every day and the land is flat enough that he does not have to climb while he walks.

Another Winter Texan attending the Mission Mega Winter Texan Fiesta said he had a heart attack down here several years ago and was pleasantly pleased to discover the Heart Hospital in McAllen was nationally rated for quality care. He made a full recovery and keeps coming back to the Valley.

Friendly People

Another important reason people like the Rio Grande Valley is the friendliness of the people. Not only does that include their neighbors in the park, 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. Friendliness is just part of the Hispanic culture in the RGV. Mi casa es su casa!

We hear it all the time as Winter Texans who have been to Florida explain why they prefer Texas. They don’t feel welcome in Florida; the people there are unfriendly and don’t appreciate them as we do in South Texas. As a Texan, I feel as most people do in our communities throughout the RGV. We are happy to host “Welcome Home” fiestas as our winter guests begin to arrive in the Fall. And most RGV communities host “Winter Texan Appreciation” events at the end of the winter season to let our Winter Texans know we really do appreciate them choosing the Valley as their winter home.  

Texas even coined the endearing name “Winter Texan” for our adopted Texans from up north.

Great Social Life and Activities

If there is one thing Winter Texans are known for in the RGV, it’s they know how to have a good time! So when you come to the Valley get ready to enjoy life. It’s like a four to six month vacation.

To get some idea of what Winter Texans do in the RGV, one can peruse through the Parks Calendar in any January or February edition of the Winter Texan Times. (By the end of March when this edition is being printed, the season is coming to a close and the park activities have almost come to a standstill until next season.)

As I scan through the Parks Calendar that ran in our February 2 edition, first I observe that the Calendar begins on page 10 and finishes on page 27 – literally dozens and dozens and dozens of things to do – and that’s just what’s happening in the MH and RV parks. Let’s see what was happening February 2. Biscuits & Gravy Breakfast at Lamplighter Park, a Craft Show at Tropic Winds Resort, Craft Fair at Pine to Palm, Quilt & Craft Show at Orange Grove RV, Quilt & Hobby Show at Alamo Rec-Veh Park, Country Jam at El Valle del Sol Park, Bluegrass Jam at Lamplighter, Lunch at Bentsen Grove Resort, Pancakes at The Grove, Country Western Jam at Bentsen Grove, Big Band/Rock Jam at Paradise Resort Estates, and there’s much more including dances and live entertainment.

Providing that live entertainment are many excellent performers who come to the Valley during their “off season” in Branson, Nashville and other parts of the country to perform their shows in the RV resorts, and the cost is typically in the $7 to $8 range. Quite a bargain compared to Branson’s show prices.

And the events in the Parks Calendar are activities that are open to out-of-park guests, so you can attend any of these you choose. In addition, there are many MH & RV park activities that don’t go in the Parks Calendar. This would include activities such as dance classes, exercise classes, card games, quilting, crafts and hobby groups and many other park activities designed primarily for the parks’ residents.

Adding to the social aspect of the Winter Texan lifestyle is the park community of friends and neighbors who participate in many activities together. It’s a great life!

It’s Down Right Affordable

It’s a fact: Texas is much more economical than Florida and Arizona.

Winter Texan John Tim says, “People who know they have money go to Florida. People who think they have money go to Arizona. Everybody else goes to Texas because it is the most economical place to live.”

Tim gave the example of the cost of playing golf. “In Florida, I paid $90 for a round of golf. In Texas I can play an equally challenging round of golf for $35.”

I stumbled into a group of men at Ranchero Village in Weslaco, Texas, most of whom were from Minnesota, so I asked them if it really is much more economical.

Jim Lindquist said almost everything costs less in the Rio Grande Valley. From the food in the grocery stores and restaurants, to the cost of staying in the parks and the cost of the shows and other entertainment in the Valley.

Leland Heldstad said even gasoline runs about $1 less in the Rio Grande Valley than it does in Minnesota.

Lindquist mentioned an article he read in AARP that said Texas was the best state to retire in because it had the lowest taxes. Texas has no state income tax. And as for property taxes, homeowners can claim a homestead exemption and also get their taxes frozen if they are age 65 or older.

For Canadians, whose dollar is currently valued at about 75 percent of the American dollar, it is still more economical to come to the Rio Grande Valley than to stay at home, said Doug Cowling, of Saskatchewan, Canada.

“Things just cost more in Canada because we have so many taxes. The food, housing, clothing and most other expenses are simply less [here] than they are at home.” Cowling said. “Many Canadians buy all of their new clothes and shoes and other personal items and take them home along with gifts for family members because they simply cost less here. Wintering in Texas is a bargain.”

Cowling said, “The Valley is a well-kept secret. Florida is much more expensive and the people [there] are not friendly.”

Those on a very restricted budget, as well as those who just like to save money, can find great bargains at local flea markets, such as Don-Wes Flea Market, the local ropa usada (used clothing store) and other thrift stores that are abundant in the RGV.

Our Winter Texans at Ranchero Village also agreed they save a lot of money on heating fuel for their homes by coming to the Valley where the winters are mild.

There are a variety of reasons why people choose to come the Rio Grande Valley. Whether it’s being able to fish or golf year-round or the social life of tight-knit Winter Texan communities in the parks, most folks want to get out and have a good time enjoying their retirement.

Folks have a good time here and all that fun and laughter is great for a person’s health. So, come on down to South Texas where the good times roll. We’d love to have you!

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