Sunday, December 16, 2018
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20180329 Onion Fest MILLER IMG 6291Dennis Purcell immediately recognized he had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of him.

His response? He danced as if nobody was watching.

Purcell was one of just a handful of audience volunteers who were given the chance to dance along with the dancing horses at the 29th annual Onion Fest in at City Park in Weslaco.

20180329 Onion Fest MILLER IMG 7266“That was absolutely fantastic, a dream,” said Purcell, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa native who has spent the past 16 years in Palm Shadows RV Resort. He couldn’t take the smile off his face after the five minutes of fun in front of more than 1,000 people there to see the horses and their dancing routines. “That’s something that not everybody gets a chance to do. It was just amazing.”

The Andalusion breed has existed for thousands of years and was once popular among Spanish nobility, who used the horses as a war horse or gift in order to aid diplomacy. Today, these horses are used in a variety of equestrian events like jumping and have appeared in many Hollywood films.

Jamie Campion stays at Bit-O-Heaven RV Park in Donna and said she had a blast dancing. The Minnesota native said she was actually looking forward to going back north. “We own horses back there,” she said. “I’m gonna go train them to do this. – Just kidding.”

She may have a conflict of interest there. Her husband James Campion may want to look for a career as a professional food eating contestant after winning the annual onion eating contest.

20180329 Onion Fest MILLER IMG 6293“I love onions,” he said after eating two plates filled with chopped up raw 1015 onion. “And these were some sweet and delicious ones.”

The day, one of the few days this spring where the temperatures reached the 90s, was filled with entertainment, food, shows, crafts and, of course, onions. The longest lines in front of the many food vendors on hand were at the two booths that were making onion blossoms. People waited as the onion was battered, flowered and dropped into the deep fryer before being pulled out and served hot and fresh.

Another long line extended out from under a tent where a 1015 onion was being given away with a goodie bag that had such items as a peeler inside.

Carole Hains and Mario Bellavance, from Quebec, were glad to stay at Sunshine RV Resort in Harlingen for an extra three weeks, especially considering it was still very cold and snowing back home.

“And we love to come to this festival every year and get an onion blossom,” Carole said. “No words can describe how much we love onion blossoms. They’re just delicious.”

The next longest line for food may have come at the turkey leg tent where visitors with big eyes and larger appetites walked away with monstrous sized turkey legs.

Laura Espinoza, director of the event and marketing director for the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber plans a date each year with the Winter Texans in mind, to make sure not too many have returned. It’s almost like a sendoff, and a reminder of the fun and food available in South Texas.

20180329 Onion Fest MILLER IMG 7240“This is their home, many live here all year now and others for three to six months,” Espinoza said. “They come here, stay here, spend their money here and volunteer to help so many businesses and charities and events like this. We’re glad to have this for all the people who are here locally and for the Winter Texans. We know how much they love it.”

Corvin and Bonnie Stark said they don’t miss the Onion Fest. The couple is originally from Nebraska but has lived at Pine-to-Palm RV Resort for the past 13 years.

“We love our park and we love this festival – we come every year,” Bonnie said. “We love the Valley. There’s so much to do and the people are just so nice. We couldn’t go anywhere else.”

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