By Herb Moering
The pre-McAllen parade entertainment at Veterans Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 7, provided a taste of “Valley” musical traditions topped by the appearance of internationally known actor and singer Mane de la Parra.
He was accompanied by a couple hundred fourth and fifth grade students from all the McAllen elementary schools. The music students performed three numbers, two of them with de la Parra. Fourth graders Melanie Navarrete and Alyssa Vazquez, from Fields Elementary School, were excited to have a part in the early evening’s entertainment before several thousand spectators. Navarrete and Vazquez sported Santa hats provided to the students by Reliant Energy as part of the performance.
Opening the program on the field was a McAllen High School Fine Arts ensemble doing a song “Circle of Light,” which featured Alexa Ramirez. The song is from the Lion King Jr. production, which will be presented in mid-January by the students.
They were followed by a quintet from the Valley Symphony Orchestra, playing familiar Christmas songs. The full orchestra has already presented a couple concerts with future dates Feb. 28 and March 27.
A small group of UTRGV music students provided a taste of the popular TubaChristmas, one of the nation’s largest concert performances that was scheduled the next day at the McAllen Convention Center.
And then it was parade time for the largest illuminated and helium balloon spectacle in all of Texas. It included 15 animated floats, 14 marching bands and 39-character balloons.
And among those most interested was Viva Selena Lopez, of McAllen, along with her mother, Mary Jane Lopez. The 24-year-old Viva Selena, who has been quite active in the community, was decked out in a Dallas Cowboys outfit of Number 4 Dak Prescott, the same of type shirt her mother was wearing. They are big Cowboys fans and Viva Selena has attracted the attention of some of the football players. A get-together two years ago went viral on the internet. Her mother said her daughter also is big on the Rio Grande Vipers basketball team, which has taken some interest in the special needs young woman.
Mayor Jim Darling addressed the crowd aboard a butterfly float accompanied by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith. Other Cowboys riding floats included wide receiver Michael Gallup, defensive tackle Meliek Collins, safety Kavon Frazier, cornerback Byron Jones and retired stars Charles Haley and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. That was in addition to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and team mascot “Rowdy.”
UTRGV President Guy Bailey was given the honor of being the grand marshal for the one and half-mile long parade. Fighter Brandon Figueroa was another celebrity in the parade, plus television and radio personalities, government officials and the Budweiser Clydesdales along with the company’s spotted Dalmatian riding the wagon. One of the festival floats came from the City of San Antonio and there was also a South Korean marching contingent.
And of course, winding up the parade was the jolly old fellow himself, Santa Claus, with Mrs. Claus, riding in the sleigh pulled by the Rudolph-led reindeer.
In keeping with the city’s weekend of celebrating Christmas that Gov. Greg Abbott officially designated McAllen the “South Pole of Texas,” periodic blasts of simulated snow rose into the air as the parade moved around the stadium. But this “snow” fell under ideal climate conditions of pleasant temperatures and a light breeze, perfect for the balloon characters.
The parade and entertainment is part of McAllen’s 40 Days of Christmas celebration. Many of the families coming for the parade also went to nearby Christmas in the Park event, which ran for two days featuring two stages of live entertainment, interactive games, carnival rides, festival food and Santa on hand for pictures. The city’s events also include the Winter Wonderland at the McAllen Convention Center, which continues on various dates through December.