An expo born out of frustration
Born of new Winter Texan’s frustration, Alamo Rec-Veh Park in Alamo, Texas, will again host a unique Winter Texan Business & Health Expo on Saturday, February 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Because we’re here for so few winter months, most Winter Texans face the same dilemma Dennis and I did several years ago,” Expo organizer Barb Zanetti said.
“Our problem? How do we replace the quality support system we’ve developed over the years in Michigan? … The doctors, contractors, repairmen, restaurants, dentists, surgeons, income tax providers, butchers, and dog groomers, as well as places that offer travel, entertainment, flowers, and gift ideas?”
Hating to leaf through random business cards dropped off in RV park offices and at the peak of their frustration, Zanetti’s said that they desperately sought a solution.
At that time, Alamo Rec-Veh Park’s manager Barbara Hamel decided to host an Expo. Her idea was tables covered with black tablecloths and skirts, and then the typical craft-and-flea-market expo model open to anyone who wants to pay the fee.
Zanetti’s said they saw that idea as a box of business cards. No recommendations. A free-for-all.
What the organizers and manager did share was the idea of helping park residents and wanting the event to serve as a community builder.
“Things like the Expo bring out what I like best about the community,” Hamel said. “Vendors can tell Winter Texans what they offer. That way residents learn about their community and the area they live in. An event like this brings good people together.”
Zanetti’s said they insisted that the new Expo would be unique, that they’d invite only one quality business in each category.
“To make the evolving Expo even more exclusive for Winter Texans, Dennis and I decided that we’d enforce the ‘by invitation only’ policy,” Zanetti said. “No business can walk in and say they want to be part of the Expo. They have to earn the right to be there by being the best at what they do.”
The couple chose their favorite businesses based on their own experiences, and by doing the legwork, by talking to experts and seeking the advice of people they respected.
“In that way we created a live Rolodex for Winter Texans,” she said. “These are businesses and health experts that we trust. For new Winter Texans it can serve as a starting point to their own search for quality businesses and professionals in the Valley.”
Past Expo attendees cite a variety of reasons they won’t miss the event.
“One of the benefits of the Expo for me is a lot of socialization,” Winter Texan Carol Norman said. “Plus, you get to see other good businesses in the area instead of sticking with the places you always go to. You get choices. You see businesses you didn’t even know existed. I even enjoyed learning that a local bakery has the very best donuts.”
She said that it helped her husband Mark, too, after he made a decision to have his bad knees repaired. It was at the Expo that he learned about world-renowned Dr. Raul Marquez’s unique knee replacement surgery that doesn’t cut tendons or ligaments and uses a computer and GPS to individualize each procedure.
Mark’s surgery is slated for mid-February. She said he is looking forward to a relatively pain-free solution with a quick healing time.
The Zanetti’s wanted even more Expo features for Winter Texans.
“To add value to our Expo experience, we listened to the great business people we invited,” she said. “We discovered some of them wanted to demonstrate that they are as good as we guarantee they are.”
This year several businesses will participate in onsite services.
Top computer experts, RGVgeeks, will offer free diagnoses of computer issues onsite.
Along with that, K9 Headquarters, quality dog groomers, will offer onsite $10 dog toenail clipping. (Note: No dogs will be allowed in the Rec Hall due to the amount of food being served. They must enter and exit through the Annex building.)
JP Paulus Photography plans to offer onsite Valentine photo packages. He also plans to make February 11 appointments for those who would like a few days to prepare.
Another attractive benefit that Zanetti’s promoted is that most businesses and health experts offer prize drawings just for signing up (with no names or phone numbers kept by businesses). Drawings are held at the end of the Expo, so attendees have an equal chance of winning.
The estimated value of combined drawings is well over $1,000. Samples of last year’s prizes included a complete RO water filtration system, a Yeti cooler, many restaurant gift certificates, photo packages, and so much more.
At the 2022 Expo, Winter Texan Gloria Simpson won an enormous dog gift package from K9 Headquarters. In the prize basket she found two unique dog bowls, a bag of dog food, bags of dog treats, a dog bed, and a dog collar. She said it was a fabulous prize.
She likes this Expo experience.
“What’s great about the Expo is that you meet so many different organizations, medical experts and companies,” Simpson said. “We found a dentist. We got a Puretap RO system for filtered water. And the Expo exposed us to things we might not have been looking for or even been aware of.”
She plans to be there on February 4.
“I wouldn’t miss going to this year’s Expo,” she said, “because each Expo invites new, quality experts.”
The unique Expo also offers value to local RV Parks.
As Winter Texans from Valley RV parks enter the Expo, they’re asked to register with their name and RV park.
A day or two after the Expo, the attendees’ names from each park are counted. Then, the park with the most Winter Texan attendees based on the percentage of residents wins an RC car from New Sun Racing. The more representatives from each park, the better chance they have of winning.
Invited businesspeople and health experts find exceptional value in the Expo, too.
“It’s the friendly people,” Juan Pablo Gomez, owner of JP Paulus Photography, said of why he loves the Expo. “Well organized. Delicious food. A chance to learn about other interesting businesses throughout the Valley. It all adds up to a great experience.”
He said that he has added more clients and received more exposure from Winter Texans due to the Expo.
It’s an amazing event, according to the Zanetti’s. But they feel that the biggest Expo draw may just be the delectable food sold by Willie’s BBQ, Nana’s Taqueria, Milano’s Italian Restaurant, Manjar’s Bakery, Engert’s Orchard, and Sayklly’s Chocolates.
In the process of creating a unique Winter Texan experience, the Zanetti’s found added benefit for themselves.
“Surprisingly, organizing the ARVP Winter Texan Expo made us feel very connected beyond our RV park to some of the best business people and health experts in the Rio Grande Valley community,” she said. “The experience has ended up being very positive -- just pure delight!”
The Alamo Rec-Veh Park manager echoed a common sentiment.
“Everyone can expect to have a good time when they come to our Expo,” Hamel said. “They’ll meet vendors and get new ideas. Guaranteed.”