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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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McAllen
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Commemorating A Milestone, The 10th Anniversary of PalmFest Folklife Celebration

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Volunteers Make A City Better, They Work With No Compensation Because They Have Their Hearts In The Right Place

Texas Border Business

By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez,

For years, I have seen cities across the nation distinguishing themselves in different ways, but one city in particular, shines above the rest. The fact is that a group of passionate people took upon themselves the task of creating an event that has become a success since its inception. The PalmFest Folklife Celebration 2015 marks its 10th Anniversary this October and it promises to be a celebration like no other. The distinction, greatness, and the molding of a city only can be made through the participation of its citizens.

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Any event, big or little requires time, effort, money, and people.  People that have the good intention and commitment to work hard, to put in extra hours and during weekends and with no compensation with exception of their gratification when the goal is accomplished.  It is difficult to find people with those attributes, however, that is not the case in McAllen. The city is fortunate to have plenty of valuable people that step up to the plate and do what it necessary to get the job done.

The PalmFest International Folklife Celebration event is a creation by people that recognized the need for an event that would celebrate the uniqueness of the cultures and the vibrant history of McAllen and Deep South Texas.

The story begins at the conclusion of the McAllen Centennial Celebration held in October of 2004.  The success of those events prompted the Centennial Committee, chaired by Rick De Julio and comprised by members of the Oldtimer’s Club, Futuro McAllen, and Leadership McAllen to discuss the creation of a citywide festival.  It was in 2005 that Elva Cerda approached newly elected Mayor Richard Cortez to discuss the Centennial Committee’s goal.  Mayor Cortez proceeded to appoint Elva and Omar Rodriguez to the initial planning committee and they were joined by former Commissioner Marcus Barrera in the initial planning discussions.

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The mission for the festival was to combine several highly successful events into one fun and festive weekend filled with history, art, diverse foods, cultural exhibits and entertainment typical of the area with good old-fashioned fun for the entire family.  After consideration, the event was entitled ‘PalmFest’ as an indication of our city that has been known as the ‘City of Palms’.

PalmFest International Folklife Celebration made its debut October 2006 at the McAllen Civic Center grounds with partners consisting of not-for-profit and service organizations providing the various attractions. Elva said, “The festival drew about 15,000 attendees that year, and PalmFest then changed venue to the new McAllen Convention Center grounds in 2007.”  Festival attendance has increased each year topping over 40,000 attendees for the two-day family friendly event.  The festival grounds and indoor facilities at the McAllen Convention Center have allowed the festival to grow and expand every year, thus becoming the perfect venue to welcome thousands of families to enjoy the event.

Elva said that organizers wanted to invite participation from many areas including education and culture. “We invite area universities and colleges to participate along with other organizations such as museums like the McAllen Heritage Center, the Museum of South Texas History, Quinta Mazatlán, Rancho El Charco, and the Centro Cultural and others. We also invite area vendors to join us at the El Mercado shopping area.”

She pointed out that one of the founding participants, the McAllen Heritage Center continues to coordinate the main folklife and culture displays at PalmFest largely through the efforts of Nedra Kinerk and the MHC board members.

It is important to mention that the board organizing the event are volunteers. The first volunteers who joined the board for the original 501c3 were Elva M. Cerda, Chair; Omar Rodriguez, Vice Chair; Virginia Gause; Martha V. Hinojosa; and Mike Hernandez.  Olga Gabriel and Ana Hess joined the PalmFest board as well.  Chris Julian, not a board member, was hired as Marketing Director for the festival.

Elva went on to say that “The original supporters of the event from the City of McAllen were: former Mayor Richard Cortez; former City Manager Mike R. Perez and former Parks and Recreation Director Larry Pressler.”  Today, they have the continued support of Mayor Jim Darling; City Manager Roy Rodriguez, and Assistant City Manager Joe Vera.

She also said, “The McAllen City Commissioners along with the heads of various City departments like the Convention Center, Police and Fire Departments, Traffic, MCN, Keep McAllen Beautiful, and Parks and Recreation to name just a few, have supported the event.”  Elva emphasized that this event was originally volunteer driven but always supported by the City of McAllen and its dedicated staff.  The event is now a line up event hosted by the City of McAllen and all the festival participants for the benefit of our community and Region. “We have a long list of corporate and community supporters and friends to whom we are very grateful,” she acknowledged.

Yesterday’s Challenges

According to Elva, the challenge at the beginning was like any start-up business. “We worked with tight budgets to stay in the black.  We are grateful for the community’s support and the many corporate sponsors that joined us at the beginning and stayed with the event year after year. Working to gain exposure for the festival has always been a challenge but with current social media efforts and a 9-year history of successful events, we feel confident about our future.”

Today’s Challenges

As time evolves, working to stay relevant, especially with the younger demographic is a challenge.  “We want to keep adding entertainment and interactive activities for that demographic group but want to keep this a family-friendly event with something for everyone.”  She said that staying true to their mission of preserving and teaching about McAllen’s history and promoting arts and culture is and will remain at the core of the festival.

The arts community including folklife festivals and museums continue to face funding shortages in today’s tough economic times. She added, “Our folklife festival has survived one of the worst economic downturns in history. That is what makes the 10th year anniversary extra special and meaningful.”

The Future

The board will strive to continue to provide a long-lasting, unforgettable experience for current and potential citizens of the Rio Grande Valley at PalmFest.

At this time we pause to reflect upon our progress and acknowledge the many that worked for the success of the event.  We are also grateful to the many families that have made us successful through their continued attendance.

It is through the outstanding contribution of the founding board and many participants comprised of volunteers that this great event has become their legacy and an event that adds to the family friendly nature embraced by the City of McAllen.

Written by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez, the 2009 SBA Journalist of the Year award winner and the 2009 and 2012 Paul Harris Fellow award recipient. TBB

Founding Volunteer Board & other significant contributors

Rick De Julio (deceased) was the Chair of the McAllen Centennial Committee in 2004.  At the conclusion of the events that year, committee members developed goals which included forming a citywide festival, now PalmFest, and a history museum, now the McAllen Heritage Center.

Mike Hernandez, former PF board member and Parks & Recreation Interim Director not shown.

Elva M. Cerda.
Elva M. Cerda.

Elva M. Cerda. “In reflection of the last 10 years and what it took to bring this event to our community and our Region, I feel so grateful to all of those (too many to mention) that have been a part of the team throughout the years.  This milestone reaffirms the reasons for my strong belief in volunteerism.  I am so proud to call McAllen my home and very glad to be a part of this special event.  Thank you!”

Jim Darling, Mayor of McAllen.
Jim Darling, Mayor of McAllen.

 

Jim Darling, Mayor of McAllen, “Palm fest is a great community celebration highlighting all that is unique about our City and our Valley.”

 

 

Martha V. Hinojosa.
Martha V. Hinojosa.

Martha V. Hinojosa, “I am thankful that the most important key in history is community. PalmFest was unlocked by a vision of a few that had community in mind and now we have a wonderful community enjoying the food, music, concerts, dancing, beautiful art and much more! Thank You Richard Cortez and happy to be a part of PalmFest for 10 years!”

 

Nedra S. Kinerk, Ed.D.
Nedra S. Kinerk, Ed.D.

 

Nedra S. Kinerk, Ed.D., “PalmFest is a celebration of and for our families — all that makes us who we are, past, present, and the years to come.”

 

 

ana-hess
Ana Hess.

Ana Hess, “It was an honor working with the Palmfest team of volunteers from 2006-2011. Running Palmfest in those days required a strong organized person that could kindly gather us all up and get to work, Elva Cerda was that to me.  Her dedication and focus got us through long days of planning, watching budgets, getting people to volunteer, running and put on a wonderful family Palmfest where families, of all ages could come and enjoy a day of music and sun with great food and story book readings and much much fun.’

Virginia Gause.
Virginia Gause.

Virginia Gause, “Each letter in the word PalmFest is significant. ‘P’ is for Preservation and that is what one of the anchors, McAllen Heritage Center, is all about. ‘A’ is for Arts and you will always find them at PalmFest. ‘L’ is for Literature and storytelling is the first step in literature. ‘M’ is for Music, which is a hallmark of PalmFest. ‘F’ is for Folklife and that is the key to this celebration. ‘E’ is for environment and you will always find recycle bins in obvious places. ‘S’ is for South and ‘T’ is for Texas.  There you have it, PalmFest in a nutshell!”

Omar Rodriguez.
Omar Rodriguez.

Omar Rodriguez said, “I don’t think anyone imagined that Palmfest would grow to be such a successful event.  However, we had many believers – Elva Cerda, Martha Hinojosa, Virginia Gause, Larry Pressler and of course then Mayor Cortez and Commissioner Barrera.  Mayor Darling and the City Commission today, have recognized Palmfest as one of the most important events produced at the Convention Center for the City. Annually, Palmfest draws some of the largest crowds of the attracting families from throughout south Texas visiting McAllen.”

Olga Gabriel.
Olga Gabriel.

 

Olga Gabriel, “This is an exciting year for PalmFest! The 10th Anniversary will be another great opportunity to showcase our wonderful local talent in many areas including music, dance, authentic foods, while also educating attendees through games and hands on exhibits”, said Olga Gabriel, Advisory Board member and former PalmFest entertainment coordinator.”

 

Richard Cortez.
Richard Cortez.

Richard Cortez, former McAllen Mayor and current McAllen City Commissioner said, “Palm Fest gives our local citizens and neighbors an annual opportunity to celebrate our culture and history and enjoy much fellowship by gathering around our beautiful convention center site to enjoy great food and music along with many activities and attractions.  You all must come!”

 

erik-gonzalez

Erik Gonzalez, current PF Advisory board member

larry-presslerLarry Pressler, former McAllen Parks & Recreation Director

marcus-barreraFormer McAllen City Commissioner Marcus Barrera

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