WESLACO — It was a birthday bash to remember as hundreds of people lined Texas Boulevard here on a sunny and cool Saturday morning to await the start of the Weslaco Centennial Christmas Parade.
The parade — which featured decade-themed floats from the 1920s to the present day — was just one in nearly a week’s worth of events meant to celebrate the city’s centennial anniversary.
From the parade, to a 5K fun run, to a barbecue cook-off, to lectures on local history, and even the production of a documentary, the celebration has included something for everyone. The birthday celebration continued through Tuesday evening, when a closing ceremony and fireworks show was held at Bobby Lackey Stadium.
As the parade wound down around lunchtime Saturday, residents were invited to stroll through downtown Weslaco, where portions of Texas Boulevard and Kansas Avenue were blocked off for a street fair, complete with live music, dozens of vendors of vendors and “selfie stations.”
While the crowd could be seen enjoying themselves in the festive atmosphere, one woman stood near the library, enjoying a brief moment of quiet and basking in the culmination of three and a half years’ worth of planning.
The woman was Debby Rektorik, vice chair of the Weslaco 100 committee. Rektorik was ecstatic to see how well the city’s centennial celebration had turned out. “I’m so pleased with it so far. It’s been wonderful. People have really stepped up and done above and beyond,” Rektorik said, adding that the hard work from the committee and the droves of volunteers made it all worth it.
Rektorik wasn’t the only city leader who was proud of the celebration’s success. Mayor David Suarez was also excited to share the city’s birthday with his constituents. He, along with the rest of the city commission waved to the parade crowd from a float bearing the Weslaco 100 logo. Afterward, he spoke of how the view had humbled him.
“Looking at the citizens, and looking at the crowd, I just saw the festivity, the community coming out,” Suarez said. “It was just an awesome sight to see and it’s a privilege. And I’m just so happy and grateful to be part of Weslaco,” he said.
The parade began with quite the fanfare, as the Weslaco police department led the procession with police motorcycles carving figure eights along the thoroughfare, while behind them, patrol units rode with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
Santa Claus himself made an appearance, riding in a very special sleigh — a Weslaco Fire Department engine.
But there was more to the parade than just the Christmas spirit. As the procession made its way down the street, several floats stood out for how they paid tribute to Weslaco’s century of history — from the fashion trends of the previous 100 years, to the industries that have served as the backbone of the city’s economy.
“That is really nice,” said parade onlooker Isaiah Irisson of the historical aspect of the floats.
“Usually parades here are pretty nice, but this one is exceptionally nice,” Irisson said.
For Harlingen resident Ricardo Hernandez, the parade was a chance to share a piece of history with his granddaughters. Born and raised in Weslaco, Hernandez participated in the parade during the city’s 50th anniversary celebration he said.
An eighth grade student at the time, Hernandez marched with the band during that milestone moment. On Saturday, he and his wife, Sylvia, came to watch as their granddaughter — also an eighth grader — walked in the parade as Miss Texas Onion Fest. Another granddaughter, a senior at Weslaco High, marched with the Panther band as a drum major.
“It’s exciting. It’s a feeling of … I’m glad to be here to celebrate their 100 years,” Sylvia said, thanking the city for doing “an awesome job” with all the events.
The Weslaco 100 committee planned dozens of events for the celebration, from morning to night. Mayor Suarez said he and his wife had been attending as many as they could, including a Conjunto dance at La Plazita Park Friday evening.
There, he heard from people discussing the importance of the park and of Conjunto to the personal histories of so many Weslaco residents, he said. But the mayor also reflected on where Weslaco will go in the next 100 years.
Suarez envisions the city expanding towards its neighbors — Donna, Mercedes, Progreso and the Delta region — and sees its population hitting six figures in the next century. And it will do that because of its greatest assets, he said. “The biggest asset Weslaco has is its people, its citizens. And then it’s location. We have the capacity to grow,” Suarez said.