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Madonna exhibit at Alamo Museum

20191211 madonna alamoBy Herb Moering

During the Christmas season the City of Alamo Museum is presenting an exhibit of Madonna and Child and Madonnas, which includes a new foreign figurine.

The collection is on permanent loan from Audry Stewart, a Winter Texan from Woodland, Oklahoma. This year she is adding a Madonna and Child figure that she acquired while visiting the Netherlands. Many of the figurines in the collection came from a visit to China. Others come from Japan, Italy, Germany, Poland and Mexico.

“The opening of the exhibit fits well in this time of the year as many celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus,” according to museum Curator Alejandro Oyoque. “This is a season where love reigns as is the example of the love shown between the Virgin Mary and Jesus.”

The part-time Alamo resident acquired the figurines over more than 45 years.

Stewart said she finds the Madonnas “a significant spiritual experience.” To her “they represent so much more than just an object.”

The exhibit will be on display until April 15 next year, which will include the Easter season. The collection compliments the Angel Galleria with its 1,800 angel figures at the museum, which is on permanent display.

Museum hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon and 1 to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday. The museum is located at 130 South Eighth Street in Alamo. For more information call 956-961-4398.

For more information you may contact Curator Alejandro Oyoque at (956) 961-4398.

You may also contact Herb Moering, Friends of the Museum secretary, at (815) 382-1154 for additional information or at his email

International Festival – a seasonal tradition in the Valley

20191211 international fest 02Every Saturday since September, parishioners and friends of St. George Orthodox Church in Pharr have been cooking up vast quantities of handmade baklava and other international food delicacies, preparing for this year’s International Festival.

Held on the second Saturday of December each year, the International Festival is a much-anticipated holiday event for the local community, families with children and Winter Texans alike. This year’s Festival will be on Saturday, December 14, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at St. George Orthodox Church, 704 W. Sam Houston in Pharr. It features the sale of a variety of homestyle foods and beverages from around the world, including Greece and Eastern Europe, as well as vendors selling fine handcrafted gifts, handmade soap, local honey, preserves, pickles and more.

With free entry, parking, activities and a wide variety of music and dance performances, there’s always something for everyone to see and do. The festival is a fun, educational event for the entire family. Activities and information will be shared by the Museum of South Texas History, the McAllen Public Library, South Texas Border Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists, Deep South Texas Master Gardeners, UTRGV CHAPS, Milkweed and Monarchs and more. While you shop, purchase some native host and nectar plants to attract butterflies to your yard.

Our favorite RGV Bluegrass music returns to this year’s festival. The day’s entertainment includes holiday favorites from the wonderful UTRGV Tuba and Euphonium Quartet as well as the much-beloved Edinburg Folklorica dancers and the Mariachi Nueva Tradicion. Returning to the festival stage will be the talented colibrí children’s choir. The last performance of the day will be the South Texas Indian Dancers, led by Robert Soto. The entire, exciting entertainment and activity schedule can be found at international fest 01

The Festival is a great place for holiday shopping. Pick up some unique items created by local artisans, handicraft and farmers market vendors. Everything from local honey and preserves, bags of specialty coffee from Mexico, to handmade soap, beeswax candles, Eastern European folkart and handcrafted wood items will be available.

Visitors can take a free guided tour of St. George Orthodox Church and learn about the lovely icons, an ancient liturgical artform. Children can decorate homemade gingerbread cookies, create holiday crafts, go “fishing” and also learn about local history and culture.

Whether you like fire-grilled skewers of Greek souvlaki, delectable pastitcio, savory spanakopita or stuffed grape leaves, or if you prefer Eastern European piroghies, blini or cabbage rolls, there is sure to be something you’ll love to eat. A limited supply of vegan and vegetarian options are available for many of these foods. A large tent-covered area with tables and chairs provide a comfortable area for dining. Frozen versions of many international specialties are also available – for you to take home and enjoy later. Bring a cooler along in the car.

Besides baklava, baked goods from around the world will make your mouth water. These make great holiday and party gifts. International soups – both vegan and with meat – are one of the festival favorites. Some people even take soups home to enjoy another day. Try soup with a warm German-style bierock on the side.

Want to just sit a while and watch the performances? Pick up some Russian tea, Greek coffee and some straddle, baklava or other special baked goods from the Russian Tea Shoppe and you’ll be ready to visit with friends, relax and enjoy. Freshly baked scones and muffins start out the morning, so come early – spend the day!

Another reason for the festival is a food and fundraiser for the very active St. George Food Pantry, which serves over 115 families. Bring monetary donations, canned goods, non-perishables, new or lightly used blankets, coats or children’s clothing and receive a homemade cookie as a “thank you” at this annual “Give a Can; Get a Cookie” campaign.

Not able to come on festival day, or just want to pre-purchase frozen items so you can just enjoy festival day without having to keep food frozen? Call (956) 358-8875 to make arrangements to come “shop” before the event at a time when people are working at the church.

To learn more about the festival, see their website at: or on Facebook at

Ralph Kuster, not just a vocal talent

20191211 ralph kuster 01Ralph Kuster was born to perform. Not just to perform, but to also create relationships through his music with his audience.

Why else would he know more than 600 songs (631 to be exact at last count).

The former Branson, Missouri performer, and current Winter Texan entertainer (also known as Wintertainer), has returned to the Rio Grande Valley with a variety of shows - including Christmas, a Tribute to Broadway and the Movies, Gospel Show, Country Classics, Sinatra, Martin and Friends, Elvis, Neil and Friends, a Valentine’s Show and a St. Patrick’s Show. He also has a show called Timeless Treasures that incorporates a little piece of all the other shows.

Kuster is a walking library of music, a virtual human radio station. His variety of shows is as wide reaching as the range of his voice.

“I’m motivated to touch the hearts of the audience,” said Kuster, who opened his Valley season with a Welcome Back Winter Texans Performance at Paradise Resort in Pharr. “A lot of the songs I perform bring back fond memories and portray a positive outlook to the coming days and upcoming season.”

But Kuster does more than just perform. He interacts with his audience in every show. For example, at his Christmas shows, everyone uses cheery holiday bells. He also puts together a video for all of his songs, touching the audience’s senses and bringing back even more fond memories.

He said that he hopes the work he has put into his videos will touch people’s hearts. That, he adds, is what he truly enjoys the most about entertaining.

“I’ve had such great audience responses,” Kuster said. “The response at the Welcome Back show was outstanding. It was a marvelous way to start.”

Currently highlighting his Christmas shows, Kuster said that he wants to bring out both the spiritual side of the holiday as well as the fun side. This year’s all new Christmas Show is a combination of country and traditional Christmas including many songs by Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, John Denver and many more.

“The audience loves the videos for each song,” Kuster said. “It adds to the warmth and joy of Christmas.”

Kuster said he’s also available for a New Year’s Eve show, yet another set of songs in his ever-growing singing library.

Shows this coming week include Winter Green Estates, December 13 at 6:30 p.m.; Lakewood Resort, December 14 at 7 p.m.; Trophy Gardens Resort, December 15 at 7 p.m.; W and I Resort, December 16 at 7 p.m.; Paradise Resort Estates, December 18 at 7 p.m.; Ell Valle Del Sol Resort, December 19 at 7 p.m.; and Tropic Star Resort, December 20 at 7 p.m. His full schedule can be found online by visiting his profile in our Wintertainers section at

For more information on Ralph Kuster or to book a show, call (417) 230-8198 or email

Quinta Mazatlan brings talent to Illumina Fest

20191211 ilumina fest buddy 01Quinta Mazatlan is preparing for their First Annual Illumina Fest that will be held on December 13 and 14, from 7 to 10 p.m. Thousands of luminaries will line the forest path. The two-night event is an interactive global celebration of light, recognizing a world of holidays. Folks will enjoy performers, live music throughout the trails, seven continent art installations, as well as festive drinks and eats.

In addition to visits with Santa Claus, attendees will travel the trails and get a glimpse of how the world celebrates with light across the seven continents. From Africa’s Kwanzaa candelabra to Asia’s lanterns in the water.

The interactive festival will feature the amazing Media Artist Joel Laviolette of Austin, Flowbotic-LED & Fire Dancers of San Antonio, as well as many local community choirs and instrumentalists.

Flowbotics of San Antonio will light up the night at Quinta Mazatlan’s premier celebration - Illumina Fest.

“We are thrilled to light up the night with McAllen, Texas!” stated Flowbotics Founder Whitney Watts.

Flowbotics Hoop Troupe is a Flow Arts Performance group that specializes in Daytime, LED, and Fire hula hooping, as well as other flow props. Flowbotics is dedicated to promoting and advancing the performing, visual, and creative art of flow arts through ongoing series of local and special events, workshops, and other community outreach programs by inspiring health, wellness, and creativity. While the simple love and joy of a hula hoop originally drew the team together, today, the team consists of five talented flow artists including Founder Whitney Watts, Co-Founder Tori Villarreal, Cassandra Flores, Amber Guitron, and Michael Morejon.

Buddy V’s Ristorante will be shining a light full of flavor at Illumina Fest this year. As premier vendor, Buddy V’s Ristorante will be offering festive spirits and holiday treats. Buddy Valastro is one of the most successful and renowned cake artists in the United States. His talent and passion for the family business, Carlo’s Bakery, has earned the straight-talking cake expert the moniker, and TLC TV show, Cake Boss. Buddy brings his family’s classic Italian recipes to tables at his restaurant “Buddy V's Ristorante” in Las Vegas, Nevada, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and McAllen, Texas.

Illumina Fest is proud to offer guests other food and drink vendors as well; offering tacos, tamales, churros, kettle corn, hot cocoa, and other traditional sweet treats.

There are two ways for guests to share their light at Illumina Fest - dress illuminated for chances to win prizes and bring a decorated paper lunch bag (luminaria) to place on the luminaria trail. Compost will be provided to weigh down the paper luminaria bag, along with an LED tea-light. Children who bring a paper luminaria bag for the trail, will receive a glow band as a gift for sharing their light.

Advanced tickets sales will be available. Both presale and onsite ticket purchases will be available at $5 per person. For more information about the fest visit

IMAS is aglow with Christmas trees

20191211 imas trees 01The International Museum of Arts and Science (IMAS) is aglow until January 4, 2020 with Christmas Trees lining their welcome hall. Over two dozen trees that have been decorated by local school and community groups with blasts from the past.

As a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing and the popularity of the Space Age, this year’s theme for the Christmas trees is Nostalgic Christmas of the 60s and 70s. School and community groups were encouraged to incorporate science, technology, engineering, art and science along with a spirit of goodwill in their decorating of their tree.

The trees feature things that were big during the 60s and 70s that included themes like peace, music, toys, and space.

Each tree featured handmade ornaments. Trees with music themes displayed vinyls with The Beatles, and other popular music from the era. The toy trees had items like Rubix Cube and Etch-a-Sketch on them.

All the trees are quite playful with their theme and especially unique.

The museum is located at 1900 W. Nolana in McAllen. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Christmas Tree Extravaganza in Harlingen

20191211 harlingen trees 01Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum is all alit with Christmas. This year the museum has over 50 Christmas trees that are on display. The display officially opened with a reception on December 5. The exhibit will be open through December 29.

You are greeted by displays of Christmas trees and snow blankets as you enter the museum. A large, tall tree stands in the entry hall as you open the double doors into the main area of the museum.

There are two rooms, one on either side of the main hall, that are filled with lights and decorations. They are beautifully lit and tell a story of each organization that took part in the decorating.

Local organizations, business, girl scout troops, and others, put their hands in decorating the trees with a myriad of colors, glass ornaments, and homemade ornaments to symbolize what they stand for.

Several of the girl scout troops trees have their different merit badges they can earn. Businesses have items that signify what they do. Others were all decked out in one color or another showing their support for Alzheimer’s or breast cancer awareness.

Each tree had something different and unique to it.

There is one tree that has symbols on it representing different meanings – with a plaque behind it telling you what each symbol means. Some trees were hung on the wall – a different form of decorating, unique and individualized.

Nothing brings the Christmas cheer and brightness like a fully lit up tree on Christmas morning – and although it doesn’t have to be Christmas morning to enjoy these trees, they bring that same joy.

The exhibit will be on display until December 29, so make sure to take a drive on out there and visit the museum and their grounds. The outside buildings – Lott’s house, an old hospital, and others – are also decked out with Christmas decorations.

The museum is located at 2425 Boxwood St., in Harlingen. No admission or fees are necessary, but monetary donations are appreciated. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Razz Ma Tazz: developing bonds; producing music

20191211 razz ma tazz 01What happens when wishes are granted; when people’s fantasies become fiction?

In the upcoming Razz Ma Tazz performance entitled “Into the Woods,” several scenarios will be explored. But before the McAllen Nikki Rowe sing and dance group flies off to fantasy land, they still have some Christmas cheer to spread. And very few high school groups in the Valley can do it as cheerfully as Razz, a group made up this season of 20 incredibly talented high school students.

The group is well known for taking their Christmas show on the road to Winter Texan parks and resorts all along the Valley. As one group of seniors graduate, another group of first-year participants, many of them a little shy after reaching such heights, step into place.

As with other extracurricular groups from sports to academic groups, the bonds within these groups are what keeps them going.

“The Christmas show is a high energy show with 20 students involved,” said director Joshua Watkins, who started with the program in August and the group immediately began rehearsing. “They are very polished for this part of the season.”

Songs such as “Merry Christmas Darling,” “Baby it’s Cold Outside” and “Come Home for Christmas,” are just a taste of the fun holiday tunes the group, which has been performing for 29 years, brings onstage.

“There’s quite a bite of harmony that sounds excellent,” Watkins said.

The group also has pieced together some medleys that are quite entertaining. “Swing Into Christmas” is a three-song piece that includes parts of “Silver Bells” among other songs.

Everything builds up to an energetic and exciting grand finale, a medley of a dozen or so songs in an arrangement called “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus.”

“It’s a very long medley, about eight minutes,” Watkins said. “It’s a big finish.”

Right after the big finish that marks the end of the season, Razz will dance their way onto “Into the Woods.” Unlike the Christmas show that goes on the road, these performances will take place at Nikki Rowe High School Jan. 18-21 and Jan. 24-25.

“It’s a mishmash of several different fairy tale characters like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk,” Watkins said. “It interweaves all the different story lines in a unique way where each character has a wish they want. That’s the first act.

“In the second act we see what happens after they get their wish. It goes from a Fairy Tale to reality. It’s very unique.”

Tickets are still available for “Into the Woods.” Call (956) 632-5152 for more information or visit RoweTheatre on Facebook.

Following are the remaining Christmas Shows for Razz Ma Tazz:
Dec. 14 Tip O Texas, 7 p.m.; Dec. 15 Pleasant Valley, 2 p.m.; Dec. 15 Valley View Estates, 7 p.m.; Dec. 16 Aladdin Villa, 7 p.m.; and Dec. 17 Trophy Gardens, 7 p.m.

Evening of holiday fun with the McAllen Wind Ensemble

20191211 wind ensemble vocal 03The McAllen Wind Ensemble continues their 45th anniversary celebration with an evening of magical holiday fun. The December 20th event entitled “Tinsel and Tutus” will feature another of McAllen’s artistic institutions, the Deborah Case Dance Academy.

Dancers from the Deborah Case Academy will be featured in the holiday concert performing selections from Tchaikovsky’s famous Nutcracker Ballet to the McAllen Wind Ensemble’s live performance of the suite. The Wind Ensemble will also feature the unforgettable voice of Alberto Escobedo, the Singing Barber of Rio Grande City. Alberto Escobedo will lend his stirring vocal abilities to Schubert’s “Ave Maria” on Friday evening’s concert.

Alberto Escobedo has earned the reputation as the Singing Barber of Rio Grande City. He has not received formal vocal training after his high school experience, but his talent is a true testament to the strength and quality of the Rio Grande City Fine Arts Department. Alberto is also an active member in the community. He is the driving force behind Casa de Esperanza. Casa de Esperanza serves as a soup kitchen, and the building serves as a shelter for the homeless when needed.

No McAllen Wind Ensemble holiday concert would be complete without a Christmas carol sing-along. Alberto and the McAllen Wind Ensemble’s own Annabelle Zapata will lead the audience in a medley of favorite Christmas carols.

The McAllen Wind Ensemble is excited to host the Ballet’s encore performance of several of the dances from the world’s favorite Christmas ballet and vocalist Alberto Escobedo.

“Tinsel and Tutus” will be held December 20 at the McAllen Performing Arts Center. Tickets, starting at just $10, are available at the McAllen Performing Arts Center Box Office, through Ticketmaster, or at the door. Visit their website at for more information.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with music starting at 7:30 p.m. Pictures with Santa and ballerinas will be available before the concert.

Come share the wonder and traditions of Christmas joining family and friends at the South Pole of Texas. Celebrate the 24th day of the City of McAllen’s Winterfest with the magic of holiday music!

Paradise Park residents sharing their blessings

20191211 paradise park bless 01Residents at Paradise Park in Harlingen are sharing their blessings this year by gathering donations for a couple of organizations. They are gathering donations for Dr. Bill Harrison’s Sow the Word mission in Nuevo Progresso and for Loaves and Fishes food pantry in Harlingen.

The park has a reverse advent calendar set up where they ask residents to donate a designated item each day. For example, today, December 11 is 105 ounce can of veggies, and tomorrow is a bag of rice. The list doesn’t only include food items. The list also includes items such as soap, shampoo, crayons and coloring books.

The Winter Texan Times went and visited the park last week just to see what they were doing.

Criss Hastings, one of the organizers, said they have been blessed with the amount that has been donated already. In just six short days, residents had nearly filled up the front of small trailer home with the donations already given.

“The amount of donations for the Reverse Advent is already amazing,” said Hastings.

Hastings and her husband Jeff, park chaplain, and Sharon Bargel are leading the gathering.

Even though they are collecting items through December 24, they are having a big celebration on Friday, December 20 during their Burger Friday and jam session.

They will collect a big portion of their donated items and present them to Dr. Harrison.

Jammers start playing at 10:45 a.m., lunch is served at 11 a.m. and announcements will be made at noon. Residents also wear read on Fridays to Remember Everyone Deployed.

Hastings thinks the stage will be a sight to see with all of the donations gathered around.

If you want to help out call Sharon at 320-248-2167 or head on over to the jam session on Friday, December 20. There is a fee for lunch. The park is located at 1201 N. Expressway 77, in Harlingen.

Christmas: Traditions and Magic

WEB On The Road HeaderOh, to be a kid again. What a magical time of the year. A wonderful time of the year when traditions are born, and memories are made. Homes will be filled with Christmas trees and pine boughs that exude the smell of Christmas! Nutmeg and cinnamon, chile and roasting turkey lend their mouthwatering smell to the mix of fresh baked sugar cookies. Daddies are out stringing Christmas lights and inflating reindeers and Snoopys and Charlie Browns as one neighbor tries to outdo the other to see whose yard will attract the most attention.

Every community is offering something special for us to enjoy with their traditional offerings... lf we could take advantage of all the festivities being offered, we would be busy every weekend traveling from town to town to enjoy parades, special music, theater, sand sculptures, Christmas lights, Holiday Villages, Christmas tree forests and manger scenes.

A Sandcastle Village will be on display at South Padre Island, near Louie’s Back Yard and Gravity Park. Viewing started November 25 and will last until January 13. The sand sculptures all have a holiday theme. The weather has been beautiful for a visit to South Padre Island, so pile the kids, or your group of friends, in the car and head for the island.

Brownsville has developed a tradition in their Holiday Village Display. Now in its 10th year, the display has grown from 10 to 33 miniature houses all decked out in holiday finery. Go early perhaps to start your trip with a visit to Gladys Porter Zoo. The lights turn on in the houses at dusk, but if you wait too late you will have difficulty finding a parking place.

Museums in both McAllen - the IMAS - and in Harlingen - Harlingen Arts and History Museum - have Christmas Tree Forests. These displays have become a tradition when individuals, clubs or businesses, elect to decorate a Christmas tree with a special theme.

I entered a tree for several years. One year I used my late husband's collection of Micky Mouse memorabilia for the decorations. Another year, I used my daughter's collection of dolls from around the world. Once a local antique store decorated her tree with teacups, saucers and lace doilies for a very feminine and original presentation. Each tree has something different and interesting for visitors to see.

Viewing of the Christmas Tree Forest at the IMAS is included in the cost of admission. The trees will be on display through January 4, 2020. Donations are welcomed at the Harlingen Arts and History Museum as there is no entrance fee. The trees are on display until early January.

Hidalgo celebrates with their Festival of Lights with daily live performances from December 1st to the 30th• The free performances start at 7 p.m. and last approximately one hour. The Festival is held outside in front of the Hidalgo City Hall where the grounds are decorated with lighted life size presentations. Trolley rides are offered for a small fee and will take you through a fairy land of Christmas lighting.

The biggest extravaganza of all may well have been in McAllen for their parade of giant inflatable balloons that followed a set route. This extraordinary, super display has become an annual event so if you missed it this year, there will be a next year. The parade follows a set route, but there is also a chance to purchase reserved seating.

At least one church will be hosting a live Nativity December 21 and 22. The First United Methodist Church of La Feria will host its Live Nativity from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on the Saturday and Sunday mentioned. The church parking lot will become the town of Bethlehem and visitors can either walk or drive through the village and see the original Christmas story of the birth of Jesus.

The gifts may be piling up under your Christmas tree but let us remember that not all families will be able to visit the beautiful Christmas displays. Lack of a car or lack of money to buy gas may prevent some families from sharing in the wonders of Christmas. There will be some who cannot afford the Christmas tree nor the gifts to go under it. Churches, schools and many organizations join in another traditional happening - the drive that is organized for Toys for Tots. We can all share in the gift of Christmas by donating to this drive. Even a small gift will make some child happy.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year! Let's make it a wonderful time of the year for all!

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