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Wild Texas carnivores presented at Quinta Mazatlan

carnivore quintaTexas boasts some of the most diverse habitat in the United States. On Thursday, November 21 at 6 p.m., Quinta Mazatlán will host Dr. John Tomecek as guest speaker for Nights at the Mansion speaker series. Dr. Tomecek will be presenting “Wild Texas Carnivores;” sharing some of the most recent research from the Texas Carnivore Ecology Laboratory at Texas A&M University, how this work is helping us to learn more about our wild Texas carnivores, and what the future holds.

A native of central Texas, Dr. John Tomecek has spent much of his life outdoors across the state. From his upbringing on a cattle operation in the Cross Timbers and Edwards Plateau, to spending summers on his grandfather’s commercial red snapper boat in the Gulf. Presently, Dr. Tomecek serves as Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist at Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

In his capacity as university faculty, Dr. Tomecek conducts research and outreach on issues of wildlife damage and disease, ecology of mesocarnivores, and effective management of human-wildlife conflict. As leader of the Carnivore Ecology Laboratory at Texas A&M University, Dr. Tomecek and his team of graduate and undergraduate researchers work toward better understanding of carnivore ecology to inform management and improve human-carnivore interactions.

Nights at the Mansion speaker series presents noteworthy speakers and scholars to present lectures related to our global environment, local cuisine and the arts and culture. The program takes place on Thursday evenings through May 2020. The program fee is $3 per person and no advance reservation is required. Quinta Mazatlán is located at 600 Sunset Drive in McAllen, one block south of La Plaza Mall on 10th Street. For more information, contact Quinta Mazatlan at (956) 681-3370 or visit www.quintamazatlan.com or the Facebook events page facebook.com/McAllenQuintaMazatlan

It’s collection week for Operation Christmas Child

op christmasAs Thanksgiving Day approaches, Mission families are expressing their gratitude by giving back. Residents are filling shoeboxes with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items to send to children in need around the world. For many of these children, it will be the first gift they have ever received.

During Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week November 18 – 25, local residents, in Mission and surrounding communities, will collect shoebox gifts at drop-off locations in the area. The Samaritan’s Purse project, partnering with churches worldwide, will deliver these gifts to children in need. Area volunteers hope to collect more than 2,805 gifts during the week.

"I love seeing the local community rally together for a global impact," said Regional Director Matt McClelland. "We see all ages getting involved –and more and more every year."

Valley residents are not alone in their effort to help children around the world. More than 150,000 U.S. volunteers including families, churches and other groups are joining forces to contribute to the largest Christmas project of its kind. In 2019, Samaritan's Purse hopes to collect enough Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts to reach 11 million children, with 2,805 coming from the local area.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 817-595-2230, or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through "Follow Your Box" and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child's specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and, together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 168 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.

Mission’s Veterans Day Parade

By Herb Moering
mission vets 1The perfect weather arrived just in time for Mission’s first annual Veterans Festival Parade on Saturday afternoon, November 9.

The hour and a half patriotic parade was part of the city’s Veterans Day observance, which stretched over four days, starting with a flag laying ceremony Friday afternoon at the Texas State Veteran Cemetery in Mission.

It was the parade that drew several hundred spectators along Business 83, including from Mission, flag-waving Jesse Martinez and his granddaughter Jaynee, to applaud the service veterans riding in the parade.

Among those given a ride was the grand marshal, Lt. Col. Arnulfo Esqueda, a 30-year U.S. Army veteran and a Mission native.

“It was a great honor and privilege to represent all the veterans,” he said. “I want people to appreciate the veterans. Veterans want to play a role in the community.”

Esqueda joined the military at the age of 18 in 1965 and was in the Vietnam jungles for four years as a special forces operative. The green beret was a leader of one of the six-member teams involved in top secret cross border interdiction missions. His team, among others, which included two Americans and four South Vietnam soldiers each, were attached to the secret Military Assistance Command Special Operations Group. They operated mainly along the Ho Chi Ming Trail that wound through North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

The retired officer said the greatest fear while deep in enemy territory was being captured. He said they were on their own at night, without communication with allied forces, but by day were back in contact and had U.S. air support if needed. What was also hard to comprehend was the condemning response from the public after returning home. There was no parade for soldiers who fought in Vietnam, he noted.
 missio vets 2

When his Vietnam tour ended in 1969, he went to college and also joined the Texas National Guard as a 2nd lieutenant, which was a part time situation until 1979. Then he went on active duty with the guard. He received his lieutenant colonel rank in 1993 and finished his service in 1995.

A World War II veteran, Savas Sandoval Jr., got to ride in a Mercedes Benz classic convertible. He served in the U.S. Army in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska from 1942 until 1945. Army 1st Sgt. Victor Fonseca was among veterans riding in golf carts.

One squad of veterans walked the parade route, which began at Conway Avenue and ended at Bryan Road. The lead parade entry was the Mission Fire Department’s 1927 fire truck, followed by color guard units and a contingent of patriotic motorcyclists. The parade included floats, school marching bands and cheerleader groups, scouting units, dance squads, and Texas Citrus Fiesta royalty.

The day also included the first Veterans Cook-off that began at 9 o’clock in the morning. A total of 26 teams competed for $5,000 in cash and trophies in five categories of chicken, pork spareribs, brisket, pan de campo and citrus dessert.

There was live music and food vendors on hand as the cookers worked their magic throughout the day. Head judge for the International Barbecue Cookers Association (IBCA), Eddie Tapia, has been running cook-off competitions for 13 years, which takes him all over the Valley. He said he began with just two events his first year, but now he averages more than two per month. His wife, Judy, helps him in distributing the entries to the local volunteer taste judges.

David Santoy, who heads the South Texas BBQ team, said he recruited eight family members and friends to join him in working the cook-off, which he’s been doing for four years. He’s out about once a month on average to compete.

“I love barbecuing and hanging out,” the Mission resident said. “It’s a ‘win, win’ time.”

Andy Garza, the head cook for the Mi Pedasito Ranch team, also from Mission, said he’s been involved in cook-offs for 10 years. He currently does about five events a year as time permits.

“I love it, being in charge,” he said. “We do it for the love of barbecue.”

mission vets 3His wife, Blanca, said, “We enjoy it, and it’s all family members on the team.”

The first 10 placings in each event received recognition, with the top five earning cash awards and a winning plaque to each first-place team.

The Veterans Cook-off grand championship trophy went to the Cowboy Up Cooking team headed by Ralph Flores of Edinburg. His team earned the top award by winning the pan de campo division, placing third in chicken barbecue, fourth in pork spareribs and eighth in brisket.

The reserve championship belonged to Chew N the Fat squad with head cook Jason Bartimus. Also, from Edinburg, the team topped the pork spareribs category and placed fifth in brisket.

Top finishers in the other categories included BBQ Holics, taking first in the chicken category with Hector Cantu the head cook from La Feria; the Chillin N Grillin team headed by Mario Benavides from McAllen, and Bridget Gonzalez who topped the dessert division.

The festival also included an evening of entertainment with music by several bands on stage in conjunction with the 5x5 Brewery sponsors. Kids rides went on all day.

The festival salute continued on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 10, with a Cars and Stripes car show along with a chili cook-off between five veteran’s teams, with winners chosen by “people’s choice.”

Wrapping up the celebration was the Veterans Day golf tournament, The Fairway to Freedom, a 3-person scramble. The tournament, free to veterans, was played at Sharyland Municipal Golf Course. The event was featured in last week’s paper.

Texas Trails holds Hog Trough

By Herb Moering
hog 1A hundred people went hog wild at a dinner and dance Saturday afternoon, Nov. 16, at the Texas Trails RV Resort.

This first such event, open to the public, at the resort in Pharr had customers bellying up to one of the two hog troughs outside Friendship Hall for some shredded pork loin, beef roast and sausage, along with steamed potatoes, cabbage, carrots, corn on the cob, a homemade roll and a cookie for dessert.

Dave Cole, who headed the cooking committee, said they lit up four kettles outside the hall to prepare the foods. When ready the foods were dumped into two long troughs with lines forming before each of them. He added that several women in the park prepared the vegetables for cooking the previous day.

Cole might be considered a veteran of the hog trough, frequently holding one of those affairs at his place in the park for 30 or 40 people. So, it seemed natural to park activity director Lou Dewaele to see about expanding the hog trough to include more people. They had a trial run of it this summer on the Fourth of July, with some 80 people. This time they opened it up to the public.

While the cooking was outside, the consumption was inside, along with what was to have been a street dance. Dewaele said the change was due to some concern about the weather, although it became a very pleasant, sunny day.

Once lunch was over the scene shifted to the dance floor and the Barbed Wire Band, which was fine with Jim McCubbins and his partner Carol Jarvis. The couple had come from their place at Alamo Recreational Vehicle Park for the meal, but especially for the dancing. These Winter Texans have been coming from Missouri for 10 years and dance away the season, averaging at least five nights a week.

Besides frequenting Texas Trails and their own park in Alamo, the couple also go regularly to Winter Ranch, Mission Bell and Victoria Palms for dancing. McCubbins said they love to dance and especially enjoy the country music.

The hog trough is one of many events open to the public, Dewaele said, who is in his first year as Texas Trails activity director aided by his wife, Kathe. He was an assistant activity director at Pleasant Valley Ranch in Mission in the couple’s first year in the RGV.

All the Friday evening dances are for the public, featuring the Grayrock Band, Nov. 22; Diego, Nov. 29; Curt James, Dec. 6; Regan James, Dec. 13 and South Texas Ramblers, Dec. 20. Entertainment coming up includes Razz Ma Tazz, Dec. 10; Winter Texan Orchestra, Dec. 15; Lindsey Creek Christmas Show, Dec. 17, and the Tiny Hill Orchestra, Dec. 29.

In January every Tuesday and Sunday there’s entertainment he noted, including plans in the making for a “Ladies Only Night.” The first weekend in February, the schedule calls for a Super Bowl party at the park on Owassa Road.

Is seems likely the hog trough is going to remain a popular draw, based on the smiles and comments expressed by those digging into the food.

Winter Texan Food

WEB On The Road HeaderHave you noticed? The latest thing in specialty tours are those tours that are offering destinations that feature foods from their area. The latest travel e-mail that promoted cuisine destinations featured Poland - and not just Poland, but a tour that offered time in Northern Poland to sample their cuisine followed by a visit to Southern Poland to taste their typical foods.

The United States can offer some typical foods also but dividing our country into two sections for food would be virtually impossible. For us it is much better to look at states and then break those states into regions.

Perhaps, one of the foods most typical for the state of Texas might be bar-b-que with the city of LaGrange considered the bar-b-que capitol. Recently, I heard a discussion on the differences in bar-b-que sauce. Texas bar-b-que tends to have a little chili and maybe just a touch of bourbon or beer. On the other hand, bar-b-que sauce prepared in North or South Carolina will taste a little sweet. Pecan pies or sweet potato pies also tend to have their claim to fame in East Texas and parts of Louisiana.

Our Rio Grande Valley region certainly has their very own food heritage, most of which originated in Mexico ... we call it Tex-Mex or Mex-Tex. In our region we can offer tacos, enchiladas, empanadas, tamales and on and on. My taste buds are watering just thinking of all those wonderful, delicious dishes that started in Mexico, jumped across the border, and often picked up a little Texas flavor, producing dishes that are not really Mexican nor are they really Texan.

One of the most popular is the local taco - do you want a breakfast taco prepared with a flour tortilla wrapped around eggs and potatoes, wrapped around eggs and beans, or filled with eggs and chicharrones (pig skins)? Or how about tacos for lunch with fajitas stuffed temptingly inside a doubled over, fried corn tortilla?

Another specialty of this area is the tamale - a specialty served year-round but extremely popular during the Christmas season. One of the fillings for the tamale is pork, but it could be beans or chicken or even coconut and raisins. Local families will prepare well in advance for the traditional Christmas feast and the Posada - posada translates to inn. A posada is a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph searching for a place to stay where the Christ child could be born. The mouthwatering dish often served at a Posada will not be turkey and dressing as so many might expect. In the Rio Grande Valley, the main dish will probably be tamales.

Making tamales is no small chore. First you must buy all the ingredients including the corn husks, the lard, the pork, the spices and the masa - a very, very finely ground corn flour. Because the preparing of tamales is such a labor-intensive chore, families often gather together with neighbors and have what is endearingly termed a tamalada ... the work will go a little faster if a little gossip is thrown in as the masa is spread on the corn leaf! Just image the bathtub, or a number three wash tub, filled with tepid water in which the separated com husks are soaking. Once those leaves become pliable, they are ready to be trimmed and then spread with the masa mixture followed by the prepared filling. The corn husk blanket will then be tenderly folded over and put aside to be frozen. Later those delicacies will be steamed and served for the eager guests to enjoy.

Now don't try to make tamales on your own unless you can differentiate between the right and the wrong side of the corn leaf. It does make a difference!

Even though I really enjoy a good tamale, my favorite of all the typical Mexican dishes is the empanada - similar to the fried pies my mother used to make. The Mexican version is not fried but baked - better for our health - even if the dough is prepared using lard. Favored fillings could be camote - sweet potato - or pineapple or even cajeta - a caramel tasting spread.

Although these dishes had their beginnings in Mexico and spread to Texas, these flavorful offerings can now be found all over the United States and beyond. People who grew up in this area, went away to school or to work, will always come home with a craving for a "Taste of the Valley" just as I have substituted the empanada for the fried pies my mother made. It's a taste of home!

McAllen Elks Lodge collecting food, toys and coats

It’s that time of year and McAllen Elks Lodge #1402 is holding a ‘Share the Love Food Drive’ and a toy drive. Their food drive ends on November 22.

For the food drive, they are collecting all non-perishable food items. The items will go to feed needy families in the community for Thanksgiving.

The organization’s toy and coat drive begins on November 22. They will collect items until December 20. They welcome any contributions.

You can drop off donations at the McAllen Elks Lodge, 3500 Jordan Ave. For more information, call (956) 686-3902.

McAllen Elks Lodge is a nonprofit organization whose main purpose is to invest in their communities through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, meet the needs of today’s veterans, and improve the quality of life. McAllen Elks Lodge #1402 started on December 28, 1920 and will celebrate their centennial next year. They have invested over $1.7 million in charity and scholarships in the area communities.

IMAS holds Winter Texan Workshop series

20191113 IMAS Milagros hoop art 1Develop new art skills and socialize with other Winter Texans. The International Museum of Art and Science (IMAS) introduces a series of four Winter Texan Workshops this December through March featuring Mexican Embroidery, Landscapes, Milagros Hoop Art, and Floral Painting.

These art workshops take place every third Saturday of the month, December through March, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Each workshop features a guided tour of a current fine art exhibit followed by a studio art-making activity and refreshments. All workshops are open to beginning and experienced artists.

On December 21, IMAS teaching artist Lisa Cortez will teach about the origin of beautiful Tenango embroidery, a distinctive Mexican fiber art form, and participants will create their own Tenango embroidery piece.

Explore the history of landscapes with a behind-the-scenes look at art works in the museum’s collection with IMAS teaching artist Roni Cortez. On January 18, 2020, she will lead this landscape painting workshop for participants at all levels – previous art experience is not required – and everyone will have the opportunity to paint with acrylics.

IMAS teaching artist Valerie Escamilla will lead the final two workshops. On February 15, 2020, she will present Milagros Hoop Art. Milagros are small metal charms commonly used in Mexican folk art. Participants will learn about this folk art and create a mixed-media work of art using milagros, felt, and embroidery.

The final workshop, Floral Painting, will take place on March 21, 2020, when participants will explore different watercolor techniques with various watercolor types and applications. A still-life bouquet of flowers will provide a starting-point composition after which participants will be encouraged to experiment painting their own spring floral design.

Visitors can also explore the IMAS fine art galleries including large-scale charcoal murals of Dialogues with Mother Earth, Highlights of the Permanent Collection, Mexican & Latin American Folk Art, and the upcoming Compulsory Measures.

Winter Texan Workshops are $10 per workshop and limited to 15 participants. All workshops include General Admission on the day of the workshop. IMAS Members receive a discount. All workshop supplies are provided.

The museum is located at the intersection of Bicentennial Way and Nolana Avenue at 1900 W. Nolana in McAllen. Log onto https://www.theimasonline.org or call (956) 681-2800 for more information.

MFD Hosts ‘Stop the Bleed’

20191113 Stop the Bleed 1Mission Fire Department is hosting another “Stop the Bleed,” training course. Stop the Bleed is a national awareness campaign and call-to-action. The program teaches bystanders how to assist in an emergency before help arrives. The course will be held on Saturday, November 16 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Central Station in Mission.

The program is intended to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage everyday citizens to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.

The purpose of the campaign is to better prepare the public to save lives. The program raises awareness of basic actions to stop life threatening bleeding following everyday emergencies and man-made and natural disasters.

The course is free to the public, but space is limited. If interested, please contact the Mission Fire Department at (956) 580-8705. The MFD Central Station is located at 415 W. Tom Landry Ave.

Cultural Storytelling held at Quinta Mazatlan

20191113 Quinta MTexas historian and premiere chronicler of Texas lore to present a cultural storytelling masterwork. On Thursday, November 14th at 6 p.m., Quinta Mazatlán will host Dr. W.F. Strong as guest speaker for Nights at the Mansion speaker series. He will discuss and share excerpts from his book “Stories from Texas.”

Dr. Strong writes, “If all goes as planned, you should find plenty of laughter here and maybe even a tear or two. There is humor and pathos, joy, wonder, and some melancholic longing for a Texas that once was but can never be again.”

“Stories from Texas” is a collection of 75 radio broadcasts celebrating his home state. In 2010, Dr. Strong first began sharing stories from Texas vignettes on NPR stations. He now has his own podcast, also titled, “Stories from Texas.” His distinct Texan tongue weaves stories from How to Talk Texan to Texas Bards and Troubadours; from Tall Texas Tales to Lone Star icons like Charles Goodnight, Tom Landry and Blue Bell ice cream; from legends and heroes of the past to some heartfelt memories of his own. Dr. Strong is a Professor of Communication and Culture and a Fulbright Scholar at The University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley. He also writes, occasionally, for Texas Highways Magazine.

Nights at the Mansion speaker series is free with park admission, and takes place every Thursday at 6pm through May 2020. Park admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and children 3 to 12 years of old. Children 2 years and under are free. Quinta Mazatlán is located at 600 Sunset Drive in McAllen, one block south of La Plaza Mall on 10th Street. For more information, contact Quinta Mazatlán at (956) 681-3370 visit quintamazatlan.com or facebook events page facebook.com/McAllenQuintaMazatlan

Free guided nature walks offered

20191113 Snake Eyes Photo by Anita WesterveltHarlingen’s Hugh Ramsey Nature Park boasts 250 some species of Rio Grande Valley native plants, shrubs, trees, cactus and the untold numbers of birds, butterflies and critters that use this native habitat.

Rio Grande Valley Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist volunteers maintain Ebony Loop’s specialty gardens, working as a team every Thursday morning from 9 to 11 a.m. Many Winter Texans and local residents work alongside the naturalists. Volunteers are always welcome.

In addition to the Thursday morning volunteer opportunity, Texas master naturalists offer free guided native plant tours on the first Friday and third Saturday each month through May 2020. There will be only one held in November, on the 16th. Next one will be held December 6, and continue as scheduled.

There’s always something blooming around Ebony Loop. Hear about a fun shrub called snake eyes and maybe catch a chachalaca feasting on the berries. Mexican caesalpinia, is showy into the winter with bright yellow flowers. Learn about native plants that attract butterflies and birds.

Runyon’s esenbeckia, the rarest tree in Texas, is showcased in a garden named for historic Brownsville botanist, Robert Runyon.

One of the mysteries of our native trees is that many of them bloom after rain. With the recent rains, it’s a good opportunity to see which trees and plants will be showing their colors.

Ebony Loop is an easy quarter mile level caliche trail. Wear sturdy shoes, bring water and bug spray for yourself if desired. Restrooms are located at the park entrance.

Hugh Ramsey Nature Park is at 1000 South 499, just two miles south of Harlingen’s Valley International Airport or just north of the Arroyo Colorado River Bridge on Ed Carey Dr.

Meet up with the guides in the parking lot where the two-hour tour begins at 9 a.m.

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