Art, Culture and Special Events Abound in South Texas
Michelangelo, arguably one of the greatest artists of all time, once said, "…a beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it."
From fine-art exhibitions to installations featuring local artists, there are opportunities to explore art in communities throughout Deep South Texas. But one community leads the way in encouraging art appreciation in a unique setting. The McAllen Art Walk – held from 6-10 p.m. the first Friday of the month from September to May – is just one of many outdoor, evening activities available to residents and visitors alike.
“Part of its charm is that it’s held in old-world McAllen and everything is close,” said Becky Guerra, owner of Nuevo Santander Gallery and one of the founders of Art Walk. “We do these to increase the exposure of what is available in the art world here in McAllen. What is most gratifying is when teachers bring their students.”
Notable for throngs of art lovers and dozens of participating galleries, the popularity of
the McAllen's Art Walk competes with the finest events of its kind. Thousands gather in downtown McAllen to see what's new at local galleries, mingle with artists, shop for art, crafts or jewelry and enjoy outdoor concerts and street performers. Art Walk is a free, safe, family friendly event that is held along Main Street, from Archer Park to Pecan Street.
Art is not the only opportunity to enjoy an evening under the stars in Deep South Texas. The mild climate allows for outdoor events year-round. From Blues on the Hill in Harlingen to Border Fest in Hidalgo, there is something for everyone.
Benjamin Franklin said wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. Today, wine lovers find an outstanding selection to savor along with gourmet food at The Santa Fe Wine Classic. Held annually in October at the historic and beautiful Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, the Santa Fe Wine Classic is a top-notch outdoor wine event that features hundreds of wines from around the world. Benefiting a scholarship fund for college-bound high school students, the Santa Fe Wine Classic also features food from the region's most respected restaurants in a noteworthy evening of fine food and drink. Further information is available at www.santafewineclassic.com or (956) 630-2331.
Harlingen's Blues on the Hill features top blues performers from around the country. It's held once a month in May, August and October at Harlingen's McKelvey Park (1325 S. 77 Sunshine Strip). This free music festival, usually held on a Saturday evening, takes place at the base of a grassy hill, so bring lawn chairs and blankets. Bring a picnic or purchase food and beverages on site. Past performers include Preston Shannon a.k.a. “The King of Beale Street,” Baby Atlas and dozens of other solid blues acts. Visit www.bluesonthehillharlingen.com for schedules and updates, and also tune into public radio 88.1 (upper Valley) and 88.9 (lower Valley).
The Valley is home to world-class festivals. Charro Days is the region's oldest event. Spanning two weeks of parades, concerts, dances and more each February, Charro Days is a bi-national festival that celebrates cultural ties between Brownsville and Matamoros. Make sure to check out the Grito contest, pitting men and women in a challenge to determine whose vocal chords are most worthy of the prize. Also look for the jalapeno-eating contest, a culinary challenge, and stick around for the evening outdoor dances celebrating regional and popular live music. Visit www.charrodaysfiesta.com for details or call (956) 542-4245.
McAllen's Palm Fest is a newcomer to the outdoor festival scene, but it's partnered with another festival with deep historic roots: the original Fajita Cookoff. Together, these two attractions have built the most attended festival the region has to offer, attracting some 40,000 people for the two-day event held in October. In addition to the cooking contest, this festival is filled with music, children's attractions and much more. Visit www.palmfest.com or call (956) 682-5566 for details.
The Texas Cook 'Em is Edinburg's monster cook-off that brings competitors from around the country to vie for thousands of dollars in prize money in rib, brisket, chicken and other barbecue categories. Held on the 4th of July weekend, the Texas Cook 'Em is a true celebration, also bringing well-known pop and Tejano musicians to perform and ending the evening with a fireworks display. More information is available online at www.edinburg.com/cookem.html.
Speaking of fireworks, South Padre Island hosts a fireworks display on the bay-side every Friday night at 9:15 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. So, find a seat at your favorite outdoor party deck, a spot on your boat or park along roadsides and parking lots in the family vehicle and take in this free event that lights up the Island's night sky.
Celebrate New Year's Eve outdoors in downtown McAllen without fear of freezing! The city's New Year’s Eve extravaganza on the popular 17th Street entertainment district features an outdoor concert, confetti, midnight cannons, a laser light show and a giant ball dropping down as revelers count down the New Year. Learn more at www.exploremcallen.com.
Perhaps the most culturally relevant festival the RGV has to offer is San Benito's Narciso Martinez Conjunto Festival, celebrating a musical style that historians say was born in San Benito itself. A bajo sexto, acoustic guitar and accordion is all a conjunto requires, though most bands also feature percussion instruments. Born by groundbreakers like Narciso Martinez and Valerio Longoria, conjunto lives on in the sounds of classic acts like Mingo Saldivar, Eva Ybarra and more. It's a special event held in October with a modest entry fee. Details are available online at www.cityofsanbenito.com.
Add Hidalgo's Border Fest and smaller, quaint evening street festivals like Edinburg's Jardin Del Arte and Alfresco Weslaco, Summer Arts Phestival in downtown Pharr or the Texas Citrus Fiesta in Mission and you're left with a full schedule of outdoor events in the Rio Grande Valley. Contact the RGV Partnership or any Chamber of Commerce for details on events held in each city.