MCALLEN — Adriana Mata’s 2-year-old son learned how to milk a cow at the 5th Annual Palmfest International Folklife Celebration Sunday.
The two-day event, held at the McAllen Convention Center this weekend, was put together by the non-profit Palmfest Inc., in cooperation with the city of McAllen, to celebrate the culture and the diversity of the region, said Elva Cerda, the organization’s chairwoman.
The event drew more than 23,000 people on Saturday, she said, despite the fact that it overlapped with HESTEC — a week-long event that promotes engineering, science and technology fields at the University of Texas – Pan American. She expected to see at least 20,000 people on Sunday.
“It didn’t affect us at all because theirs is a wonderful educational event and ours is all about family and folk life,” she said. “So they did great and we did spectacular, as well.”
Palmfest featured hundreds of different attractions for the entire family, including car shows, art exhibits, a fajita cook-off, vendors, food booths, carnival rides, folkloric dance performances, bands, dancing horses and mule rides.
“He’s having so much fun he doesn’t want to leave,” his mother said. “They taught him how milk is made and he’s so excited.”
Abel Villegas, 34, drove from San Benito to bring his wife and two children to the festival.
“I’m here for the car show,” he said.
This was the family’s first time at the event.
“It looks like it’s going to be fun out there,” his wife, Adriana, said.” There are a lot of things to do.”
David Guzman, president of South Texas Mopars Club, organized the two car shows.
“We wanted to keep the theme with the classic cars, but also show the evolution,” he said about the indoor exhibit that featured classic models and their newer versions. “As kids we played with cars and that never died in us. It’s just the cars are bigger now and so are we.”
One of the 71 cars displayed inside of the convention had been worked on for 20 years by its owner, he said, and a yellow 1971 Charger RT was one of only five ever made.
“That color was a special order,” Guzman said. “There’re millions of dollars sitting here.”
Hector Vargas, who worked as a McAllen firefighter for almost 34 years, was displaying his antique pioneer collection.
“Most of the younger kids don’t know about the suffering people went through when they traveled,” he said about the early settlers of the area. “So the display will show them that.”
Vargas began collecting antiques after he retired from the fire department, he said.
“This is my first little wagon,” he said pointing to a horse-drawn carriage that was made in 1880. “It still has the autograph of the person who made it.”
Vargas purchased the wagon 15 years ago for $1,500 in Kentucky.
“It’s inspiring and a lot of work, but I have fun doing it,” he said.
Artisans Rafael Ortega and Gloria Garcia travelled 16 hours from the small Mexican town of San Juan Teotihuacan to sell their artwork, which included Aztec figurines and necklaces.
“This is the second year we do this,” Ortega said in Spanish, “but the failing economy is hurting our sales.”
Garcia said the drive was not only long, but dangerous, too.
“We stopped for breakfast in Monterrey and they told us that the vehicle we’re traveling has been targeted by the cartels,” she said, also in Spanish. “But what can we do? We have to work and find a way to move forward honestly.”
Texas Secretary of State Esperanza “Hope” Andrade was also at Palmfest urging South Texas residents to register to vote before Monday’s deadline. The 2010 VOTEXAS Road Tour is partnering up with local election officials throughout the state to inform Texans about the “when, where and how” of voting to make sure lack of information is never a reason to not cast a vote, she said.
Naxiely Lopez covers PSJA and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at (956) 683-4434.