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Chisholm Trail Festival in Donna

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Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 10:49 am

DONNA — Leaders here are ready to claim their place in history, recognizing an area they believe was a wintering spot for cattle wranglers in the 1800s. 

"Donna needed an annual event," said Fernando Flores, planning director and head of the organizing committee. "It'll help us remember the past and continue to move forward."

Saturday's Chisholm Trail festival in Donna is the first of its kind in the area, and organizers hope it'll only get better.

About a dozen volunteers gathered at a noon meeting last week to go over final details for the celebration.

"We will be the first ones to have this festival in the Valley," said Dahlia Jimenez, a retired teacher who served on the Donna Hooks Fletcher Historical Museum for three years.

She added said she wanted to make area residents proud, and that's why she's volunteering for the event. Jimenez was optimistic it would be a success.

"I was born and raised in this community. Sometimes we get a lot of bad press, but the majority of our people are good people," Jimenez said.

The event will kick off with a trail ride and parade at 10 a.m down Fordyce Avenue and ending at the Donna Square City Park. Two antique John Deere tractors will be on display; entertainment is planned throughout the day and activities for children are planned. Admittance is free.

Earl Scott, the head coach when Donna won the state football championship in 1961, will be the grand marshall of the parade.

There also will be a pan de campo and chili cook-off and an art contest. The awards ceremony is set for 5 p.m.

The festival is an off-shoot of the restoration of Donna Square City Park in downtown. Last year, city officials unveiled a historical marker honoring Col. Pete Preston Ackley, who lived from 1858 to 1940. Ackley was a Winter Texan from Donna who fathered the Chisholm Trail, according to the marker.

Flores already is planning to make next year's celebration bigger and better, speculating there may be a Miss Chisholm Trail competition and other additions.

"It's just a start," he said. "We'll continue building on the park we have here."

Historians have disputed whether the city truly was on the route, which primarily stretches from San Antonio northward, with legs to Laredo and Brownsville, but the Donna city administration and community leaders said the Chisholm Trail is part of the city's rich history.

"One of the wintering points was in Donna, and it's high time the city of Donna took its place in history," City Manager Oscar Ramirez recently told the City Council. "That is the start of the highway system in Texas."

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