Downtown event prompts Weslaco businesses to extend hours

BY MARIA VILLANUEVA

The attendance of nearly 1,000 people at Weslaco’s Alfresco Downtown Street Festival has prompted local vendors and businesses downtown, where the seasonal event is held monthly, to extend their hours.

Nearly 40 businesses will be staying open after their usual hours to take advantage of the large crowds the event is expected to bring in. No specific numbers were recorded as to how many people attended last month.

“From looking at the pictures I took and walking through the streets that evening, I can confirm that I have never seen so many people there before,” said Steven Valdez, director of the Weslaco Economic Development Corporation.

Alfresco provides entertainment from local artists and the city’s high school students, as well as an atmosphere not unlike market days, thanks in large part to the many vendors who participate.

Businesses making the decision to extend their hours on the evenings of the Alfresco, which is held every third Thursday of the month, may benefit from walk-in traffic, which according to a Weslaco EDC press release is essential to establishments located in downtown Weslaco.

Marie McDermott, executive director for the EDC, sees this event as a way of drawing people who normally wouldn’t shop in the downtown area to explore their curiosity, expanding their knowledge of the business community.

“ Downtown business owners sometimes have exceptional challenges,” EDC board member Diana Fuentes Aguilar said in a press release. “They can be a little off the beaten path and away from high traffic thoroughfares, but you can also find rare, specialty and unique items that you won’t find in the strip malls.”

Over the last two years, Valdez and McDermott have seen the event’s attendance swell to 800 to 1,200 — momentum carrying over from last year’s events, which included more than 80 vendors lining the city’s Texas Boulevard.

The hope is to get many more businesses to participate and continue drawing more attendees, according to Lillie Delgado, manager for the EDC.

“I had never seen that many people outside my storefront window,” store owner Sandy O. Peña said in the release. “And when they started coming in my store, many were from other parts of the Valley.”

Valdez also attributed the event’s rise in attendance to various methods of advertising, including print, social media and word of mouth.

The next Alfresco is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 19.