MERCEDES — Gusts of wind blew through Mercedes on Saturday morning, whipping napkins and candy wrappers out of the hands of thousands of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show Parade attendees. Bob Jardine, who took part in the parade for the first time, made one observation: despite the weather, cowboy hats stayed on firmly.
“There is nothing like this where I am from, so all of it is just so unique and interesting,” said Jardine, who moved from Ontario, Canada to Mercedes last December. “What I am thinking about is how awesome it is that they keep their hats on.”
He pointed at the five horse-riders of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Posse who were leading the parade down Texas Avenue. Starting at the corner of Sixth Street, western-decorated floats, tractors and horses of varying colors and patterns strutted down the road, towards the entrance of the Payne Auto Group Rodeo Arena, where the 80th annual Livestock Show and Rodeo is taking place.
Celebrating its 33rd year, the parade commenced the start of the 11-day-long livestock show. The last day of festivities is Sunday, March 17.
Kriste Jackson was one of the riders representing the sheriff’s posse and said that the parade reminds her of the pride she has of her western upbringing.
“I was raised around agriculture, so this event is special to me and my family,” said Jackson, whose sons, Hunter and Avery were leading the parade on horseback beside her. “We have a strong western heritage and grew up around good morals and ethics, and the event carries that on.”
Jackson has been a member of the posse, located in Edinburg, since 1973 and it was her first time taking part in the parade.
Thousands of attendees sang along to country music while floats that adorned western details added to the old-country theme — the wheels of trucks were covered with big spinning sunflowers, horse-riders were throwing lassos in the air and the Mission Texas Citrus Fiesta royal court waved while sitting on crates and hay, with a huge shimmering grapefruit behind them.
However, most of the line of entertainment consisted of horse-riders.
Among them were trail riders of Tip-O-Tex, the oldest trail riding nonprofit that is celebrating its 59th anniversary this year. The group traveled from Port Isabel to Mercedes in time to take part in the parade.
Five-year-old Jario Castro said that seeing the horses gallop and walk was his favorite part.
“I like the riders of the horses,” said Castro, who watched his older brother take part in the parade, playing the flute with the John F. Kennedy Elementary marching band. Jairo guessed that 100 horses were at the parade.
Eight-year-old Megan Engel had a different estimate. She guessed that 10 to 20 horses were there.
Engel, who donned a pink cowboy hat, said that her favorite part of the event was the music and tricks that horses were doing, referring to the few that were skipping and walking sideways along the trail.
Jairo’s mother, Amber Sierra, 26, said that she enjoys the parade and livestock show because it brings together the community and keeps the culture of Mercedes alive.
“I think that this parade and the show is great because it sets us apart from other places. It keeps the tradition going, and I know we have a small town so it makes me glad that there are so many people who come here to see this.”