Two-day Fiesta de Palmas to celebrate Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East

The McAllen Convention Center will be divided into four sections this weekend: Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

These four regions are the theme of the 14th annual Fiesta De Palmas celebration, which was formerly known as PalmFest. Presented by the City of McAllen and The Mexican Consulate, festivities of the highly anticipated event will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Convention Center, located on 700 Convention Center Blvd.

Featuring entertainment from around the world, the mission of Fiesta De Palmas is to celebrate the diversity of Rio Grande Valley and educate attendees about what makes each of the four cultures unique. Admission fee is $5, and free for anyone under 12 years old.

Stephanie Ramirez, the City of McAllen special events supervisor, said that the event aims to bring families and people of all ages together for a weekend of entertainment.

“We want to conduct a big fiesta of culture here,” she said. “We teamed up with many community partners; there will be students of Asian studies doing calligraphy art, different international foods to eat throughout the park, and live entertainment all day, both days.”

Kicking off the two-day event on Saturday is DJ Mark on the Budlight Stage, and a folklorico dance performance by Las Palmas on the World Stage, both scheduled for 11 a.m. There will be a total of six stages at Fiesta De Palmas. A Lion Dance will be performed at 1 p.m. Saturday, which will honor Asian cultures. UTRGV Ballet Espanol will perform at 7 p.m.

Local and out-of-town artists are also going to take stage, including Matthew Maciel at 12:45 p.m., Ram Danesse at 3:15 p.m, Raulito Navaria at 6 p.m., and Red Velvet at 9 p.m.

But what Ramirez is looking forward to the most, she said, is the Selena Tribute which is set for 9:30 p.m. Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday.

“It will be one of the biggest Selena tributes in the nation,” Ramirez said. “The girl who will be impersonating her actually looks like her and sings like her, it’s going to be really cool.”

Attendees will also be able to shop at an Artisan Market that will feature more than 50 vendors selling a variety of handcrafted work.

New to this year’s abundance of entertainment is a laser show dubbed Southern Lights: Laser Extravaganza, which will start at 9 p.m. both nights.

In addition to entertainment through music and dance, another goal of the Fiesta De Palmas is to teach attendees how to be more involved with the world around them — and that means being more educated about the environment.

ECO-RIO, the largest environmental education festival according to the City of McAllen, will be part of Fiesta De Palmas. Open from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, ECO-RIO works to strengthen students’ STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) skills while pushing them to be environmental leaders.

More than 40 educational booths will be featured, and children will have the opportunity to see live animal ambassadors up close. The animals live permanently at rehabilitation centers, usually due to impaired physical conditions.

The largest traveling dinosaur exhibit in the country, which will bring more than 150 museum pieces, will be on display at the center’s ballroom.

“It’s the largest gathering of environmental education nature centers in the Valley coming together under one roof, which is pretty incredible,” said Colleen Hook, director of Quinta Mazatlán.

Many different educational entertainers will be on hand, including Sky King Falconry, Contacto Animal, Phil’s Petting Zoo, Sea Turtle, Inc., and Live Reptiles with Danny Connor.

Hook added that the purpose of ECO-RIO is to get community members more engaged with the environment through entertainment, and encourage them to be active conservationist.

“If you have fun doing it, it is going to become a hobby, and it leads you to your next conservation stewardship step,” Hook said. “It is connecting our natural and cultural history, because you can’t have one without the other, and it would be sad to have one without the other.”