FRIO! McAllen attracting tens of thousands to inaugural wintery festivities

Criselda De Hoyos of Pharr helps her children Joceleen, 7, and Josiah, 2, build a snowman Friday at FRIO! McAllen. Francisco E. Jimenez | The Monitor

Just because Christmas 2019 has come and gone does not mean that the holiday festivities have come to a close in McAllen.

FRIO! McAllen is continuing the holiday festivities with lights, music, food and snow at the McAllen Convention Center.

“It’s been great,” McAllen Convention Center Director Yajaira Flores said of how well the inaugural event has been received. “We have two different components of the event. We have the indoor and outdoor components.”

Dubbed “The South Pole of Texas,” FRIO! McAllen has been open since Nov. 27 and will run until Jan. 6. Flores said that the event received thousands of people on the weekends, and hundreds during the week.

“The first week we had outdoors about 75,000 people, which was Thanksgiving weekend,” Flores said. “It’s fluctuated throughout the days. We’re trying to monitor and process how many people are coming to the facilities.”

The event offers an abundance of family friendly activities including food vendors, a light show, live music, illuminated figures and a fireworks show.

The indoor component offers opportunities for families to make gingerbread houses, an ice skating rink, and the chance to build a snowman with real snow.

“It’s absolutely incredible indoors,” Flores said. “The average temperature is 59 degrees, so bring a light jacket. There’s a nice hill that you get to tube down. It’s called the Pingüino Plunge. It’s very impressive. You can go ice skating. You can build your own snowman. You can make a gingerbread house. You can toss snowballs as well.”

Ayden Gonzalez of Edinburg, who was celebrating his 8th birthday, waits to ride Rodolfo the Buckin’ Burro on Friday at FRIO! McAllen. Francisco E. Jimenez | The Monitor

Flores explained that the producers of FRIO! McAllen have produced other events throughout the United States. She said that the event was an original concept for the Rio Grande Valley.

“We decided to build this concept around our community. That’s why it’s called FRIO!…,” Flores said. “The mascot is Rodolfo the Buckin’ Burro. We have a mechanical donkey that has a fake nose. He wants to lead Santa’s sleigh, which is pretty cool.”

Leticia Garcia of Mission said that she enjoyed the event, but she would like to see more activities for older children, particularly a larger ice skating rink to accommodate the large crowds.

“I’d just like to see more things, especially the ice skating,” Garcia said. “That’s the main thing that we came for. Just a bigger skating rink.”

Dana Karl of Weslaco said that the event was an opportunity for him and his family to spend time together.

“I heard that this was an exciting event to bring the kids out to. It’s fun to bring the kids out here and let them enjoy this setup,” Karl said. “It’s amazing. I like the way it’s setup. It’s very friendly for the kids. So far, so good. I’ll definitely come again.”

“I think people that have come to the event are absolutely blown away. It’s a lot of fun,” Flores added. “It’s really something neat to do for the holiday season. It gives families an opportunity to hang out and do something different. It brings the cold and real snow to the Rio Grande Valley, so that’s amazing.”

Most of the events don’t start until 6 p.m. and run until 11 p.m., but the outdoor area is open throughout most of the day.