The initial vision of the McAllen Holiday Parade sounded rather modest to McAllen Mayor Jim Darling.
Growing up in Rochester, NY, Darling dreamed of going to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He never made it to the big parade in New York City, saying his parents couldn’t afford to make the trip.
The City of McAllen decided six years ago that it would launch a Christmas parade. The mayor then thought back to his youth. A holiday parade would be nice and the first thoughts for one were fairly modest.
“Then we thought, what if we go big?” Darling said. “What if we brought something like Macy’s (parade) to McAllen and the (Rio Grande) Valley?”
McAllen has gone big. The spectacle of the 2019 McAllen Holiday Parade will make its way down Bicentennial Boulevard the evening of Dec. 7. With its 55 illuminated floats, 39 inflatable character balloons and 14 bands, it will be something reminiscent of the Macy’s Parade. McAllen bills its holiday parade as “the largest illuminated holiday and helium balloon parade in Texas.”
The McAllen parade with its “South Pole Of Texas” theme has become a signature event. As the city’s director of communications calls it, it is a project “with many different moving parts.”
It takes a city
Xochitl Mora, the director, ticks off all the departments involved in the parade’s preparation. Parks and recreation employees build the floats and put up the bleachers that line Bicentennial. Police and fire departments provide the security, direct traffic and also work to keep upward of 250,000 onlookers safe.
Additionally, there are extensive marketing and press conferences leading up to the event and sponsors to secure to help defray the costs. The headliner sponsor is H-E-B, but many others are involved, including Bert Ogden Dealerships, Budweiser, AEP Texas, IBC Bank and the Pena Eye Institute.
“This is something we’re working on all year,” Mora said. “We gear up in earnest the last six months leading up to the event.”
The commitment of the city’s employees to the holiday parade is something Darling marvels at in seeing how they work to plan and prepare the event.
“What they do for this event they do on top of all of their other regular job duties,” the mayor said. “You’ve got to love this sort of thing because of all of the work it takes to get ready for it in making it happen.”
Viewing the McAllen Holiday Parade
The Dec. 7 parade will start at 6 p.m. at the McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium. It will make its way down Bicentennial to Business 83. Tens of thousands will view it all from their stadium seats and along the bleachers on Bicentennial. For all of its grandeur, the greatest joy of it for Darling is seeing the enjoyment it brings children.
“That’s the best part, just seeing the looks on their faces,” the mayor said of the children. “We think it’s the best parade of its kind and we’re really proud to be bringing it to our city and to the Valley.”