Everything to Do

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Nothing to do in the Rio Grande Valley? Not true, many stakeholders say — especially those invested in helping develop a Valleywide events calendar through regional tourism and travel website Explore RGV.

“I think that it’s a really neat initiative,” said Barbara Garza, president and CEO of the Weslaco Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center. “It was created through the support of all of our cities and communities in the Rio Grande Valley in an effort to really provide a resource to the community to get more involved and find out about all the great things that are happening.”

Explore RGV was launched at the end of 2018 as a website and smartphone app designed to consolidate and promote the region’s hundreds of gems into a mappable collective. Since then, it has continued to refine its look and add to its collection while bringing in city leaders to help shape Explore RGV into the most useful tool possible to showcase everything there is to do in the RGV.

Many early stakeholders pointed out that the region lacked an events calendar that spanned all four counties and the dozens of cities that make up the Rio Grande Valley. These events play just as large a role as physical points of interest in highlighting just what this region is about to both locals and travelers to the RGV.

“The one thing that everybody said that they needed to do was kind of have a clearing house for events,” said Ed Caum, director of South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. Caum is one of several officials on a regional events calendar committee for Explore RGV. “It will be vetted so people will know that the information on it is correct. If something gets canceled due to the weather, they’ll be able to go there and see that event was canceled.”

The vetting process will help ensure that events included on the calendar appeal to a wide range of people.

“We want to put up events that are open to the full community that they can just stop by and be a part of,” Garza said. “Having a resource where you can look at and say, ‘oh, this is a free event for families, let’s go,’ versus trying to figure out, ‘what city am I going to go to, where is this going to be’ — this is one regional calendar where you can see events from the entire Rio Grande Valley in a way for those individuals to be able to go to one central spot. I think that’s super exciting.”

In terms of logistics, stakeholder cities will have an individual who vets individual events from the community before submitting them for inclusion in Explore RGV’s calendar. The regional calendar committee members and other officials will have the final say in what constitutes a good candidate for a community event.

“Our goal is something that’s user friendly,” Garza said. “The community here has really come together to develop a resource that is going to be usable for everybody.”

The sense of a one-stop shopping point for all of the richly different events that speak of the culture heritage and value of the RGV was attractive to many stakeholders.

“If someone’s visiting the Rio Grande Valley, the event calendar is the perfect place to find out all of the hottest happenings and marquee events going on in the entire Rio Grande Valley, said Robert Lopez, vice president and director of Visit McAllen, a division of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. “I think what makes the Valley special is each community has its own character. We’re all one, and we’re all united, and we’re all together, but each one has its unique character — its unique signature event that really tells the story of the city.

“Having an event calendar like Explore RGV’s event calendar is the best place to spot those events and plan your trip around those.”

The calendar pulls double duty as a way to help visitors plan on spending time in the region — and an organized method for RGV residents to be tourists in their own communities.

“Exploring those other parts of the Rio Grande Valley that you may have never visited because maybe you didn’t have a reason,” Lopez said of the value of the regional events calendar to locals. “Finding an event and planning your weekend around something that’s happening in another city that you maybe have never visited before and discovering something new that’s right in your backyard that you didn’t know existed.

“I think that for so long people have always thought there’s nothing to do in the Valley, but there’s a lot to do all the time. It’s just a matter of being able to have a resource to find those events when they’re happening and where they’re happening and having a central place to refer to.”

That includes encouraging travelers to visit the region because of the wealth of special events, like the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show or the annual McAllen Holiday Parade.

“If I’m a local and I have somebody coming in from out of town, offering them a unique experience that really tells a lot about our culture here is a memory that will last forever,” Lopez said. “If we can do that and we can affect people by creating wonderful memories, we’ve made a step in the right direction.”

Even if the COVID-19 pandemic has scuttled some events and rescheduled others, Caum foresees a boom in travel once more people become more comfortable.

“What we’re going to find, I think, as we recover from the pandemic is people are going to travel as families,” he said. “They’re going to want to do multiple things when they reach a destination, so this would give them the opportunity to plan a weekend, a week, or even longer if they wanted to and have different events that they can attend.”

Interested in checking out the regional events calendar? Visit ExploreRGV.com/events-calendar for more information.

What is your favorite RGV event? #JoinTheConversation at facebook.com/rgvisionmagazine.