LA JOYA — The cool air was filled with excited chatter as float committee members gathered around the 35-foot flatbed trailer that was going to be used for La Joya Independent School District’s first float to be displayed at the Texas Citrus Fiesta Parade of Oranges on Jan. 28.
For most of the committee members, this was the first time they had seen the trailer.
Irma Neti said it was very exciting to see what they have to work with.
“Our vision is coming together,” she said.
Final decisions on plans for the float were made this Tuesday and the committee members are ready to get started on putting all of their ideas together. While looking at the bare trailer, their excitement showed as they talked about what items were going to go where on the float.
Neti said they would be recognizing their students and the district’s success with this float. Top students from each school will ride on the float with the board president and his children.
Norma Linda Garza said it was nice seeing some results.
“We’re going all out,” she said about their plans. “We’re very proud of our district.”
Perri Ann Huntley, library coordinator, said the float would be used to promote literacy in the community, a theme for the district next month that will continue throughout the rest of the year. The art departments, folklorico dancers and others will be participating in and helping decorate the float, said Huntley.
Belinda Garza, with the district’s office of public information, said their committee members are from various departments in the district; they volunteer for all sorts of projects and get the job done.
The “cabinet maker” as he calls himself, David Ochoa, is designing and building most of the items that will be made from wood. His big book was a hit when everyone saw it Wednesday morning. Ochoa was very humble when the ladies told him how much they loved what he had done so far.
Dr. Alda Benavides, superintendent of LJISD, said the district has experienced a lot of success in recent years and the float was a way to highlight their success.
“I am hoping it will start a tradition, a positive tradition,” said Benavides.
Arnold Ochoa, LJISD board president, said that it’s a good way to show the surrounding communities the unity of their district and to promote that at the parade.
“It’s our chance to let the people know…to see that we’re moving forward,” said Ochoa. “We have a vision. This participation at the Mission parade shows our gratitude.”
Mission Bell – over 25 years of parade participation
The ladies from the float committee at Mission Bell/Tradewinds RV Park in Mission surrounded a table during a break from preparing a meal for a float fundraiser to talk about their float. They sat in the entry area of the ballroom where pictures of 25 years of participation lined one wall.
They talked about how they research their project before designing their float.
Last year, with railroads as the theme of the parade, the group researched how the railroads brought people to the Rio Grande Valley to develop the agriculture business. One person found an advertisement from up north promoting the Valley and used that image to create one of their own for the back of their float.
“It became personalized,” said Nancy Erickson about last year’s float.
Marilyn Causey said they try to put meaning behind what they do on the float. So this year will include researching the Valley’s history, she said.
This year the committee is looking at combining the Mardi Gras theme with a birthday theme with lots of colors, paper maché and local fruit and produce.
The ladies said they have six regular committee members, but when work starts on the float, they can have up to 40 people working on it.
Some of the ladies admit to working on float ideas all year long when shopping and at their summer homes. If we see something that might work, we buy it, said Erickson, chairperson of the committee.
They also said, because of tight budgets last year, they got pretty good at dumpster diving and recycling items. Erickson said reusing items brings out their creativity.
This year they have been able to hold a fundraiser to specifically fund the float.
Erickson said they have started the actual work a little late, but they work well under stress.
The group learns to compromise on ideas providing feedback and determining what will work and what won’t, said members. Problem solving, that’s the whole key, Erickson added.
“I’m only as good as they are,” said Erickson.
Edna Carlson said that participating on the committee has brought the two parks that used to be separate together, building friendships among the group.
“We’ve been blessed,” explained Erickson. “It’s been fun.”
Most members said they had never done anything like a float until recently. Some of the ladies had only been on the committee a couple of years. One lady said she had not worked on a float since high school.
Carlson said they enjoy the whole process of it because the end result is unbelievable.
Causey said the biggest thing is praying for good weather because they do not have an area to store the float if it rains.
Erickson said she often asks if this is worth it, the stress, the trouble, and all that is involved.
The ladies, and other volunteers, can spend eight-to-10 hours on the float each day for over a week. They said the last few days before the parade, they could be working on it for over 12 hours a day, especially when they start putting on the fruit a day before the event.
With Patty Halkola and Gert Van Tine as the main artists and another as the paper maché specialist, all of their ideas come together to create one big masterpiece that they will all be proud of in the end.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.