After more than four decades as part of the Texas Citrus Fiesta’s annual Parade of Oranges, Ben Cavazos was finally able to do the one thing he hadn’t been able to in years: sit back and enjoy the parade.
The 89-year-old owner of the local business MAE Power Equipment had been serving as the parade’s unofficial announcer for more than 40 years and last Saturday was his first year enjoying the parade as a simple spectator.
“I only did it because no one else was doing it. I’m a civic minded person, been living here for 65 years and felt someone needed to do this,” Cavazos said. “Now I get to sit back and watch it. I’ve always announced who was who at the parade on the corner of Conway Avenue and Business 83 across from the bank and this year the TCF let me know they now have an official announcer in that area and I didn’t have to do it. It feels odd to not have something to do with the parade as it is usually one of my busiest days but now I’m here.”
Cavazos was one of hundreds of people who lined up along South Conway Avenue to witness the 83rd annual Parade of Oranges Saturday, Jan. 25. The parade is the conclusion of the Texas Citrus Fiesta which honors the Rio Grande Valley’s start as a powerhouse of the citrus industry and features multiple floats from businesses.
“It’s our community and we’re here to support it,” Nellie Ibarra, a spectator at the parade said.
Ibarra, a risk manager at Mission Regional Medical Center, had lined up along with her daughter along the parade route since 9 a.m. to ensure they’d have a view of the parade and of the medical center’s float.
We’re not going to miss out on this parade after 31 years of attending it,” Ibarra said.
With this year’s theme of “Space Odyssey Adventure,” multiple floats were decorated in an outer space theme and the Star Wars themed-volunteer organization 501st Legion were included in the parade-dressed as Star Wars characters.
“The parade has always been a big deal for nearly a century and it’s so sought after even if the citrus industry isn’t as big as it used to be,” Cavazos reflected. “It’s an event we devote all of our time to educating the community on the citrus industry all the way to crowning our new Queen Citrianna.”
The grand marshal for the parade was John da Graca, the executive director for the Weslaco-based Texas A&M University Kingsville Citrus Center. According to TCF Director Lisa Rivera, de Graca’s appointment was to connect spectators to the citrus industry.
“He’s a local citrus grower so he’s part of our history and culture which is what we want to promote,” Rivera said.
Also new this year to the parade was the inclusion of the Texas A&M University’s Parsons Mounted Cavalry, a special unit in the Corps of Cadets and is the only collegiate mounted cavalry unit in the nation. Their trip to the Citrus Fiesta Parade marks the first time that any group from Texas A&M has participated in the parade or any Citrus Fiesta events.
“Our goal is to start having special guests to keep the TCF new and refreshed and do a lot of upbringing to bring it to life,” Rivera said. “We represent the entire Valley and reach out to people all the way in Brownsville to participate and we got people from Texas A&M to participate this year. The more people we reach out to, the more participation we’ll get. It’s just gonna keep growing.”