Two traditional events that generate over $25,000 in revenue for the Texas Citrus Fiesta have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city of Mission held a special called meeting this Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 to discuss Texas Citrus Fiesta events as they relate to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. City council and city leadership, along with members of the Texas Citrus Fiesta staff and board, met at the council chambers and via Zoom to discuss the annual Fun Fair, carnival, Royal Reception (Jan. 23, 2021), TCF Coronation (Jan. 28, 2021) and Parade of Oranges (Jan. 30, 2021).
TCF Board President Oscar Martinez asked, with all due respect, why they were having this meeting if the city council had already approved the festivities. City Manager Randy Perez and Emergency Management Coordinator James Cardoza said that the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have changed and become more severe in the city of Mission.
“The state of Texas and our area has increased in COVID cases,” Cardoza said. “We are at about 32 percent for hospitalizations, the state of Texas has put a cap from 75 percent [occupancy] to 50 percent. We are averaging 500 to 600 COVID cases per day [in Hidalgo County] and we have somewhere from five to nine COVID deaths per day.”
Perez expanded on Cardoza’s information, stating about 100 of 500 daily cases are from Mission.
“We are keeping track on a daily basis for our city,” Perez said. “Just to give you perspective, here in Mission we’ve had an increase in COVID cases and deaths. Up until today, the total reported cases overall since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, we’ve had 10,230 cases. Currently, the active cases within the city limits are 1,372. We have had 156 deaths here in the city, and as James mentioned we have seen that increase in our local hospitals.”
Martinez said the TCF board is ensuring every event is safely executed, and people can make the decision to participate if they choose.
“We are not rejecting or saying anything about those numbers – I work in healthcare, I know what’s going on,” Martinez said. “We’re going to do our due diligence to make sure it’s safe, and be very cautious with how we go about that.”
Martinez asked Bill Dillard, the Edinburg owner of the Bill Dillard Carnival, to speak on the safety protocols to be followed when they are open. Dillard said they are limiting the number of rides, concession stands and food states, and there would be ample hand sanitizing stations, the carnival would be fenced in, masks would be required (and if someone arrives without a mask, they will be given a mask), temperatures would be checked upon entry, they would spot clean the equipment and rides, there would be one entrance and one exit and they would count attendees by the tickets sold.
Martinez also said that other establishments in Mission and surrounding areas, like the 5×5 Brewing Co., Mission Food Park, car shows, the Mission Chamber of Commerce events and local bars and grills continue to have weekly gatherings and events without meetings like this.
“There’s a lot of venues in Mission that are still going on – and you know what, I’m all for that, and if I choose to go to those events it’s going to be up to me,” Martinez said. “As long as we all follow and adhere with that [CDC Guidelines], I think we’re going to be in good shape.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Jessica Ortega and council member Ruben Plata expressed their concern over allowing these events to continue considering the state of the pandemic. Plata stated he did not want to risk the lives of Mission residents for events that are not a necessity.
“Our public safety staff and city staff have to work on those days,” Ortega said. “I’m not just speaking for our community, for all the phone calls I have received [about TCF], I also need to speak up for our employees who have to work that day.”
Mayor Armando O’caña said they did not want to be liable for lawsuits in the event someone is adversely affected by COVID-19 contracted from one of these events. He also noted that he made the decision to move the annual Mayor’s International Brunch, a gathering of dignitaries from Mission and Mexico at the Mission Event Center, to June 12, 2021 in response to increasing COVID-19 cases.
O’caña and the council voted to postpone the Fun Fair and Carnival to the date of the Mayor’s International Brunch in June, and said the city will compensate TCF no less than $25,000 for their lost revenue. They decided events like the Royal Coronation (to take place in a limited capacity at Balli’s Terrace Event Center), Royal Coronation (to take place in a limited capacity at the Mission High School Gym) and Parade of Oranges (to be held standing on Conway Ave.) could go on as planned, because TCF is able to more readily control the number of people attending.
On Tues. Jan. 19, the Texas Citrus Fiesta Board held a meeting to vote on other changes to the event lineup. Due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the board opted to postpone the annual Parade of Oranges to a later date.
In addition to the change for the Parade of Oranges, TCF also voted to change locations for the Royal Coronation. Originally planned to be held at the Mission High School Gym, after a call from the district expressing their own concerns, TCF made a judgment call and moved the event to the McAllen Performing Arts Center, located at 801 Convention, C St. in McAllen.
TCF aims to keep everyone as safe as possible while continuing the traditional celebration that several families have invested heavily in already. Their plan is to maintain social distancing guidelines, keep to sanitation routines and wear masks. The Royal Coronation and Royal Reception will be held on the same dates.