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Texas Citrus Fiesta celebrates Noche de Carnaval at annual Gala

Green, violet, and gold filled the Mission Event Center for the Texas Citrus Fiesta’s Royal Gala: Noche de Carnaval celebration on Saturday evening. There, the 87th Royal Court presented themselves to the public and welcomed 16 duchesses vying for next year’s crown.

At the center of the room, Queen Citrianna LXXXVII, McAllen-native Riza Renae Hernandez, entered the center of the ballroom on a vibrant red carpet. On the dance floor, she welcomed guests and attendees, all dressed in sequence and theme of the festive night.

“Thank you all so much for supporting Texas Citrus Fiesta tonight, and I hope to see you all on the dance floor,” said Hernandez

At the center of the dance floor, duchesses and royal court members united, holding hands and forming a circle to dance the night away. Dresses of all colors shone and sparkled under the stage lights. At the center, Tangerine Court princesses danced and jumped to music, smiles large and bright.

After dancing, duchesses gathered in the lobby to take photos behind a masquerade backdrop and mingle with each other.

Duchess of Rio Red Grapefruit, Elle Holbrook, was dressed in a vibrant, deep crimson that represented the flesh of the fruit she represented.

“The product I’m representing is the Rio Red Grapefruit. It was founded in 1984 by Dr. Richard Hensz at the Texas A&M Citrus Center,” said Holbrook. “He founded it after the freeze in 1983 to help kickstart the Texas Citrus Industry again. It was made to be redder and sweeter than the Ruby Red Grapefruit to help advertise it and make it more appealing to the public.”

Accented on her shoulders were two red grapefruits, representing her grandfather and great-grandfather who both attributed to the citrus industry in the Rio Grande Valley.

“I wanted to add something very special to my dress to make it very family oriented since I’ve had such a long history in the Texas Citrus Fiesta,” said Holbrook. “They [her great-grandfather and grandfather] hold me up and they are my foundation.”

Duchess of White Wing, Jera Loya, wore a grey-accented dress with a short white wing-shaped hip skirt, representing the peace dove of Peñitas.

“The product I’m representing is the white-winged dove. It represents peace, joy, and happiness,” she said. “It’s important to agriculture because they are seed pollinators and seed dispensers.”

She further explained why the image and representation of the white-winged dove is important to her.

“It represents all the things that a person needs to be a good person, and I’m just trying to follow that by portraying myself in this competition,” Loya said.

Duchess of Butterfly, Isabella Ortiz, represented the Mission Chamber of Commerce and the City of Mission. She wore a burnt orange ball gown with monarch butterfly wings as a hip skirt, opening to a skirt of black shimmer.

In the lobby, Ortiz told the Progress Times the importance of being a duchess at Texas Citrus Fiesta.

“The importance is knowing who we are, what product we represent so we can keep the history going on,” said Ortiz. “We’re just keeping a legacy and us duchesses have the honor of continuing it.”

For the incoming Princess of Orange Blossom, the most crucial part of becoming TCF royalty is making change within the Rio Grande Valley community.

“With the Royal Court, we can make a difference,” she said, glad to always help the community.

Hernandez afterward voiced her perspective as the incoming Queen to Progress Times.

“This is the most exciting time of my life. I have been waiting for this day since I can remember,” she said, having attended the Texas Citrus Fiesta coronations since she was a little girl.

From L-R: Princess of Orange Blossom Ashley Brooke Alaniz, Princess of Grapefruit Blossom Gabriela Cristina Ramirez, Queen Riza Renae Hernandez, and Lady in Waiting Estefania Rico Arambula at the Royal Ball. Photo by Rio Creative/Jesse Vega.

“I’ve learned that each product has its purpose for representing its city or organization,” she said of each duchess, surprised to see all the different products come to life as dresses. “No title has a title just because. It has value, it has purpose, and I think that each duchess has learned their own title as well.”

The evening came to an end as the duchesses, Royal and Tangerine Court took group photos together, laughing and chatting the night away, before the duchesses prepared for interviews and coronation on Thursday.

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