Introduced as a way to spread the word about the winter harvest of grapefruits and oranges in the Mission area and held outdoors against the background of the citrus bearing trees, the celebration has now become more then a showcase of the harvest. Seven decades later, the citrus celebration is filled with food, entertainment, competitions and a carnival.

In its 72nd year, Berta Filut, executive director for the Texas Citrus Fiesta said this year’s theme is “A salute to the U.S. Armed Forces” because they wanted to honor, not only the local soldiers in the area, but everyone fighting for this country.

“We wanted to honor the armed forces. We have people fighting for our freedom and we wanted to recognize them,” she said.

The Citrus Fiesta kicked off earlier this month with a Royal Reception Ball at Mario’s Banquet Center. Royal Coronation of King Citrus and Queen Citrianna will take place tomorrow at the Mission Neuhaus Gym at 7 p.m. General seating is $3 and reserved seating is $5.

Weekend events for the Texas Citrus Fiesta include the Fiesta Fun Fair this Saturday. The fair will be at Conway and FM 495, admission is free. The fair will open its doors at 10 a.m. and will feature food vendors, arts and crafts, kiddie rides and live entertainment by Mariano Bocanegra y La Preferencia and the In Keepers. Both play tejano music and variety soft rock.

This year, the Vaquero Cook-off will have approximately 20 teams competing in the bean, pan de campo, fajitas, beef ribs, pork ribs and a new category — the Citrus Presentation where contestants will be able to decorate a dish with citrus.

The Citrus Youth Show Exhibit will showcase the best citrus brought in by students from the Rio Grande Valley. Judging will be done by the Agriculture Center and will award two $300 scholarships to two competing high school seniors.

This year, the Parade of Oranges will have over 200 floats and marching bands. The parade will run from North to South on Conway and begin at 7 p.m.

Other activities include the carnival located on FM 405 and Conway that will continue through the end of the month. The 5K Fiesta Fun Run will be held at the hike and bike trail. For registration information, contact Mission Parks and Recreation at 956-580-8760.

The Mission Historical Museum Fiesta Display will display past and present dresses from the Royal Court. The display is located on 900 Doherty.

Filut expects over 100,000 visitors to attend the Texas Citrus Fiesta festivities. For additional information call 956-585-9724 or log on to: www.texascitrusfiesta.net.