Association, Hidalgo will head to court for rights

McALLEN – For almost four decades Borderfest celebrated a country in the City of Hidalgo but this year the event will move to the McAllen Convention Center and will celebrate Texas organizers announced at press event Jan. 13.


“It's a historical day,” Borderfest committee member and former mayor of Hidalgo John David Franz said. “The opportunity presented itself to take it to a new location, a larger more convenient location and so we're excited at the move and we're especially excited the City of McAllen has embraced Borderfest.”


Franz said one of the main components of Borderfest has been educating the visitors and this year will be no different. Attendees can expect take a look at Texas. There will be exhibits from East Texas, Central Texas and it was Franz's understanding iconic Texas items will be displayed like the San Antonio Riverwalk River Boats, The Texas State Fair will have an exhibit and the John F. Kennedy exhibit from Dallas.


With the convenience of this year's Borderfest being off Expressway 83 Franz said they can more people. While the State Farm arena was a great venue Franz said parking was becoming a problem.


“Here there's an opportunity to make it bigger,” he said. “I think that's a big motivating factor, it's located on the expressway with Ware Road and hopefully it will make it easier for people to get there.”


At the moment the concerts that are usually performed along with Borderfest are not finalized. Also in the works is the annual abrazo where the mayor of the host city would walk across the McAllen – Hidalgo International Bridge to meet with Reynosa mayor for a hug of friendship.


A large part of the Borderfest festival is honoring the Border Texan of the Year. Honorees have included Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa and Texas Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa to name a couple.


Last year was the first year the organization did not recognize someone so this year two people will be honored. Bob and Janet Vackar, owners of the Bert Ogden Auto Group will be the 2016 Border Texans of the Year.


The announcement comes fittingly after donating $2 million to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.


“The executive committee had already had in mind the couple we're going to honor this year,” Franz said. “We're just so glad that Janet and Bob Vackar to be Border Texans of the Year.”


Borderfest will take place March 3 through 6 at the McAllen Convention Center.


Soon after the announcement the City of Hidalgo sent a cease and desist letter to the City of McAllen and then the Borderfest Association sent their own letter to the City of Hidalgo.


Friday Jan. 15 both cities held their own respective press conferences to talk about the lawsuit Hidalgo has filed that seeks a restraining order blocking McAllen from taking control of Borderfest.


“We want to make clear that we did not solicit Borderfest nor would we ever do that for any type of events such as this which is held in another city,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said at his press briefing Friday morning.


Darling said McAllen's understanding was the Borderfest board and the City of Hidalgo had two different directions that they wanted to take with the event. It was determined the relationship with the two entities was irreconcilable.


It was also the McAllen's understanding the Borderfest Association operates under a 501 C3 tax code and therefore can chose the venue in which the event is held. The City of McAllen was asked to host and now an agreement is being worked on for final approval by city commission.


Darling said the argument whether the name can be used is between Borderfest, the Texas Unincorporated Association and the City of Hidalgo.


“It is not between the two cities McAllen and Hidalgo,” he said. “The City of McAllen and Hidalgo have partnered in the past in many ventures and will continue to do so.”


McAllen has committed a venue, personnel and a sponsorship for Borderfest.


All members of the City of Hidalgo's commission were in attendance for their emergency meeting Friday afternoon. Once they finished meeting in the executive session Hidalgo Mayor Martin Cepeda returned to make a statement with the city attorney and city manager by his side.


In his statement Cepeda said the City of Hidalgo intends to conduct and host its annual Borderfest event on March 3-6 at the State Farm Arena.


Cepeda also talked about the relationship Hidalgo and McAllen have that generates millions of dollars for both cities on a yearly basis.


“We were shocked to learn that the City of McAllen somehow claims the rights to host and promote the Borderfest event, which the entire South Texas region clearly identifies as a City of Hidalgo annual event.”


Cepeda closed with assuring that the 40th Anniversary of Borderfest will be held in the City of Hidalgo regardless of “Joe Vera and the City of McAllen's disappointing behavior.”


He also anticipates this year's Borderfest will be the most successful Borderfest event ever.


The City of Hidalgo has scheduled Brazil to be celebrated at the State Farm Arena. The Borderfest Association will celebrate the State of Texas.