HARLINGEN — RV parks in the Rio Grande Valley expect to be full this Winter Texan season, based on a positive outlook from last year.
A survey of Winter Texans last season, conducted by the University of Texas-Pan American, found that 95.8 percent planned to return to the Valley this year.
With the Winter Texan season fast approaching, local RV parks are open and ready for their guests.
Some Winter Texans have arrived a bit early.
Larry and Sharon Schnulle, from Missouri, have been coming to the Valley for seven years. The couple will be staying for about six months at Sunshine RV Resort in Harlingen.
“I retired and that’s allowed us to come a bit earlier than last year,” Sharon said.
Joe Ellis, from Massachusetts, has been coming to Sunshine RV Park for 13 years. He came down earlier than usual because of the cold weather starting at home, he said.
He will stay for about six months.
He said his love of the area stems from the culture of the Valley.
“We love the culture down here. They are very welcoming to us; they welcome us with open arms,” he said.
Sunshine RV Resort, one of the Valley’s many parks, can accommodate up to about 1,000 residents.
Most of the park’s residents won’t arrive here until the first week of November. The park currently has about 117 residents who live there all year round. The rest are residents who come from out of state or Canada.
Last year the park was about 82 percent full. That’s about 900 lots.
Most of the parks agree that they don’t get busy until November or December.
Anne Lewis, a Sunshine RV Resort resident, said most people come down when the weather gets cold wherever they are from.
“This area is a great place because it has everything that Florida has but the cost of living is cheaper,” she said.
Don Losher from Park Place Estates said, “We have around 150 residents right now. The park can hold about 1,600 people. We expect the park to be full to capacity this season.”
The parks usually have a multitude of events for their residents, ranging from entertainment, dances, happy hour, outdoor activities, bingo and a fully stocked library.
“There are enough activities to keep residents busy,” Losher said.
An employee at Fun-N-Sun Resort in San Benito said that last year all the lots were occupied. Right now they have about 251 residents and expect another 300 or 400 residents to show up next month. They will get another rush of guests in January.
The most recent study conducted by UTPA found that Winter Texans made a $751 million economic impact on the Valley.
The study by UTPA’s Valley Markets and Tourism Research Center found that 88.6 percent of Winter Texans came to the Valley for the climate, while nearly 67 percent listed “friendly people” as one reason for coming here. While in the Valley, they visit flea markets, historical sites festivals and the beach.