DONNA — Gunfire could be heard at the fourth annual Chisholm Trail Festival on Saturday, during one of the three gunfighter shows. The festival commemorated the trail used to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas during the post-Civil War era, which is believed to have a Donna connection.
The event was kicked off with a 5K run at 8 a.m. and a 1 Mile Kid’s Run at 9 a.m. and featured a cook-off, a parade, gunfighters shows, performances from local school mariachi groups and performers, including country singer Tracy Lawrence.
In harmony with the cowboys who used to transport cattle, Jesse Briones rode his horse, Whiskey, to the festival.
“We’re trying to push for next year to start off farther away and ride to Donna and get people from other communities to come,” Briones said. “(Right now) it’s pretty short; we just ride around Donna and back.”
The 31-year-old said he has attended the festival for the past few years and would like to see the trail aspect of the festival elongated.
“The actual Chisholm Trail comes all the way down from (Kansas),” he said. “I don’t want to go that far, but I want to maybe start toward the Harlingen area and work our way to Donna.”
The Santa Rosa native said that he knows several people who enjoy the ride and like to saddle up their horses for a long day. Briones said that he enjoys the festival and likes what it does for the town.
“It’s good to get the community involved,” the Santa Rosa native said. “It brings people to Donna and helps the Valley grow.”
He said that he’s part of an organization called Cowboys and Angels that does outreach at different events.
“A lot of the kids like to see the horses, take pictures and touch them,” he said. “It just opens up the kids’ eyes to different ideas than just being on the streets and stuff. There are good hobbies that they can go out to and do stuff. We encourage community involvement.”
Guadalupe Castillo said her grandchildren are among those who like to see the horses during the Chisholm Trail parade, though she said they did not arrive early enough to catch it this year.
The 62-year-old said she enjoys attending community events with her grandchildren.
“I love Donna,” she said. “I’ve always lived here, and I went to school here. I think this is a great town and I don’t know why people don’t think so but it is. It’s a good, wholesome community. There’s a lot of security. The environment is well controlled; it’s a very nice day.”
Castillo said apart from the nice weather and horses, she liked that the festival brought the community together.
“It lets you meet with people you haven’t seen in a while from the same hometown,” she said. “We’re all so busy working and you never have time to really visit. It’s a good chance to visit and catch up.”
She said that she ran into her childhood neighbor at the festival and wants to see the city have more events and get itself on the map.
“The city needs to promote the city more,” she said. “All the other towns have a lot of other events going on.”
She believes having more events would be good publicity for the city.
David De Los Rios, the event coordinator, agrees.
“The city of Donna has never had any events that they can call their own,” the 40-year-old said. “A couple of years ago, they had put up a historical marker that the Chisholm Trail had passed through this area, and they decided to implement and start hosting an annual event.”
Since it first started 4 years ago, the festival has expanded exponentially.
“I was part of the first one,” the Donna native said. “We had probably like 2,000 people, and today we’re expecting thirty to thirty-five thousand people throughout the whole day.”
The event coordinator said he liked seeing the community come together as a family to celebrate the city’s past.
“There’s a history here in Donna, and we want everyone to understand that the city has some type of history,” he said. “We have this and can call out and say the Chisholm Trail passed through here, and we should recognize it and celebrate. That’s pretty much what we’re trying to do.”