Vackars honored as ‘Border Texans of the Year’

McALLEN — While BorderFest could not wrestle its way out of Hidalgo, the Border Texan of the Year award reception did.

The event has run concurrently with BorderFest since 1989 and has been held in Hidalgo since its inception, but this year organizers felt it was time to move it to McAllen, board co-chairman Glen Roney said.

“The big majority of our financial support has come from the McAllen area and not from Hidalgo, and the contention was that we ought to think about having it in McAllen as opposed to Hidalgo,” Roney explained.

The board, which consists of five co-chairmen and about 25 other members, selected the McAllen Convention Center as its new home. Friday’s reception included a dinner to honor this year’s recipients, Janet and Robert Vackar.

The Vackars own the Bert Ogden Auto Group and employ nearly 1,000 people throughout their 22 dealerships in four cities. Organizers didn’t have a hard time selecting them as worthy recipients, Roney said.

“We looked and talked about several different people and considered things that they had to be involved with, including economic development, charitable contributions and things that we were aware of, and of course the Vackars stood out because of their recent contribution to the new college here,” he said.

The Vackars donated $2 million to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in January — the largest donation to the institution since it was created. They now join other Border Texan honorees, such as Gov. George W. Bush, U.S. Rep. Kika De La Garza and H-E-B owner Charles C. Butt.

Organizers sold about 80 tables at $1,250 each. With eight people at every table, there were more than 500 people in attendance Friday evening.

“After all expenses are paid, the remainder (of the money) is available to be contributed to a local charity,” Roney said. “The recipient of the honor, in this case the Vackars, they decide who they think should get the funds.”

Roney did not know which worthy cause the couple would choose, but other recipients have donated to charities like the Vannie E. Cook Cancer Center and the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Roney disavowed a connection to BorderFest and said he did not want to be caught in the middle of the legal battles between the city of Hidalgo and the BorderFest Association.

“We’ve run this as a separate event. I, as a matter of fact, never had anything to do directly with BorderFest, but have been involved with the Border Texan since the first recipient back in 1989,” the event organizer said. “I’ve not been part of that battle, and I don’t want to be.”