Trail riders, classic tractors dazzle parade attendees: Local residents, Winter Texans turn annual stock show procession into family tradition

MERCEDES — Alizze Rangel’s glittery pink boots glistened from afar yesterday as the 4-year-old aspiring cowgirl sat alongside Texas Avenue in Mercedes.

That’s where, under the shade of an umbrella, Alizze took a curbside seat excitedly waiting for the annual Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show parade to commence.

“The white horses are my favorite part of the parade because they’re the prettiest,” Alizze said as the sirens from local police, constable’s and Sheriff’s units filled the air, signaling the start of the procession.

Brenda De Leon, 25, of Weslaco is Alizze’s mother and, together with the little one’s grandmother, Karmina De Leon, 43, attended this year’s parade.

“Every year we’ve been coming, since I was her age or smaller,” Brenda said, referencing her daughter’s youth when recalling how the event has become a family tradition. “I have an uncle who comes out with the horses, and every year since we were little my mom would bring us. But it’s also become a tradition of bringing her (Alizze) since she was a baby.”

As much is true for the Bocanegras, also of Weslaco, who enjoyed yesterday morning’s parade from the bed of their pickup truck.

Lino Bocanegra, 20, said, “We do it all the time. I take her because she likes it.”

He was referring to Sonia, his mother, who’s taken Lino to the event since he was only 1 month old. In fact, Sonia shared a story — much to her son’s endearing embarrassment — about how a 4-year-old Lino was once featured on the front page of The Monitor in cowboy gear.

“Ever since he was a baby,” Sonia said of her son’s involvement in stock show festivities. “He was born in February and came to his first parade in March. We never miss it. And I just like the horses and all the atmosphere. I like that everyone comes together.”

The two were accompanied by Lino’s girlfriend, Soyla Thompson, 19, who hadn’t attended a parade before yesterday.

“But I like it now,” Soyla proclaimed. “I like the horses and just spending time with him (Lino).”

Like the Bocanegras, Mercedes residents Jose Angel Martinez, 62, and wife Silvia, 60, also enjoy the family-friendly environment that the annual stock show parade creates.

“It’s the environment of the people, the people having a good time and seeing the old tractors and the horses that I really like,” Jose explained. “It’s just basically like a custom. I’ve been coming to this parade since I was born here. But I remember we used to have more floats. It was more active because all the elementary schools would participate. Maybe they don’t have time for it because education is so much more important now.”

Winter Texans also made up much of the attendance at the parade, which attracted hundreds to downtown Mercedes. Among them were the Heckmans of Jewell Junction, Iowa.

Alan, 73, and Arlyce Heckman, 78, have been coming to the Rio Grande Valley since 1985 and rarely miss the stock show.

“I enjoy the antique tractors, the music and stuff … I like just about everything,” Alan said of the event. “I think people go through an awful lot of work to put this on. It’s a really good parade. The most interesting thing to me is to look at all the neat projects and the barbecue pits the kids make at the stock show. That’s my first priority; my next priority is the entertainment and the music.”

The parade route made its way down Texas Avenue and into the stock show grounds, marking the official kickoff to week-long festivities that run through March 20. Rodeo festivities are scheduled throughout the week, beginning on Wednesday in the rodeo arena, as well as several livestock judging competitions.