Lighting of The Arroyo cancelled by COVID-19

The City of Harlingen hosted their 33rd Annual Lighting of the Arroyo last night at McKelvey Park. Those gathered for the event also enjoyed Christmas performances by various groups and individuals as well as Santa’s arrival and food vendors.

HARLINGEN— The community of Harlingen was used to doing a countdown in unison to light up McKelvey Park with Christmas lights. This year, it will not be the same. The city of Harlingen has decided to not host the Lighting of The Arroyo due to safety reasons.

However, lights will still be put out around McKelvey Park, according to Public Relations Director Irma Garza. This would have been the 34th annual celebration of the lighting.

“It will be the same amount of lights, the only difference will be we won’t be having an event,” Garza said. “We are hoping to have the lights done by this weekend, they are working on this right now.”

Community leaders agreed this decision has saddened them, but it was the best option in order to keep residents safe and healthy.

Garza added the decision of cancelling had been in the works for a couple of months and stressed that city parks continue to be closed to the public. The hike and bike trails are still available for people to run, walking or ride their bikes usage. It is unlikely when there will be a reopening, she stated.

“If people are thinking of going to see the lights, they need to make sure they continue to practice social distancing and wear their masks,” Garza said.

“Ten people or less as the Governor is requiring,” she added.

HCISD spokesman Shane Strubhart said students were deeply involved in the presentations of the lighting. However, keeping students safe is a priority.

“Anytime that our students get an opportunity to showcase their talents, we are very proud and honored to be a part of that,” Strubhart said.

“However, given the pandemic, it is completely understandable for the city to cancel an event that would gather so many people and have them in close proximity. We understand and support the city’s decision,” he said.

In the past years, cheerleaders from both Harlingen high schools would participate as well as dance teams. Elementary schools dance teams and bands would do a presentation, harmonizing the evening.

“Every year we would have some band participation,” Strubhart remembered.

“We want to emphasize the importance of staying safe during this pandemic. We look forward to 2021 and all the reopening of things next year,” he said.

City Commissioner Michael Mezmar said it is prudent to add to the conversation of keeping Harlingen safe. He said he believed cancelling the lighting was necessary in order to avoid large gatherings for the safety of citizens and neighbors.

“Perhaps the vaccines will be efficient and we can celebrate again next year,” he concluded.

ecavazos@valleystar.com