McAllen Parks & Recreation Director Recognized as Professional of the Year
McAllen hosted statewide festivals and events representatives for education and networking sessions
The City of McAllen once again hosted the Texas Festival and Events Association Annual Conference this past weekend, bringing in festivals and events representatives from around the state as diverse and far away as Tomball Mud Fest; Ft. Worth Main St. Art Festival; Grapevine’s Grape Fest; Plano Balloon Fest; Poteet Strawberry Festival and even others closer to home, including Weslaco’s Texas Onion Fest; City of Edinburg; Laredo’s Washington Birthday Celebration Association, and of course, as well-known as San Antonio’s Fiesta Flambeau Parade and St. Mary’s University Fiesta Oyster Bake.
While the annual conference offers guidance, suggestions, ideas and networking opportunities, the highlight of the annual gathering is the Kaliff Marketing Awards, which recognizes the best of the best amongst the various Texas festivals and events. In fact, the City of McAllen earned 97 awards for the various events the municipality hosts within their respective budget categories, earning 65 total top prizes including 34 gold awards for the McAllen Holiday Parade. The McAllen Holiday Parade was once again named the Best Parade in Texas, beating out San Antonio’s King William Parade and also this year, it received the coveted Zenith Award, the highest recognition from the competition. Additionally, Quinta Mazatlán received 21 awards for the festivals the famed nature-preserve hosts and another 11 awards were earned by the McAllen Public Library, entering their newly-rebranded South Texas Book Festival into the competition for the first time. Also winning awards were the McAllen Convention Center, receiving 12 for their various events while the McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Run received seven awards.
While the marketing awards recognize the best work of the festival and events, the Hall of Fame Awards honors those individuals who stood out amongst the organization as leaders in the industry. This year, the organization awarded the Carson Watts Professional of the Year Award to City of McAllen Parks & Recreation Director Mike Hernandez (see video link below). Some of the accomplishments that led to his selections include not only overseeing the City of McAllen’s Parks and Recreation Department, which assists over 300 community events and produces the community’s signature events, such as the McAllen Marathon, Movies in the Park, the Independence Day Parade and the McAllen Holiday Parade, but also, as the Director of the Parks & Recreation Department, Mike is responsible for 227 staff members, 89 parks with over 1,000 acres of green space and 34 miles of hike and bike trails, as well as three community centers, as well as aquatics centers, athletic fields, and a nature center.
“TFEA emphasizes the core values of excellence, sharing, and community. Mike understands those values and exemplifies them in every aspect of his life and work,” said Joe Vera, Assistant City Manager for the City of McAllen.
“Thanks to TFEA, our member organizations have been able to not only learn from the best of the best but also, share ideas and make contacts that will help them in planning and managing their festivals and events into premier productions that their communities can be proud of,” said Mike Baxter, Director of Marketing and Tourism, CFEE, for the City of Tomball and outgoing 2019 President of TFEA.
The conference featured informative, entertaining and educational sessions, to help give organizers and event coordinators the tools and tips to better host their events. Topics ranged from Social Media Do’s and Don’ts; Niche Marketing; Event Security, Sponsorship and Branding and even, Operation and Event Logistics, to name a few. Attendees also had an opportunity to earn continuing education credits from the Texas Event Management Institute (TEMI) through various workshops and Continuing Education Units were also offered from South Texas College in McAllen, Texas. This year’s conference also featured the first-ever graduating class of four individuals receiving their Certified Festival Event Associates certificate.
According to the organization, the impact of festivals and special events on the communities they serve is multifaceted. Their power to be an economic engine, generating direct spending by unique visitors and the redistribution of that wealth through the community, is well-documented. Events of all sizes, from small community gatherings to mega-festivals, infuse new dollars into the economy, generate jobs and create significant tax revenues.
Joe Vera, Assistant City Manager for the City of McAllen and newly appointed 2019-2020 Chair of the TFEA, said that the quality of the events hosted by the City of McAllen speaks volumes for not only the attendees but also the sponsors who are connected to those very events.
“As the City of McAllen, our ultimate goal is to create memorable experiences and signature, destination events that are unrivaled in their entertainment value, as well as all of the other elements associated with such programs,” Vera said. “But for our sponsors, we want to thank them for seeing our vision, believing in the events and helping us to create these moments that produce first-class events, with creative marketing, promotion, and publicity value.”
With just over 275 attendees registered for the two and a half-day conference, out-of-town festival and event representatives filled 400 hotel rooms over the four-night stay of the institute and annual meeting. Conference attendees raved about the “McAllen hospitality” from the hotel, restaurant and retail employees, City of McAllen employees and private citizens, citing the quality and features of the McAllen Convention Center, with many promising they couldn’t wait to return in December for the McAllen Holiday Parade, presented by H-E-B.