McALLEN, RGV – McAllen Mayor Jim Darling has appeared on News Talk 710 KURV’s ‘The Valley’s Morning News’ show to talk about how the City of McAllen landed BorderFest.

The leaders of the BorderFest Association, a 501 (C3) non-profit organization that is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016, announced Wednesday that their popular music and entertainment festival will be moving from its traditional home in Hidalgo to McAllen. They said the event will take place March 3-6 at the McAllen Convention Center.

Jim Darling
Jim Darling

“We met with the Border Texan of the Year people last year to talk about whether they want to have that in McAllen,” Darling told KURV on Thursday morning. Border Texan of the Year is a longtime component of BorderFest.

“We said, well, let’s see what happens in Hidalgo and they ended up not having a Border Texan of the Year. So, that was it. This year they talked to the City Manager a little bit, the Border Fest non-profit, and they brought a formal proposal to us Monday night and it was like, it (BorderFest) was either going to happen in McAllen or not happen at all. They brought the Border Texan of the Year too.”

Darling pointed out that McAllen and Hidalgo have been partners on many projects for decades, not least co-owning the Hidalgo International Bridge. “So, we are concerned about that but we are also concerned because BorderFest is probably the premier type of that event in the Valley. We were concerned it wasn’t going to happen at all and if it did not happen at all those things are hard to reignite because of sponsorships. So, they (the BorderFest Association) asked us for that venue (McAllen Convention Center) and we agreed to it.”

Darling pointed out that the BorderFest Association books all the acts and puts on the carnival for the festival. “We (will) really provide the venue and a relatively small financial obligation and some, but not all, of the manpower.”

Traditionally, BorderFest takes place every March. It draws tens of thousands of visitors from all over South Texas and northern Mexico. Asked by presenter Sergio Sanchez if the BorderFest Association could successfully move such a big event to McAllen at such short notice, Darling said: “I know, I hope they can pull it off. From our standpoint it was not so much of a financial decision because they (BorderFest Association) really run it. It is not like the (Christmas) Parade where we run most all of it, get the sponsors and all that. The non-profit does it. They have a relatively large volunteer base. They even provide a lot of manpower at the event.”

Presenter Tim Sullivan asked Darling about a potential legal battle between the cities of Hidalgo and McAllen, noting that Hidalgo has sent a cease and desist letter. “We were a little surprised about that,” Darling said. “We were briefed a little bit about it. We thought there was already litigation that was resolved relating to the name of BorderFest. That is what Hidalgo’s letter to us stated, (that) we didn’t have authority to use the name. I was a little surprised to get that so we have got the city attorney working on that right now.”

Darling said it would “be a shame” if BorderFest was not held, either in McAllen or Hidalgo. “I have been to it almost every year,” he said.

Asked if the City of Hidalgo has been taken by surprise by the BorderFest’s Association’s decision, Darling said: “I don’t know. The briefing we had wouldn’t have indicated that but I do not know what happened. The briefing we had from the non-profit indicated that it shouldn’t have been a surprise.”

Asked why the BorderFest Association chose McAllen, Darling said it could have had something to do with the fact that McAllen Assistant City Manager Joe Vera is part of the BorderFest Association. Vera was city manager of Hidalgo for many years. “We have a convention center. We have PalmFest, which is similar but smaller in scale and that seems to work very well,” Darling said.

Asked by Sanchez if the McAllen Convention Center grounds are big enough to stage BorderFest, what with all the construction going on for various new hotels being built, Darling said: “We own a pretty large portion of undeveloped property in the northeast corner of the convention center. They had a small carnival up there and that seemed to work.”

Sanchez and Sullivan pointed out that BorderFest is very popular, drawing tens of thousands of people. “I am concerned,” Darling said. “We asked the question of our staff, you know that is a lot of people, can we accommodate it without disturbing everything else that is going on and we were assured from our staff that it was possible so we will see. I agree with you, that is a lot of people.”

Among the leaders of the BorderFest Association are former banker Glen Roney and former Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz. The group issued this statement on Thursday:

BorderFest Association, a 501 (C3) non-profit organization is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016. After 39 wonderful years in partnership with the City of Hidalgo where great events, concerts and quality of life venues have existed and created lasting relationships, BorderFest has determined that in order to succeed and grow a new direction is necessary.

Therefore, the BorderFest Board has decided to provide a new venue for this 40th Anniversary. We have asked the City of McAllen to consider hosting this event moving forward and after much consideration the City of McAllen has graciously accepted.

McAllen has been a partner with the City of Hidalgo for many decades including a partnership at two international bridges and will continue to do so.

McAllen is excited to accommodate this prestigious event, which has become one of the most iconic in the region.

We invite everyone in the Rio Grande Valley to continue to support BorderFest.

Editor’s Note: We will bring readers the City of Hidalgo viewpoint as soon as it comes in.