Connecting to the RGV and Beyond

Connecting to the RGV and Beyond

Story and photos by Eryn Reddell Wingert

Casa de Amistad in Harlingen was alive with chatter as RV resort activity directors and managers gathered information from vendors during Welcome Home RGV’s Connection Fair.

Visit Laredo was one of the booths set up for the two-hour immersive event. Surrounded by banners touting birding, golf, and shopping, assistant director Joel Vaquez passes out brochures, maps, and promotional material with a smile.

It’s the fifth year for Visit Laredo to participate in the Connection Fair, having learned about it while taking part in Welcome Home’s Winter Texan Expo. “It’s a really great event,” he says. “Both events are popular for us.”

Vasquez’ goal is to spread the word about all Laredo has to offer, such as the month-long event, Washington’s Birthday Celebration, in February. The whole month is a celebration; every day is an event–parades, carnivals, a jalapeño-eating contest. 

Born and raised in Laredo, Vasquez lights up when asked to narrow down his favorite things about his hometown. He ponders for a brief moment and then begins. “I would say the food! It’s very authentic; even our Mexican food is unique.”

He gives the example of La India, a spice-packing company that also has a tasting room and, soon, cooking lessons. “It’s a house with a doorbell; it’s a whole experience walking in there!”

Next on his list: the friendly community. “Anywhere you go,” Vasquez shares with a proud smile, “you’re going to be very welcome.”

Also on hand at Connection Fair, the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau (SPI CVB). Management assistant Ema Jaramillo and event experience coordinator Luis Rios manage the booth, passing out bags, t-shirts, and event flyers.

Coming up the first weekend in December: the annual Lighted Boat Parade. The public is invited to take part in the parade, either by joining the boats or spectating from the Island along the Entertainment District and The Green, where bleacher seating will be available. (Of note: Tours by Welcome Home RGV has secured boat entries and is offering the event as a tour. Visit to purchase.) 

Pickleball on Padre is another upcoming event–January 8 – 12–at the South Padre Island Convention Center. It’s free to the public, Jaramillo says. “Just show up and come on in!” Meanwhile, the Island is home to two pickleball courts, with four more under construction.

While the summer might appear to be the busy season, the CVB is busy year-round, welcoming visitors from all over the world. “We’re a first-class beach destination,” says Jaramillo. 

Rios adds, “As soon as you cross the [Queen Isabella Memorial] Causeway, it feels like you’re in a whole different place. Its very relaxing.”

The SPI CVB and Visit Laredo were two of 65 vendors taking part in the fair. Other vendors included Colair, Inc.; Osprey Cruises; Galvan Insurance; Rio Grande Regional Hospital; Texas Oncology; Suerte Bar & Grill; SPI Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary; and McAllen International Airport, just to name a few. 

While Joe Graham of Breakaway Cruises utilized his radio voice to help call out winning numbers for the vendor-donated door prizes, Peter Loring, activity director for Seven Oaks RV Resort in Mission, took a seat.

His succinct response when asked how the Connection Fair went: “Good. Especially, I’d say, for activity directors!” 

For more information on Laredo, go to and for more on South Padre Island, visit For area services, attractions, tours, and more, visit

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