Mission takes over Texas Citrus Fiesta

dfwnewsa | March 1, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Mission takes over Texas Citrus Fiesta

MISSION — After several months of tumult, including the resignation of its executive director and the hiring of city staff to augment its own, more changes are coming to the Texas Citrus Fiesta and how the two-week festival is managed.

Earlier this week, city officials here unanimously approved taking over the administration of TCF events after reaching an agreement with the nonprofit organization that has managed the event for nearly its entire nine decade history.

“Today’s decision on the joint resolution was basically spurred … by the decision of the King’s Association to license the city of Mission to use the Texas Citrus Fiesta logo and represent the Texas Citrus Fiesta,” Mission Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza said after Monday’s meeting.

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With the takeover, city officials also reorganized the TCF board, which now also falls under the auspices of the city, rather than the TCF nonprofit, whose previous structure was essentially dissolved.

The changes come just months after TCF’s former executive director, Lisa Rivera, resigned in order to take a job as the city manager of Sullivan City.

Rivera left TCF in December. That same month, Mission officials approved a memorandum of understanding with TCF to allow city staff to work for the organization on such tasks as bookkeeping and secretarial work, like answering phones.

Officials also named the city’s events director, Amy Tijerina, as TCF’s interim executive director. But city officials noted that the TCF nonprofit was still the ultimate decision maker.

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Now, that’s no longer the case. Now, the city is wholly in charge — at least for a year.

“So, the kings have the license. They issue permission to use the license on an annual basis. So, this year, they decided as an association to allow the city to use the license,” Gonzalez Garza explained.

She was referring to the Texas Citrus Kings Association, a group of citrus growers who own the rights to the name “Texas Citrus Fiesta,” a festival that first got its start in 1932.

Texas Citrus Fiesta Princess of Lime Blossom Rozalyn Alonzo-Silva strikes a pose Saturday as she walks the grounds of the annual Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show & Rodeo in Mercedes, Texas. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

For decades, the kings have licensed usage of the name to the Texas Citrus Fiesta nonprofit, which has fundraised and organized the festival’s events, including the Parade of Oranges, the Product Costume Style Show, and the coronation of King Citrus and Queen Citrianna.

However, late last year, the kings began exploring the idea of allowing the city to license the brand instead.

According to documents included as part of Monday’s meeting agenda, the city’s takeover will allow “Texas Citrus Fiesta, Inc. to continue raising private funds for such activities and events and … creating an efficient means for the promotion of … overall city-wide economic development opportunities.”

The takeover included restructuring TCF’s bylaws and its board of directors.

Nearly all the previous directors were replaced, save three.

“There is a need to keep some continuity, right, for support and history,” the mayor said.

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“But there was also, by the previous board, a decision to go from 13 to nine board members. So, that was also something that reduced the numbers,” Gonzalez Garza added, referring to an earlier decision by the TCF nonprofit.

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The city kept Amanda O’Caña, Oscar Martinez and Kristina Salinas Silva, while newly appointing Sarah Hinojosa, Jennifer Ruiz-Longoria, Kellye Ortega, Teodoro Venecia Jr. and Scott Gerlach to the now city-run board.

Gerlach is the husband of Place 3 Councilwoman Marissa Ortega Gerlach.

But not everyone was happy about the changes.

During Thursday’s annual royal coronation for the Texas Citrus Fiesta, Brianna Villasano, the Duchess of Live Oak, was selected as Queen Citrianna for the 2021 event at McAllen’s PAC Center. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Mary Esther Peña Salinas, a Mission native who spent years participating in the festival during her career as an educator, said the city’s takeover shocked her.

“A bit stunned because I didn’t even know that the whole board had been dissolved. I know that, yeah, they were having problems … there was a lot of friction,” Peña Salinas said.

She was also disappointed about the speed with which the city replaced the board.

“Did they publicly announce it for people to (apply)? We didn’t know. There was a lot of us citizens who didn’t know that we could apply for the Citrus board,” she said.

A frequent attendee and public commenter at Mission City Council meetings, Peña Salinas also worried about what kind of burden the city’s takeover would place on residents.

Between the city and the Mission Economic Development Corporation, Mission contributed about $90,000 in cash to the TCF each year, one official said.

The mayor put that figure at closer to $140,000.

The city also contributed in-kind donations in the form of police protection, as well as the services of the city’s sanitation, and parks and recreation departments, among others, Gonzalez Garza said.

From her perspective, the move will likely wind up saving Mission money.

“(The city) was the supporting mechanism for the Texas Citrus Fiesta … We were already doing the lion’s share of the production of all of the events,” Gonzalez Garza said.

“I think that bringing it in so that it’s under the city’s umbrella gives us the opportunity to manage the situations and be a little bit more cost effective. So, actually, I feel that the city’s gonna spend less money and have a better event,” she said.

The post Mission takes over Texas Citrus Fiesta appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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