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Adios, amigos: Winter Texans prepare to leave after a very profitable season

Category: Winter Texan season
Source: The Monitor, McAllen, TX
Publish Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Summary: This Winter Texan season is wrapping up to be one of the best ever.

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John S. DeMott
March 26, 2008 - 12:28AM

This Winter Texan season is wrapping up to be one of the best ever.

In all, area RV park managers and owners say it's been the best year since 2005, when bookings began fully recovering after the 9/11 attacks.

In fact, those like Mission West and Chimney Park reported facilities packed up to 90 percent just a couple weeks ago.

And even better times could be ahead - despite the fear of recession, soaring gasoline prices, stricter U.S. entry regulations and border violence.

The most common explanation for the booming business at the Rio Grande Valley's 200 or so parks: baby boomers, one of the largest and most prosperous generations in U.S. history.

"A lot of people coming into the park were a little younger," said Gloria Sharp of Bit-O-Heaven RV and Mobile Home Park in Donna. "I've been here 21 years and this year I received four children of people who were here when I started."

The leading edge of the boomers are in their mid 60s, generally just entering retirement and better off than their parents, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

That bodes well for seasonal RV parks in the Valley that usually cater to older people who, if not wealthy, are economically comfortable.

Right now, most of the Valley's parks are down to about a third of capacity or even less, as Winter Texans pack up and head north to homes in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

RVer Winter Texans' started saying their goodbyes in early March, when the major parks hosted farewell banquets or parties.
Hitting the road back home, in diesel fuel alone, will cost them far more than it did to arrive in Mission, McAllen, Pharr, Alamo, Weslaco or Mercedes late last year - from about $3 per gallon late last year to a sizzling $3.89 now at stations in McAllen and Edinburg.

But no one really seemed to mind, writing the fuel expense off as one of the prices of traveling the RV lifestyle.

"You live with it. You don't have much choice," said Denny Ball of Minnesota.

Border issues - the Mexican government's use of armed federal soldiers to crack down on corruption in a few border cities - did keep Ball and others away from places like Matamoros and Reynosa.

But Nuevo Progreso was in full swing last week for the 32nd annual Tourist Day, when Winter Texans flocked to the community for hours of music, dancing and other entertainment, speeches by U.S. and Mexican politicians and shopping bargains from local merchants.

Most Winter Texans there praised their South Texas experience this year and said they'd return next season.
"Here, it's more laid back and more fun," said Jim Tennant of Grand Rapids, Mich., at Tourist Day with his wife Mari.
"Florida's too congested."

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