SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — From giant character balloons and illuminated floats to marching bands, there’s a little bit of something for everyone at this annual holiday festivity.

The theme for the 2021 McAllen Holiday Parade was unveiled Thursday on South Padre Island by McAllen and SPI city officials.

The award-winning parade is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 4, starting at 6 p.m.

This year’s theme will be “Rockin’ around the South Pole.”

“Holiday magic is going to rock McAllen when Santa returns to his winter home away from home,” McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said. “McAllen’s love for music and movement has inspired us to celebrate this year’s festivities with a theme that unites tradition, fun and the holiday spirit.”

Mario Lopez and Julian Gil will be the celebrity hosts of this year’s parade.

In addition to giant character balloons, illuminated floats and marching bands, the event will also have a special step off from the United States Air Force Honor Guard and Drill Team and guest appearances.

According to McAllen Assistant City Manager Joe Vera, the city will announce several other celebrity guests next week.

Along with the theme unveiling, officials from McAllen and SPI touched on their new partnership.

“We welcome our McAllen partners to the Island as we start a growing partnership with one of our Rio Grande Valley cities. Our city partners are the airlift gateway to our beautiful island and assist us in bringing people to our Isla from around the world,” SPI Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Ed Caum said. “We have also been the Valley’s vacation spot for generations and look forward to reaching more potential visitors through a growing partnership like this one across our region.”

McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez is pictured at a theme unveiling ceremony for the 2021 McAllen Holiday Parade. This year’s theme is “Rockin’ around the South Pole.” (Alana Hernandez/Valley Morning Star)

About 1.5 miles of the parade’s route will be dedicated as the “SPI Vuelta Zone.”

“What happens is there’s these giant balloons coming down the parade route and when they get to the vuelta zone, people start chanting vuelta. That’s when the balloon handlers start twirling their balloons,” Vera explained. “This happened organically. It’s pretty awesome and doesn’t happen anywhere else in the country.”

The SPI Vuelta Zone will be modeled after the New York Countdown Ball Drop stage and will feature a celebrity host and SPI branding interactive activities.

McAllen Holiday Parade goers will see supersized SPI Vuelta Zone street signs, gigantic digital screens, and a D.J.

The cost for the 1,000-seat section is $10. Every attendee will receive an SPI Vuelta Zone T-shirt and noise makers.

Tickets can be purchased at all three City of McAllen Community Centers and at the McAllen Parks and Recreation Headquarters.

This will be the parade’s eighth year.

“It’s a lot of fun. I always say the parade is a prescription to put a smile on someone’s face,” Vera said. “The very first year, I remember going down the parade route and seeing kids in awe looking up at the balloons. It’s such a great feeling for us to be able to put smiles on people’s faces.”

South Padre Island Senior Marketing and Communications Manager Teresa Rodriguez talked about the new partnership between the cities of McAllen and South Padre Island at a theme unveiling ceremony for the 2021 McAllen Holiday Parade. (Alana Hernandez/Valley Morning Star)

In 2019, the event had about 260,000 attendees.

“We always talked about how this isn’t a regional event. It’s more than just the Valley,” Vera said. “We have people come down from Houston, Austin, San Antonio and other parts of Texas and certainly we have a lot of people across the Rio Grande Valley. The parade’s become a tradition.”

Vera said the parade is a huge economic driver.

According to an economic impact study conducted by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the parade has about a $14 million economic impact to the region.

“It’s our signature event. In McAllen, we do things to make sure that we enhance quality of life for our residents and people who come to the city,” Vera said. “We’re happy that we’re able to produce this kind of event and glad that we’re going to be back together live at the stadium for the first time since 2019.”

For more information about the parade, visit