Despite the cloudy weather looming over the Rio Grande Valley with threats of rain, the city of McAllen and the McAllen Police Department’s 20th annual Christmas for Kids Toy Giveaway went off without a hitch Saturday morning at the McAllen Municipal Park.
Before the toy giveaway began, event organizers held a parade starting from Las Palmas Community Center on 25th Street heading east down Quince Avenue toward the park where booths and a stage were set up for the event.
“We’re very grateful,” McAllen resident Ana Ruiz said in Spanish. “We’re grateful because these are the kind of events the kids have a lot of fun with.”
The 31-year-old mother heard about the event through her child’s school, Seguin Elementary, which notified parents in order to take their children for free toys and a concert.
McAllen police had invited the whole community days prior as they’ve had huge turnouts before and this year was no exception.
Long lines curved along Quince Avenue, next to the park, as families waited for their turn to receive the gifts city officials, police officers, community volunteers and sponsors were handing out in an organized fashion.
Several snacks were handed out first as families inched their way toward the end where boxes upon boxes of toys were stacked on several tables under multiple canopies with even more trucks of gifts sat parked facing Bicentennial Boulevard.
A Starbucks booth next to the main stage had another long line filled as the parents and kids couldn’t resist grabbing a free cup of coffee for the occasion.
“It was very well-organized,” Claudia Garcia Lopez, who’s lived in McAllen for 20 years, said in Spanish. “The McAllen Police Department and the volunteers did a great job and were very respectful.”
Despite living in McAllen since the inception of the Christmas for Kids Toy Giveaway event, this was Lopez’s first year attending which she found to be enjoyable as she sat by the bleachers set up next to the main stage where local talent, such as DHR Health doctors on guitar, played holiday music and other classics like Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”
By 10 a.m., a few drops of rain began to fall on event goers but that didn’t discourage the kids from grabbing as many toys as they could. Much of the toys included stuffed animal plushies, skateboards, dolls, makeup kits and much more.
Some parents required garbage bags to fill all the gifts being handed to their children; others simply carried what they could in their arms, baby strollers, boxes or just had their kids carry them off to their car.
Not all attendees heard of the event through school as some saw it advertised on TV or the internet. For Venezuela native Rosa Rangel, who recently moved to McAllen during the start of the pandemic, she saw the event online and decided to attend.
“It appeared to me as a great activity for the community,” Rangel said in Spanish. “I thought it was such a lovely gesture that they do these sorts of things for the kids and families, so I came out to show my son that the Christmas gesture is about sharing.”
Rangel, who lived in Georgia for the last nine years, is glad she can finally go out and explore the city and get to know the Valley culture without as much restriction as last year. She says McAllen is a small city but ever-growing and has begun to really enjoy the community.
The concert closed off the event with the musicians performing one final classic Christmas song to send off the families in high holiday spirits with “Feliz Navidad.”