McALLEN — From a 7 a.m. 4K run for independence to a “concert in the sky” firework display planned later that evening, Saturday’s Fourth of July events had residents feeling patriotic this weekend.

Marian Montelongo, a resident from Mission, was sporting an Independence Day crown and said she was feeling especially patriotic and happy to be back with the community after a difficult year struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The city posted a large American flag descending from a crane over Archer Park in McAllen, and Taps and the Star Spangled Banner were performed by the McAllen Wind Ensemble.

Decorated veterans in attendance that morning said the colors red, white and blue brought tears to their eyes.

“This Fourth of July we celebrate our freedom. Thanks to those who have served and have died for our freedom and our way of life, whether that be local police officers, state or federal soldiers, it is these men and women that allow us to celebrate peace,” McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos said Saturday at the city’s Independence Day event.

The mayor encouraged the audience to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but remember the sacrifices that were made for those freedoms. 

After the morning program, the city held its 93rd annual Independence Day Main Street parade, which was grand marshaled by the families of fallen McAllen police officers Ismael Chavez and Edelmiro Garza, who were shot and killed in the line of duty one year ago.

Although there was no attendance count as of press time, there were at least hundreds of attendees — many unmasked — who waved their American flags and rallied as 61 floats and vehicles drove past to honor the fallen officers, and America. The parade also honored the sponsors, local businesses, elected officials and essential workers.

Artis Ratley, a veteran and former high school band director at McAllen High School, Travis Middle School and Nikki Rowe, felt a sense of nostalgia when the McHi band performed in the parade.

Decked out in red, white and blue, spectators of the 93rd Annual McAllen Independence Day Parade wave American flags as patriotic-themed floats pass by Saturday.
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“It brought back a lot of good memories,” Ratley said as he recalled his time playing with the McAllen town band and at Fort Sam Houston, the U.S. Army post in San Antonio.

Ratley was accompanied by his daughter Linda Ratley, who was moved to tears when her father spoke of his contribution to the McAllen community.

Following the parade, residents celebrated the national holiday at the city’s Freedom Festival which entertained guests with family friendly games, local vendors, food trucks and music.

The event drew hundreds of residents from surrounding cities and wrap-around lines to crowd favorites such as the animal petting zoo.

Veronica Zuvieta, from McAllen, said she was most looking forward to watching the hot dog eating contest and firework display later that night, in sync with live music by The Ransom Brothers.

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Photo Gallery: McAllen’s Independence Day festival returns; evokes patriotism in attendees