PHARR — Hub Phest made its return here Saturday after it was forced to cancel due to COVID-19 last year, drawing more attendance than in previous years, according to officials.
The event’s theme was “Country Boots, Tejano Roots,” and many looked forward to Bo Garza’s performance.
Edgar Cazares, building inspector for the city of Pharr, said the turnout this year was far greater in comparison to previous years, with over 2,000 people in attendance.
Cazares said there was no mask or proof of vaccination requirement to attend Saturday’s event.
He attributed the higher numbers in attendance to the distribution of vaccines and anticipation built up after a year of not hosting the festival.
“I think people are more confident with the vaccines and they feel safer,” Cazares said. “A lot of people are still keeping their distance, wearing masks and I think the vaccine made a big difference.”
Joe Cantu, a Pharr resident and father of two, said he attended Hub Phest for his children.
Aside from the food vendors, live music, and barbecue cookoff the event also attracted many children with family friendly carnival rides.
“We heard there was going to be a carnival so that’s why they wanted to come,” Cantu said.
After over a year of staying home due to the pandemic, he said he feels confident in bringing his family out to events that are outdoors because he believes there is less risk of transmitting the virus that way.
“We’ve just been wearing a mask and I know a lot of people are not wearing masks but we just, you know, keep our distance,” Cantu said. “I’ve been hearing that when it’s outdoors it’s not as much danger, so that’s why [I decided to attend]. If it was indoors, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
About 50% of attendees were maskless.
Cantu said it’s important for the city to continue to host events like this as long as they do so in a safe way.
“You can’t protect everybody, but you can protect yourself,” he said about wearing a mask in an outdoor setting.
Cantu and his children wore masks to the event.
Gisela Rocha, a Harlingen resident who wore her mask on her wrist, heard about the event on the radio and said she decided to attend to be able to enjoy some carnival food being a foodie at heart.
Local vendors sold everything from snacks such as corn, turkey legs, raspas and tacos to funnel cake, a treat Rocha said she was especially looking forward to.
Rocha said what gave her the confidence to come out after over a year of dealing with the pandemic is that she is vaccinated.
“Outdoors is better than indoors,” she said about attending events.
Like many others, Kathi Waleski, a McAllen native who attended the event maskless, said she decided to attend because she is confident in her vaccination and because she missed the event atmosphere.
“I haven’t been out in so long,” Waleski said. “I wanted to get out of the house, enjoy some music and see some people. … [Before this] I was in the house all the time and I was just going crazy.”
Pamela Heatherly, a McAllen resident who attended the event maskless, said she attended the event for the music experience. Being from Tennessee, Heatherly said she is a big country music fan and attended the event because she’s vaccinated and feels safe.
“I have been vaccinated and I fully believe in my vaccination,” she said. “As long as I’m distanced I’m good.”
Being that the event was held on a single road, Cage Bouelvard, it was often difficult for attendees to always keep that 6-foot distance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, updated Aug. 19 with the latest recommendations for the delta variant, in areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, the CDC recommends wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact to others who are not fully vaccinated.
To see more of Pharr’s Hub Phest, view Monitor photojournalist Joel Martinez’s photo gallery below: