Texas Military Forces boost annual Laredo event
By CMSgt Gonda Mocada, Texas Military Forces Public Affairs
/ Published March 06, 2008
LAREDO, Texas -- One of the highlights of Washington's Birthday Celebration kicked off in Laredo, Texas, with the customary Stars and Stripes Air Show Feb. 16, featuring Texas Air National Guard C-130s, Army Guard parachute jumpers and State Guard bicycle patrol and security.
The Washington's Birthday Celebration, founded in 1898, rivals - and some admittedly biased Texans might argue -- exceeds Mardi Gras merriment in New Orleans. The festivities last nearly a month and draw an average of 400,000 attendees each year.
The Stars and Stripes Air Show, followed by the Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball and the International Bridge Ceremony the following weekend, are popularly considered to be the highlights of the celebration. The Washington's Birthday Celebration Association's Stars and Stripes Air Show Spectacular at the Laredo International Airport was a huge success as usual despite fears of bad weather.
Along with among many other fine performances and displays, the show featured Texas Army National Guard parachutists performing precision jumps from a C-130 of the 136th Airlift Wing followed by F-16s thundering through the skies and performing breathtaking maneuvers. This year's Stars & Stripes Air Show is over, but the festivities were just beginning.
On Feb. 23, the International Bridge Ceremony took place, where in a symbol of solidarity between the two countries Mexico and the United States, a boy and girl from Mexico met a pair of children from the United States to embrace in the middle of the bridge. The "Niños de Abrazo" are dressed in colorful costumes and following the Abrazo ceremony were whisked away to participate in the Anheuser-Bush Washington's Birthday Parade.
The parade is the grand finale, and streets along the parade route will start filling with people, chairs, blankets and tailgates the day and night before. The air was filled with delicious aromas coming from the many barbecue pits, and the crowd cheered every passing float, each representing locales from throughout the state and country.
In past years, Lt. Gen. (TX) Charles G. Rodriguez, Adjutant General of Texas, and Maj. Gen. Allen R. Dehnert, Assistant Adjutant General and Texas Air National Guard commander, served as parade marshals as have many generals before them. According to folklore, the celebration was started by Army wives to fill their social calendars in tranquil Laredo. Over the years the celebration has grown into an event visited by hundreds of thousands.