We’re on a first name basis

I also think it is great that not only do our badges reflect where we are, but also where we come from.  I like to look at the badges and see the silent story that they tell, and for me, badges are often conversation starters.
Over the last five years I’ve learned a lot about you, and the way you operate. For instance, each and every one of you is very different, you come from different areas and backgrounds, you have different interests, hobbies and there is simply no way to ‘categorize’ our Winter Texans.  You don’t all like to do the same things.  There are a few things that are pretty common across the board though, you all like warm weather in February, you enjoy life to the fullest, and you have a hard time remembering certain things.  Like last names, the day of the week, what you had for dinner and minor details.
I absolutely love when I visit a park and hear “hey Kristi” throughout the halls.  I was just at Texas Trails for the Bernie & Red fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s and so many of you greeted me by my first name, and I loved every minute of it.  I still use my last name (it’s Collier by the way), but I’d rather you spend your time remembering good times, good friends and great weather than last names.
I hope you’ll join me for our 3rd annual Welcome Home happy hour on Friday, February 22nd at the Mercedes Livestock Showgrounds from 1 – 4 pm.  We’re going to have a happy hour like none other with entertainment by Leslie Blasing, John Sager and Jeff Gordon!  Free admission and free parking, we’ll pass the hat, have beer, wine and setups available and we’d love to have you join us.   Bring your lawnchairs and celebrate the season with us, and we’ll have you home in time for dinner.
We’re just connecting the dots,
Kristi

Let’s paint a picture

It never ceases to amaze me how many people are touched by this column and how many of them aren’t even Winter Texans. A friend recently told me she felt she had “a window to my soul.” (That can give a person writer’s block in a hurry.) I write from the heart and about what’s on my mind. Sometimes it relates to Winter Texans, and sometimes it doesn’t. Continue reading “Let’s paint a picture”

What’s next?

Believe it or not, this is Welcome Home RGV’s ninth season!  It’s because of the faith and support of so many people that we have been able to make it this far.  A lot has changed over the years. People have come and gone, and we’ve had great ideas, good ideas, bad ideas, and even a few downright terrible ones. But every day, we dust ourselves off, learn from our mistakes, and constantly try to improve our process.

It was February, 2008, when I had a vision, and that vision has become a reality.  It didn’t happen overnight, thank goodness.  We’ve learned the hard way and put in the sweat equity to prove it.  And that is what makes us better and stronger than we ever realized we could be.

What started out as a ‘little coupon book for Winter Texans’ has turned into so much more. We’ve grown by leaps and bounds–from adding an annual directory and a weekly newspaper to purchasing the Winter Texan Expo to hosting our own signature events and activities.  It does boggle the mind at times, yet somehow we all have managed to juggle it all.  But what keeps us grounded is that our vision is centered around one thing:  Winter Texans are such an integral part of our lives here in the Rio Grande Valley.

But that isn’t the exciting part.  I’m excited about what the future holds for our company, where we’ll grow from here, and where we’ll be ten years from now. The winter market is changing, that’s for sure, but we aren’t afraid of change.  We welcome it and will be there amidst it all to offer support, guidance, and solutions to those who need it and a lot of fun for everyone!

That vision in February 2008 was a gift, and we continue to be guided in the right direction. It’s our responsibility to watch, listen, learn, and adapt so we can keep this very important demographic protected.

I look so very forward to seeing all of your smiling faces this winter…and for many more to come!

Baby it’s HOT outside!

By this time, most of our Winter Texans have left the Rio Grande Valley, either to head off to your next adventure, to check on the farm, or to see those grandkids with whom the Valley just can’t compete.  Something tells me that those who haven’t left just yet will, as Tim Smith from KRGV Channel 5 is projecting a high of 103 Saturday.  (Sigh!)

 

And so it goes with life in the Rio Grande Valley.  We love our winters but shudder just thinking about June, July, and August.  In all honesty, though, I’d rather brave a South Texas summer than to try to live through another North Texas one (that’s why I only lasted in Dallas one year)!  The Valley may be hot, but the high humidity and proximity to the coast allow for ‘cool’ breezes throughout the day and into the evenings.  Yes, to some it might be called wind, but let this optimist see the glass as half full.  It’s one of the only things that gets me through the summer.

 

The summers are hard, there is no doubt, but I would rather sweat through the summer than have to shovel snow.  But I will say that as I get older and starting planning for the future, the thought of becoming a Winter Texan myself has crossed my mind a time or two.  Spending the summer months on a lake somewhere in Michigan sounds mighty fine to me!

 

Whether you are still here or up north, you are always in our thoughts.  We anxiously await your return and that touch of cooler weather you tend to bring with you.

 

We’re just connecting the dots,

Kristi

The Winter Texan Whisperer

I’ve been told that I’m the Winter Texan whisperer.  I laughed when I first heard it; then I heard it again…and again…and again.  People always ask me how I do it – how I have the ability to connect with so many retirees from across the United States and Canada.  Well, to be honest, it’s not rocket science.  But there IS a secret ingredient.  You have to care.  And I do.  A LOT.  The truth is that I really, REALLY love them.  In order to have any strong relationship, you have to show you care.  I know that is what sets us apart from others who are ‘in the business.’

One thing’s for sure, I want prospective Winter Texans to know that they’ll be in good hands while they winter in South Texas.  And for those of you who are ‘seasoned’ Winter Texas or Converted Texans – you already know you’re about to have an amazing winter.  At Welcome Home RGV, we work tirelessly to keep you informed of what’s going on across the Rio Grande Valley and, in some cases, beyond!  We’ll not only keep you up to date, but we’ll be right there in the trenches with you, whether that be on a bike ride, at happy hour, at a craft show, or on the dance floor.  We might even try to beat you at a game of cards!

We truly look forward to spending the winter with you.  Safe travels to those of you who are on the road, and we’ll see you in South Texas real soon.

We’re just connecting the dots,

Kristi

The Accidental Publisher

I have made investing in my education and networking with industry leaders a priority.  Over the course of my life with Welcome Home RGV, I have attended conferences, seminars, and conventions on topics ranging from social media strategies to the recreational vehicle industry, as a whole.

Much of the work we have done at Welcome Home RGV has been organic, stemming from seeing the demand for more and more of what we do and pushing ourselves to think outside the proverbial box and to improve each and every day.

I just returned from a conference in Austin for niche publishers.  What I found was that there is a need for a publications on just about everything you can think of.  From industry news to hobbyists, the potential to self-publish is out there.  What was interesting to me was that, at first, I felt so out of place.  With so many ‘real’ publishers at this conference, I felt silly calling myself a publisher.  As I interacted with others and got to know some of the conference attendees, I found that I am not alone – so many folks came into the publishing world quite by accident.  Going through the sessions on topics like content marketing, marketing automation, consultative selling, and media strategies made me realize how much we actually do; we just don’t call what we do by those ‘official names.’

I think what makes us successful at Welcome Home RGV is that we do what we love, do right, not only by our audience but also by our customer, and we package our passion into a variety of products, which creates an amazing company culture.

As I left the conference, I walked away with a long list of to-do’s and a whole lot of fresh ideas.  It will be exciting to see what the next year brings, and we can’t wait to take you along for the ride.

We’re just connecting the dots,

Kristi

History repeating itself

I had the opportunity to be the guest speaker for the Tropic Star (Pharr) Canadian get-together.  There are a lot of Canadians at Tropic Star, the dinner was held at the Junction Café in Pharr, and we were literally bursting out of their private room.  I had such a lovely evening.  The group invited me join them for dinner, and we had the chance to visit prior to my presentation.
While I was speaking about life in the Rio Grande Valley and thanking our Canadians for choosing the Valley as their home away from home, I canvassed the crowd, and a thought crossed my mind.  I wonder who’s been here the longest and who’s been here the shortest length of time?  I was amazed that hands went up when I asked if anyone in the crowd had been coming down for 25 years or more!  Even more exciting was seeing the hands go up when I asked who’s here for the first time.I know many of you celebrate the folks who have been coming to the Valley for years and years – you can generally spot them in an instant as they have the dingle dangles hanging from their name badges to indicate how many seasons they’ve been here.  But what about the new folks?  How do you identify them in your parks?  I ask because I don’t know.  I do know that at some parks there are first-timer socials and the new people are asked to stand at park meetings, but it would serve us well to survey these folks–an exit survey, if you will.  Find out what they liked, what surprised them, and what didn’t exactly float their boats. After all, these newcomers are the future of our parks, and if history repeats itself, they will be the ones to spread the word about our “magic Rio Grande Valley.”  We need to celebrate them just as much as we need to continue honoring our long-timers.I’d love to hear from you about how you celebrate newcomers in your park.  I’d also like to hear directly from those of you who are new to the Winter Texan lifestyle – hear your thoughts on the Rio Grande Valley and your first experience with us.  Seeing our Valley from your fresh perspective will help us as a region in developing marketing strategies to attract more of you to visit our area.I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you, Ron Desrochers and all of the Canadians from Tropic Star for the lovely evening and paperweight with the maple leaf.  It is proudly displayed on my desk!  O Canada!We’re just connecting the dots,Kristi

Tell everybody about it!

Posted on March 5, 2015 at 2:38 am.

One of the many things I love about the Valley is the diversity of our area.  Each one of our cities has its own feel and flavor.  The same rings true with our RV resorts and retirement communities.  It is evident that the wants and needs of the residents are reflected in the place each Winter Texan chooses to live.

This is the time of year when everyone starts making decisions about whether to stay in their current community or to try something different next season.  It is also the time when parks start to roll out their move-in specials and to announce rates for next year.  This is also the time to strongly encourage YOU to convince your friends from back home to join you in the Valley next season. Share the joy!  Share the fun!  Share the sun!

Finding the right park to call home can be overwhelming.  There are so many to choose from that it could take forever!  At Welcome Home RGV, we came up with a way to highlight “The Best of the Best,” allowing you to tour these properties in a short length of time so you can get back to your dancing, happy hour, or crafting!  The 2nd Annual Communities on Parade will be held February 26 – 27 and March 5 – 6 and will showcase numerous properties throughout the Rio Grande Valley.  From Brownsville to Palmview, and all points in between, you will have the opportunity to tour properties, walk the grounds, see the many amenities they have to offer, and take advantage of a number of specials and incentives they may be offering.  Whether you are looking for a rental, park model, mobile home or the perfect RV site to call home – make your search an experience!  For more information on the Communities on Parade, visit www.communitiesonparade.com.

I’d like to ask you to become an ambassador for our area, if you aren’t already.  You probably already are and don’t even realize it.  What does being an ambassador mean?  It means spreading the word.  Share your love for the Valley and the Winter Texan lifestyle with others.  I’m sure your park would love for you to take their flyers and brochures with you to distribute to your friends back home.

It’s no secret that word of mouth is the number one reason Winter Texans flock to the Valley.  I bet that’s why YOU are here.  You likely had a friend, an aunt, an uncle, or maybe even your parents who spent their winters sunbathing while you were shoveling snow.  You probably decided you didn’t want to ever see a snow shovel again and decided to give it a whirl and head to South Texas.  I only spent a few days in Indiana, and that was certainly enough to convince ME!

We’re just connecting the dots,

Kristi

What came first, the Winter Texan or the butterfly?

Posted on November 2, 2014 at 8:37 pm.

It’s hard to believe it’s already the first of November! While our friends who are still up north are packing their things, those of you who never left or who have already returned to the Rio Grande Valley are in for a BIG treat! You’re here just in time for prime butterfly season!

Did you know you, our Winter Texans, and Monarch butterflies have a lot in common? You both try to escape the cold winters and usually start your migration south in October. And both of you have been known to flee even earlier if the weather warrants a quick escape.

People tend to get really excited about our Winter Texans and our Monarchs, and rightly so! The flurry of activity and the economic impact we enjoy, thanks to you and our butterflies, is something the Rio Grande Valley both recognizes and appreciates. While the butterflies don’t bring their checkbooks, people from all over the world come to see them, and they certainly bring theirs!

While you are in the Rio Grande Valley, there are plenty of things to see and do. Whether you want to soak up our sunshine on South Padre Island, hike along our many nature trails, get out your clubs and hit the golf course, support the arts and theatre, shop in our stores or our famous ropa usadas and flea markets, dance the day away or step back in time at any one or all of our museums – there is certainly something for everyone in south Texas.

I speak on behalf of the entire Rio Grande Valley when I say we’re glad you’re back. Even though you, like the Monarchs, start your journey to your northern homes in the middle of March – we appreciate the opportunity to be your home away from home in the meantime.

I’ve always loved Monarch butterflies and never really understood why. I think I have finally figured it out.

We’re just connecting the dots,
Kristi

It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it

Posted on October 27, 2014 at 4:46 am.

I hope you know that when I say that I have a big grin on my face.  I absolutely love what I do,  I almost feel guilty when I talk to friends who are frustrated with their jobs, or are just plain unhappy.  I’ve found that when you aren’t happy with your job, not only does it show, but it affects everyone around you.  TRUST ME, I know.  I had a job like that and my family and I suffered through that for almost five years.  I can’t tell you how many award ceremonies, field trips and meet the teacher functions I missed over those five years – and those are things that I will never be able to get back.  Not to mention the gray hair that I’m certain came from my tenure at that company, and I’ve been paying the price for that ever since (every four to six weeks).
As the daughter of self employed parents, I was raised by parents who taught me to work hard, do it right, and always pay it forward so the entrepreneurial spirit was already instilled in me.  I was laid off from that J-O-B in October of 2007 and at that moment I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to do something on my own and never work for anyone but myself again.
I wanted something to do that would allow me to surround myself with people who enjoy life to the fullest.  I wanted to do something that would make a difference in the lives of others.  And most importantly, I wanted the flexibility to spend time with my family, especially my daughter.
As a McAllen native, I grew up with Winter Texans all around me and never knew there was a time when they didn’t exist (officially, here in the Rio Grande Valley that is).  As a matter of fact, all of my adult working life I’ve worked with Winter Texans in a variety of different ways (aside from the 5 year stint at that company that will remain nameless!).  My very first job was when I worked for the American Red Cross and I would go from park to park to make presentations on Red Cross activities and recruiting volunteers.  So the Winter Texan world was a familiar one to me, and that’s where I found myself in October of 2007 and Welcome Home, RGV was born.
So!  With that being said, I hope that you get to know Welcome Home RGV – who we are, what we do and in the words of Ron Berquist, Converted Texan/Retama Village “watch us grow”.  We are here to be of service, whether you are looking for a place to call home, a specific product or service, or simply the best hamburger in town – we want to help you make the most of your experience in the Rio Grande Valley.
Visit our website, www.welcomehomergv.com and sign up for our e-newsletter and we’ll keep you posted on all sorts of events and activities that we just know you’ll love.
We’re just connecting the dots,
Kristi