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Winter Texan of the Week: James Kropenski

Mission Bell Activity Director Keeps Commitment to Grow RGV Winter Texan Population

by Rocio Villalobos

Mission Bell was expecting a slower, more vacant season for the 2020-21 season, but the opposite proved true. In anticipation of the pandemic keeping people from coming down, the activity staff was cut from 25 people to just eight, with James Kropenski and his wife serving as activity directors.

Despite having less help and fewer resources to make things happen, James has found a way.

“Our reservations and our occupancy are up, which is a good thing,” he said. “We’ve appreciated that, and it’s continuing to grow.”

The Kropenskis have been coming from North Dakota for five years, and in that period have significantly grown the resort’s event schedule.

“Last year we had 32 dances, 22 major entertainment events, eight craft shows, and a car show,” James said. “This year has been somewhat diminished, but we’ve still been able to provide a busy schedule for everyone.”

Those activities include an outdoor movie night on Tuesdays, ice cream on Wednesdays, and two jams on Thursdays. To get clearance for these events, he created proposals to present to the city.

“That’s proven beneficial to our park, especially because of the number of people that have moved here,” he said. “One of the things they said is the activities of a park is something very important to them when they look for where they want to go.”

And when he returns home after the season, James’ work is not over. He helps plan a Winter Texan jammer reunion back home, which started two years ago.

“We invited Winter Texans to come to South Dakota for a Winter Texan gathering, and that was very successful,” he said. “The first year, a non-COVID year, we had seven states that were represented.”

The event is not only for RGV Winter Texans, but winter travelers to other states, as well. James said the purpose is two-fold—to reunite friends and to provide further exposure to the Valley.

“This past year, we held the reunion in conjunction with the Corn Palace Festival in South Dakota,” he said. “We worked with the committee director to also recruit some RGV entertainers that normally perform out here.”

For the next season, he’s looking forward to continuing to grow the array of activities, hoping to branch out into karaoke.

“I kinda look at the RGV in competition with the Florida and Arizona market for people that winter in the South,” James said. “The more we can offer them, the better that is.”

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