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Trustee Carmen González praises passage of $112M bond issue, ethical reforms, high academic honors

Edinburg school board trustee Carmen González, who is finishing up her first term on the seven-member school board, greets Saúl Ortega of Edinburg, one of several hundred supporters who showed up on Thursday, August 21, for her campaign reelection bid kick-off, held at the ECHO in Edinburg. A retired educator whose career saw her rise from the classroom to the top leadership position as interim superintendent of ECISD, González is being challenged by a former and longtime ECISD trustee, Gilbert Enríquez, a renowned leader in business construction projects in the region. The election is on Tuesday, November 4. In gearing up for her race against Enríquez, González pledged to focus on her continuing vision for the school district, not personal attacks. “For my part, and in my campaign, there will be no mud thrown from my direction, from my camp,” she promised. “I will not throw mud, and I know I will be blessed because I will not be interrupted by negativism that may be circulating. I hope this will be a clean race, like it was when I ran (in 2005) against Obie Salinas, who was a gentleman with me all the way. We ran a good, clean campaign. I am going to ask the public to keep it clean.” See lead story later in this posting.

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After a final round of interviews, the Hidalgo County Elections Commission on Wednesday, August 20, unanimously selected Yvonne Ramón to lead the Hidalgo County Elections Department. “Ms. Ramón was chosen today to uphold core values of trust, responsibility and commitment to public service,” said Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, who is Chairman of the Hidalgo County Elections Commission. “Out of 66 applicants, she is what we consider the best of the best.” The other members of the commission are Hidalgo County Clerk Arturo Guajardo Jr., Hidalgo County Tax Assessor-Collector Armando Barrera, Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chair Dolly Elizondo and Hidalgo County Republican Party Chair Hollis Rutledge. See story later in this posting.

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For the second year, new faculty at The University of Texas-Pan American were welcomed to campus on Tuesday, August 19 as part of the New Faculty Support Program, which helps incoming faculty members adjust to their new environment. Fifty-five full-time, tenure and tenure-track faculty who are new this fall to UTPA attended the program’s opening reception and a two-day academic orientation. The year-long initiative was designed to help incoming faculty adjust to their new academic and community surroundings at UTPA. Featured here, from left during the first day of the academic orientation are: Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; UTPA student Tony Matamoros; Keith Patridge, the president of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation; and Dr. Ala Qubbaj, director of the New Faculty Support Program Director Qubbaj. See story later in this posting.

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The City of Edinburg was founded in 1908, where it was first named Chapin, Texas. In 1911, the town of Chapin was newly named Edinburg, and will officially reach its centennial of its founding on October 10, 2008. During the week of October 5 – 11, Edinburg will reflect on the establishment and growth of the community with a series of historic events, which are being organized the Centennial Committee. Local institutions which will spearhead the celebrations include The Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, the Museum of South Texas History, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the City of Edinburg, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department, and other various businesses, and organizations The event will feature Edinburg’s largest birthday cake, free ice cream, a city proclamation, poetry readings, an essay contest, a historic exhibition, Fireman’s Parade plus more. Some of the members of the Centennial Committee are, from left: Flo Prater; Joel A. Garza; Migdalie Rodríguez; Lynne Beeching; Miguel Gamboa; Elva Jackson Garza; Frank Lara; Letty González; Letty Reyes; Evana Vleck; Frank Garza; Viviana Ozuna; Rubén J. López; and Marco Cordova. Not shown are Valerie M. Haesly-Parson, Imelda Rodríguez, Lucy Robinson and Valerie Ramírez. Log on to http://www.edinburg.com for a complete calendar of events, or call 956-383-4974 for more information.

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Gilberto Garza, superintendent of the Edinburg school district, on Tuesday, August 19, addressed the elementary teachers and paraprofessionals at the General Assembly. “It isn’t by accident that the district had 12 Exemplary and 15 Recognized campuses last year, or that we had six schools named in Texas Monthly’s Best Public Schools in Texas list, or that 33 schools received Gold Performance Acknowledgments for high academic accomplishments, or that we have two high schools who have been awarded the College Board Inspiration Award, or two high schools named in Newsweek magazine among the Top Five Percent of Schools in the nation,” said Garza. See story later in this posting.

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Judges Daniel G. Ríos, Jesse Contreras gearing up financially for top local race in Hidalgo County

Hidalgo County 449th District Court Judge Daniel G. Ríos of Edinburg, featured left in this file photo from last fall, has raised more than $67,000 in political contributions during the first six months of 2008, according to his campaign finance report filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. Ríos, former Edinburg city attorney, was appointed last November by Gov. Rick Perry to the local district court, which has jurisdiction over juvenile matters.  He joined his family to receive a House Concurrent Resolution, authored by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, which honored the memory of Dr. Luis M. Ríos, Sr., a renowned plastic surgeon and the patriarch of their family, for his many contributions to the region. Featured during this presentation were, from left: Dan Ríos; mother Mary Ann Ríos; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who sponsored the legislation; and Dr. Luis Ríos, Jr.  See lead story on Ríos/Contreras campaign finance report later in this posting.

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Jesús “Jesse” Contreras, featured left during a recent grand opening of his law office in Edinburg, is gearing up once again for a countywide campaign, this time against Republican Judge Daniel G. Ríos in the November 4 election. Contreras, a longtime Mercedes Municipal Court judge, defeated fellow Democrat Judge Maxine Longoria-Nash in the March 4 party party primary to face Ríos, who was appointed to the bench last fall by Gov. Rick Perry.  Contreras is featured here with law partner Sergio Muñoz at their local office. The 449th District Court focuses on legal cases involving juveniles. See lead story on  Ríos/Contreras campaign finance report later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Early Risers Lions Club has awarded Dr. Gary L. Ahlman, featured center, an Edinburg optometrist,  a certificate of appreciation for his many years of providing disadvantaged children with free eye exams and glasses. Ahlman has worked with Lions Clubs in Edinburg and the Hidalgo County Indigent Program to provide free eye exams and eyeglasses to children of families who are economically disadvantaged. Ahlman estimates he has helped provide free eyeglasses for over 5,000 Edinburg-area children. Featured with Ahlman are, to his left, Raúl M. Leal, secretary/treasurer for the Lions Club, and Joe Longoria, president for the Edinburg Early Risers Lions Club. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Leadership Edinburg Class is currently accepting applications for Class XX.  Leadership Edinburg is a growing organization that strives to encourage a better Edinburg through strong leadership skills focusing on politics, education, and quality of life.  There are more than 400 graduates who have taken the challenge and completed each program of work with pride and great accomplishment. Graduates of Leadership Edinburg typically continue to apply what they learned and demonstrate it by showing interest in community involvement including serving on committees and at times politics. Tuition is only $400 to participate and is due by August 29.  Applicants should make arrangements to sign up as soon as possible; as there are limited spaces are available.  The retreat will take place at South Padre Island, on September 12th & 13th at La Quinta.  For more information on Leadership Edinburg or to register please call Letty González at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956-383-4974. Featured from left are the 08-09 Leadership Edinburg Steering Committee: Cynthia Bocanegra, Pilar Corpus, Abel Leal, Naomi Peralez, Steve Crossland, Destiny Campos, Edna Peña, Jay Flores, Jerry Salazar, and  Pamela Dougherty.

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Edinburg rode out Hurricane Dolly in good shape, based on first reports, says Mayor Ochoa

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Crispin Fuente, store manager for JC Penny in Edinburg, participates in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, August 1, as Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured to Fuentes’ left, helps steady the ribbon. Almost a year to the day after groundbreaking was held for The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, the 103,000-square-foot JC Penney officially became the first retail center to open its doors at the planned 1.1 million square-foot retail, entertainment, and hotel complex, located on the northwest corner of U. S. Highway 281 and Trenton Road. The 80-store complex on 130 acres will provide one of the most unique shopping experiences in Texas. Following JC Penney will be the opening of Burlington Coat Factory in mid-August. TJ Maxx, The Shoe Department, and Academy Sports will open in the fall of this year, in time for the holiday season. More store openings will follow into next year with the addition of Lane Bryant, Ross Dress for Less and First National Bank during the early part of 2009. In addition to the mayor, other elected leaders at the ribbon-cutting included Councilmember Alma A. Garza, Councilmember Noé Garza, Elias Longoria, Jr., a member of the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Edinburg school board trustee Ciro Treviño, and Hidalgo County Tax Assessor-Collector Armando Barrera.  See story later in this posting.

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Former Edinburg Mayor Richard García, on behalf of himself and his law firm, García, Quintanilla and Palacios, has donated $10,000 to an annual fundraiser drive designed to help young people served by the Edinburg Boys & Girls Club RGV. In doing so, he issued a challenge to those in the legal community to match the gift, which was donated to the "It Just Takes One Campaign" now underway.  The campaign will raise funds for the Clubs’ after-school programs and services for youth, ages 6-18, living in Edinburg and surrounding communities. Scheduled to run through August 15, the campaign seeks donations primarily from individuals. García said he and his law partners, including Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio "Terry" Palacios and C.J. Quintanilla, have previously donated money to the Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg RGV. "The community needs to see the importance of the Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg, to see that there are people contributing," García said. "Edinburg has been very good to me over the years, and I figure one of the best ways I can give back to my community is to help our children." See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, featured right, shares a laugh with Dr. Carlos Mohamed, M.D, featured left, and other Houston lawmakers during a Thursday, July 10 visit to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, which has a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center as part of its medical complex. Cohen, a 38-year breast cancer survivor, was the first House sponsor of Proposition 15. Last November, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment which will fund $3 billion in cancer research grants to conduct research to prevent or cure cancer, support existing research efforts in Texas, and implement the Texas Cancer Plan, a statewide blueprint for cancer prevention and control. A few days after her visit to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Cohen was a keynote speaker at “The American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer: Coming Together 2008 – A National Forum on Cancer Care in the United States” held July 14 – 15 in Baltimore, Maryland.  Featured in this photograph at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance were, from left: Mohamed, who is an obstetrician and gynocologist; Prisylla Jasso, director of the Border Health PAC, which represents Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Rep. Alma Allen, Ph.D., and Cohen.  See story on Cohen later in this posting.

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced on Friday, August 9, that the 10th annual sales tax holiday will take place Friday-Sunday, August 15-17. The tax holiday will provide Texas families with much needed back-to-school savings, and, for the first time, school backpacks and messenger bags costing less than $100 also will be tax exempt. "Family budgets are stretched farther than ever, especially with the high price of gasoline, groceries and other necessities,"  Zaffirini said. "I am pleased that even more items qualify for tax-free status this year so that families may enjoy greater savings." Most children’s and adult’s clothing and shoes priced less than $100 can be purchased tax-free during the holiday. A complete list of items that will be tax exempt during the sales tax holiday is available at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxpubs/tx98_490/tx98_490.html. Since 1999 the clothing sales tax holiday has saved shoppers more than $388 million in state and local sales taxes. Zaffirini voted to expand tax holiday laws during the 2007 legislative session. Caption by Sarah Rayburn.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Champion Committee recently announced that 10 new members have joined the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Some businesses are new to the Edinburg area, while others are existing, and all help in sustaining Edinburg’s economy.  New members are as follows: Law Offices of Contreras & Muñoz;Molduflex; Wolfy’s Wine & Liquor; Elite Rehab Service LLC; State Farm Insurance; Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg; Hacienda Ford; Copy Plus; Monte Cristo Pharmacy; and The Brass Chair Barbershop. Featured in this photograph, taken at Monster Carwash, include, back row, from left:  Aaron Ramírez, Dr. Walt Greene, Roy Peña, Gary Myers, Dina Araguz, Marty Martin, María Martínez, Joel Porras, and Imelda Rodríguez. Front row, from left:  Frank Lara, Óscar Hinojosa, Joe Sánchez, Celine Schulz, Elva Jackson Garza, Flo Prater, and Jay Flores.

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Public hearings on Hidalgo County Loop, including Edinburg session, rescheduled to August 5, 6, 7, 12, and 13

The State of Texas on Saturday, August 2, approved aerial spraying for the counties of Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, has announced. At the request of the local counties and municipalities, the Texas Department of State Health Services has contracted with Chicago-based Clarke Mosquito Control to conduct the aerial sprays, which could start as early as Sunday night, August 3, but will begin no later than Monday night, August 4, weather-permitting. “Our residents will feel relief soon,” said Salinas. “The state of Texas and our state delegation, especially Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), have been extremely responsive. My hat is off to them. Now it’s time to pull out the big guns in our war on mosquitoes. My message to them is buzz off now or you’ll be sorry.” See story later in this posting.

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Hurricane Dolly is featured in this NASA image as i t hits the Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday, July 23, as a Category 2 hurricane, with sustained winds reported at about 100 mph near the coast – and at about 70 miles per hour in Edinburg. Although many in Edinburg were spared misery and suffering, other portions of South Texas, including thousands of fellow Hidalgo County residents, were hit hard by power outages, wind damage, and especially flooding. On Friday, August 1, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, announced that disaster assistance is now available to individuals who qualify under guidelines established by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For those with speech or hearing impairment: TTY 1-800-462-7585. Individuals may also apply by going online at: http://WWW.FEMA.GOV. Disaster assistance available from FEMA includes: housing needs; other than housing needs; and other additional services. Individuals will need to have the following information available when contacting FEMA: A phone number where you can be reached; social security number; current mailing address; address of the affected property; brief description of the damages; and insurance information, including policy number. “I encourage all Rio Grande Valley residents who have been impacted by Hurricane Dolly to contact FEMA and see if they qualify for disaster assistance,” Martínez said. “With FEMA, individuals may be able to find get the assistance necessary to help them back onto their feet.”

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Coastlines can either evolve slowly, as a beach builds or erodes wave by wave, or they can change all at once in one mighty storm. Barrier islands are particularly prone to sudden change because they take the brunt of severe storms. Even the relatively mild Hurricane Dolly, which came ashore on July 23 as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of about 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour), brought noticeable changes to the Texas coastline. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured the top image on July 26, immediately after Dolly moved out of the region. The image shows changes to both South Padre Island and the Texas shoreline. The image was made with a combination of visible and infrared light to highlight the presence of water on the ground. The plant-covered land is green, while sparsely vegetated areas are tan. Water is dark blue to black, and clouds are turquoise blue and white. South Padre Island appears to be painted with a film of pale blue in the this image. The color is from water-soaked sand. A closer look reveals more significant changes. The shape of the inland side of the island has changed. The Laguna Madre appears to have swollen, covering much of the western shore of South Padre Island. Just below the center of the image, a square-shaped section of the island is gone. The Texas coastline also changed. A thin line of land that ran through the Laguna M adre in an image taken several days earlier is missing in the July 26 image. Water intrudes into shore where low-lying coastal regions have flooded. The waters of the Laguna itself are bright blue. Soil and sand that washed into the Laguna from the storm and floods reflect light back into space, and this colors the water lighter blue. Dolly’s heavy rains also caused inland flooding on both sides of the border between the United States and Mexico. Rivers and streams too small to be visible prior to Dolly’s arrival stood out as a network of blue on July 26. NASA images courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

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As part of its response, the Hidalgo County government has established a hurricane hotline to assist any resident, according to Cari Lambrecht, public information officer for the county judge and county commissioners court.  The telephone number, which will remain active through August 8, is (956) 318-2903.  Residents will be able to reach operators, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., who will help residents with questions about debris removal, health concerns, assistance and flooding issues.  “We are working to make sure our residents’ questions are answered,” said Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, featured here with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, following a Thursday, July 24 press conference in McAllen. “All of us need to be on the same page so we can help each other through this difficult time.”

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Potential litigation involving the ongoing construction of the new Edinburg City Hall, featured here with a portion of its west facade, is set for consideration on Tuesday, August 5, in executive session by the Edinburg City Council. No other details were released in the August 1 posting of the city council’s agenda. Also behind closed doors, city leaders will take up the issue of what to do about hiring a permanent city attorney. Seven area firms, including the current interim city attorney, have submitted their credentials for the post, and their proposed fees range from $150 per hour to $20,000 per month. The city has retained an interim city attorney since January, following the resignation of then-city attorney Daniel G. R=C 3os in December, who was required to vacate his post after being appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as the presiding judge of Hidalgo County’s 449th District Court. Ríos, a Republican, is facing Jesse Contreras, a Democrat and longtime Mercedes Municipal Court Judge, in the November general elections.

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Edinburg city attorney post draws candidates with diverse legal, political credentials

The University of Texas-Pan American Foundation and VAMOS, the Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities and Scholarships  announced at a press conference on Thursday, July 10 that they will partner to create the VAMOS/UTPAF Endowed Scholarship Program. VAMOS donated $1 million to the UTPA Foundation to kick off the program, and the University Foundation matched the funds. Pictured center, from left, holding the check, are: Sonia Falcón, VAMOS president; Alonzo Cantú, VAMOS chairman emeritus and UTPA Foundation board member; and Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas, UTPA president. Standing, from left, are Rodrigo Reyna, VAMOS board member; Lydia P. Alemán, UTPA University Advancement executive director; David Deanda, VAMOS board member; Paul  Rodríguez, VAMOS board member; Bill Ellis Jr., UTPA Foundation board member; A.R. (Felo) Guerra, UTPA Foundation board member; Heather Margain, VAMOS executive director; Alma De La Garza, UTPA Foundation board member; and R. David Guerra, UTPA Foundation chair. See story later in this posting.

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South Texas Health System, which includes Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Edinburg Children’s Hospital, and the South Texas Behavioral Health Center in Edinburg, is ranked among the top 10 contributors of the United Way of South Texas annual charity fundraiser.  Its collection of $55,724 from hospital employees in the local system, which also includes McAllen Heart Heart Hospital and McAllen Medical Center, ranked it number seven among corporate employee donors.  The United Way of South Texas helps fund various community organizations using these dollars to help local youth succeed, strengthen and support families, provide employment placement for the disabled, elderly assistance, transportation assistance, emergency center, CPS training, and many other services critical to Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley. Featured at Edinburg Regional Medical Center, from left, are: Thelma Garza; Joe Garza; Gilda Romero; Roxanna Godínez; Doug Matney; Lisa Killion; Linda Reséndez; Joel Peña; Joe Riley; and Ismael Morán.

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Janie Cabellero, featured left, a business advisor with the Small Business Development Center at the University of Texas-Pan American, and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, are making final preparations for a major workshop that will help area residents seeking to invest in both start-ups and established commercial enterprises in the United States. The seminar, which will be conducted in Spanish, will be held on Wednesday, July 30, in the third floor meeting room at the McAllen Memorial Library, 601 N. Main Street.  The free seminar on foreign investments will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. “Pasaporte al Éxito:  Estrategias Claves Immigratorias de los EE.UU. para el 2008 y en Adelante” will cover the eligibility for investor visa categories, preparation and lodging of visa applications on behalf of immigrant investors; typical guidance and strategy development on the most effective methods for obtaining foreign investors visa status; and information regarding renewal, maintenance and change of status for foreign investors.  The Spanish session is being hosted by the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce  and the UTPA Small Business Development Center. It will be presented by Tindall & Foster, P.C., one of the nation’s largest law firms specializing in immigration law, which enjoys a national reputation in this field. Pre-registration is required to secure a seat.  Call the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 928-0060.

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Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured left, presents a proclamation to Officer Balde  Gómez, center, and Chief of Police Quirino Muñoz on Tuesday, July 15, designating Tuesday, August 5 as “Edinburg’s Night Against Crime”. The 13th annual event, being hosted by the Edinburg Crime Stoppers Association, is part of a nationwide effort to empower citizens to work with local law enforcement to help spot, prevent, and discourage criminal activities in their hometowns.  In Edinburg, the event will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Edinburg Municipal Park, located at 714 South Raúl Longoria Road. Parking and admission to the local event is free and open to the public. There will be booths where food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase, and live concerts – also free – will be featured during the evening.  Robert Pulido y Los Clasicos, Riley y Los Gilitos, Los Badd Boys del Valle, and the 24/7 rock band will perform during the evening.  Prizes, vendors, kid rides, and a special guest appearance by the Green Ghost will also be featured.  Last year’s event drew more than 5,000 people. More information is available by calling the Edinburg Police Department at 383-7124. ••••••

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