The generosity of Winter Texans has helped sustain the Rio Grande Children’s Home in Mission. And on Saturday, the organization hosted Music Fest in Edinburg in recognition of that support.
The concert, held for the past 16 years, is the private facility’s only fundraiser each year, Monica Skrzypinski, the home’s donor development officer.
More than 30 abused or neglected children ranging in age from infant to 17 live at the home, operated by Buckner International, a Christian ministry.
This year, the Sons of the Pioneers, a western musical group founded in 1934, headlined the music fest. The six-man group belted out rich harmonies and melodies about longing for the Texas range and the love of a cowboy at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.
The group was originally founded by pop culture icon Roy Rogers and five others. Their recordings are part of the National Museum of American History’s collection under the Smithsonian.
Today, the group’s connection to the famous cowboy continues to draw fans.
“It’s fantastic,” Jim Clepper said of the performance, though he noted attendance could’ve been better. “I can’t believe it because Roy Rogers founded them. You knew that didn’t you?”
Clepper, a Rio Grande Valley resident for the past 25 years, founded Music Fest.
Other performers included Rich Bellert, who organized the event, was the master of ceremonies and performed his cowboy poetry. Darlene Hilde-Rolle performed a one-woman comedy show as Midwestern farm wife character “Auntie Kreamsaugen.”
Sons of the Pioneers member Luther Nallie has performed with the group the past 44 years.
The Valley’s warm temperatures attracted the Branson, Mo. group. But its western music history — rooted in melodies adapted from Mexican songs and tunes from Irish immigrants — also makes the region a good place to play, Nallie said.
“We love it,” he said. “It’s our kind of people.”
Nallie, who worked with Roy Rogers and his famous wife Dale Evans, said the music genre helps its audience remember a bygone era.
The longtime musician, who was born the year the group was founded, notes subtle differences between country and western music. The latter focuses on the “beautiful outdoors” instead of the bar.
“It’s been a ball,” he said of performing. “It’s been fun and I’m gonna keep doing it until they either run me off or they carry me off.”