Sign Up: Celebrations evolve during pandemic

Adapting to the new normal means having to find ways to safely celebrate your loved ones for their special occasions, such as birthdays, graduations, Mother’s Day or whatever other important date and achievement that would before be celebrated with a family reunion.

Now, as COVID-19 cases remain dangerously high in the Rio Grande Valley, families are choosing to celebrate their loved ones with huge signs placed in their front yard and sometimes even a car parade where balloons, music and gifts are part of the celebration as loved ones drive by, wave, record with their smart phones and leave without ever getting out of their vehicle.

“Today we did a sign for a woman turning 90-years-old and she loved it,” Gloria Isbell, founder of Koko’s Yard Creations, said.  “For her, it was something so pretty and we do have a zero-contact policy so I always text them a photo when I’m done to see if they want something to be moved and they’re always like ‘It’s perfect, it’s beautiful’ so that’s always good to hear.”

Isbell started her sign business during this pandemic after her husband lost his job. She said the response from the community has been amazing and she’s happy that she gets to be a part of these new memories families are creating with their loved ones. She said the business has taken off so much better than what the family expected.

“When we first started it would take us an hour or so to do a sign, there was no rain and the yards were like concrete, it was so hard,” she said. “Now that we kind of have a system going, we can finish a yard in ten minutes, we have come a long way from when we started. My husband helps me, he is really good at helping me, he is always there.”

Rolando Betancourt, founder of Letters R Us, another business that also does yard signs, said the business has also helped him spend more time with his family while creating the signs and working together during the creative process. Betancourt started his business early during the pandemic and said his family is very involved.

“It is kind of fun because we spend time now more than ever doing the signs and we never really hung out and now I am always with my little brother, his wife, my wife as well is there and we just learned to be closer friends,” he said.

In tight-knit communities such as the ones in Valley, it is harder for families to stop celebrating their loved ones during special occasions that would usually involve a carne asada with dozens of family members who would usually commute from the other side of the border to spend time together. Now, due to restrictions at ports of entry, visa holders are not able to cross into the United States, creating the need to have even more meaningful celebrations for those family members who are on this side of the river.

KoKo Isbell helps her mother Gloria to add balloons to a “Happy Birthday” sign Friday morning outside their home near Rancho Viejo. Koko was the inspiration for her mother’s business “KoKo’s Yard Kreations and helps out with customer orders.

Betancourt said one of the best memories he has created with his business was during Mother’s Day when at the very last minute a daughter called to ask for a sign and they made it happen. He said he got to experience for the first time the reaction of the mother who was blindfolded by her granddaughter, since that moment, Betancourt knew his business was creating many loving memories for entire families.

“They brought the grandma out, the little girl blind-folded the grandma and she brought the grandma out, took her to the middle of the yard, opened her eyes and the grandma started crying,” he said.

“That’s when I thought that this is really meaningful, for the grandma to be crying made me think that this is a tribute to their hearts in a certain way. With the whole pandemic, it is kind of hard to just be over there with the family.”