Washington's Birthday Celebration
|Washington's Birthday Celebration|
|Dates||Annually; Mid January to End of February|
|Location(s)||Laredo, Webb County, Texas|
The Washington's Birthday Celebration (WBCA)  is an almost month long event held each February in Laredo, the seat of Webb County in south Texas, that celebrates the birthday of George Washington. It is the largest celebration of its kind in the United States with approximately 400,000 attendees annually. The celebration consists of various festivals; a Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball, Princess Pocahontas Pageant and Ball, two parades, a carnival, an air show, fireworks, live concerts, "Fun-Fest" at Laredo Community College, and a city-wide prom during which many of the Laredo elite dress in Colonial attire. Each year a prominent Laredo man and woman play the roles of George and Martha Washington. One of its main events, the Jalapeño Festival, has recently been named one of Top 10 eating festivals in the United States.
The celebration was first staged in 1898 by the San Antonio-based Improved Order of Red Men, which established the Laredo local chapter called Yaqui Tribe #59. Much earlier, former Laredo Mayor Samuel M. Jarvis (1822-1893), had held a reception at his downtown home in honor of Washington's birthday and had encouraged a larger celebration thereafter, which he never lived to see. Jarvis was a Republican who had earlier fought in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor.
That original celebration is considered to have been a phenomenal success. In 1923, the association received its state charter. In 1924, the celebration featured its first Colonial Pageant, with thirteen girls from Laredo, representing the thirteen original colonies. The WBCA has become a Laredo institution, with its history closely tied to the history of the community.
A highlight of the festival is the naming of "Mr. South Texas" an honor for a man or a woman. Among those who have received the designation are governors, U.S. representatives, and state legislator. Two generations of the Killam oil family have also been honored, Oliver Winfield Killam in 1956, Radcliffe Killam in 1978.
In August 2014, U.S. Senator John Cornyn was named "Mr. South Texas" for the 118th WBC Celebration in February 2015. WBCA president Veronica Castillon said that Cornyn "loves Laredo, and it shows through his attention and actions ..."
Jamboozie is held in late January in downtown Laredo as the introduction to the annual Washington Birthday Celebration. Similar to the New Orleans Mardi Gras style, the Jamboozie is a colorful event, with many people dressed in beads and masks and sometimes flamboyant outfits. There are many concession stands, open bars, and four stages that feature local and regional bands playing mostly alternative rock, classic rock and Spanish music.
- Washington's Birthday Celebration Association Home Page
- Odie Arambula, "Mayor Jarvis had ideas on celebration", Laredo Morning Times, February 24, 2013, p. 13A
- Mikaela Rodriguez, "Mr. South Texas", Laredo Morning Times, February 24, 2013, p. 1, 12A
- "Cornyn is Mr. Southb Texas", Laredo Morning Times, August 5, 2014, p. 3A