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CityFest East Texas kicks off with Fiesta Latina; 5 events remain

CityFest East Texas kicked off a weeklong series of events with a celebration for the Spanish-speaking community of Tyler at Fiesta Latina.

Approximately 2,500 people from 110 Spanish-speaking churches attended the Saturday event at Green Acres’ CrossWalk Conference Center. The gathering is just one of several events that are part of the initiative, which includes prison outreaches, men’s and women’s luncheons, a rodeo-style event and the two-day festival on the square in downtown Tyler. Organizers expect people from over 440 churches to attend the two-day event on Saturday and Sunday.

Fiesta Latina kicked off with high-energy music by “La Voz Kids” contestant Brianna Arteaga, an introduction of costume characters Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber from the children’s show “VeggieTales,” and a short display of BMX bike tricks across the stage. These attractions offered a taste of what’s to come at CityFest East Texas this coming weekend.

After the appeal to the children, the event continued with a worship service led by Latina Christian artist Marisol Park.

Andrew Palau, son of worldwide evangelist Luis Palau, brought greetings from his father who held a Christian crusade in Tyler in the late 1990s. CityFest East Texas is hosted by the Palau Association. Luis Palau started the ministry many years back after having worked closely with the late evangelist Billy Graham.

“My dad’s from Argentina, I was born in Colombia, and my little brother in Mexico City,” said Palau, “so a lot of our work for many years has been in Latin America. These are a lot of old-time friends. We were here in Tyler, Texas, 20 years ago or more. We have friends here from around the world, and from activities over the years.”

CityFest Executive Committee member Edgar Galdámez is one of the overseers of CityFest Fiesta Latina.

“It’s important for us to recognize that the Hispanic population plays a very important role in the city,” said Galdámez, who is campus pastor for Grace Español in Tyler. “Just in Tyler alone, and Smith County, it’s a fast-growing population and we need to engage it with things that are meaningful, and this is one of (the) things we can do.”

Palau said the vision of CityFest is for all of these people from different backgrounds and different regions to encounter God through the message of the good news in the Bible.

For one pastor, Fiesta Latina is a call to unity. Dora Giménez took over pastoral duties of her congregation after the passing of her husband, pastor and famous former South American soccer star Fabio Giménez.

Fabio played for soccer teams in Bolivia, Colombia, Uruguay and the United States before retiring in 2007 to work in ministry. In 2014, he and his family started a Spanish church in conjunction with First Baptist Church of Longview called Puertas Abiertas, which means Open Doors. Fabio was one of the initial pastors to call the Palau Association and ask for CityFest East Texas. He died in a lawn mower accident in April 2019.

“It’s an event that people aren’t used to having in the Latino community,” Giménez said through an interpreter. “I want them to see what can happen with prayer, when everyone comes together in unity. CityFest reaches a lot of people, and it’s an excellent organization, and this event has been in the works for over a year. It’s going to move a lot of people, a lot of churches, and a lot of religions, uniting them.”

Palau said his hope is that the entire community will feel warmly welcomed.

“The 400 churches are throwing the party, but it’s not for them, it’s for the whole city,” he said.

Palau shared about his personal experience of growing up doing ministry work with his father. Although he speaks some Spanish, he primarily used an interpreter while speaking at the event.

“Estoy aprendiendo, pero tengo que practicar,” he joked from the stage, which means, “I’m learning, but I have to practice.”

“I grew up in a good home, but outside of the beauty of my home, I went downhill fast,” Palau said. “Drugs, alcohol, relationships. But I began to realize, everything that I thought I was doing for fun had enslaved me.”

The event focused on Palau’s presentation of the Christian gospel.

“God came through Jesus to save us,” he said. “His greatest interest is in you. We need hope. We need an escape. We need a new start.”

Palau then gave a call to action for those who would like to receive the call of the Christian gospel.

“Sometimes we think ‘I’m not strong enough. I’ll never get out of these patterns of bad behavior.’ But there’s hope!” Palau said.

He quoted a Scripture from the biblical book of John: “To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

“If you want to be transformed, and you want to be changed, now is your moment.”

“CityFest has several goals, one of the primary goals is to unite the community, especially the churchwide community here, whether it be Spanish-speaking or English-speaking,” Galdámez said. “We think this is a good opportunity to rally people and say ‘see you at CityFest on Oct. 5 and 6 at the square.’’’

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper


Local
Nicky Wheeler Memorial Bull Riding competition raises funds for youth scholarships

Children and adults came out to enjoy the Nicky Wheeler Memorial Bull Riding competition Saturday at the Jacksonville Rodeo arena.

The Nicky Wheeler Memorial is a nonprofit organization that raises money to provide scholarships for youth involved in the agriculture of Cherokee County, according to information about the event.

Wheeler was a stock contractor and bull rider who died suddenly in April 2018, according to the Jacksonville Daily Progress.

He dedicated his life to helping Texas youth, especially those in FFA and 4H, the Daily Progress reported.

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper


Local
Five Questions with TJC's Tim Drain

Dr. Tim Drain is the associate vice provost for student affairs at Tyler Junior College.

He and his family moved to Tyler some 21 years ago. Drain was first the TJC assistant athletic director and eventually athletic director before moving into his current role.

Married to Holly for nearly 26 years, the couple have two sons — Peyton, 21, who is a junior sports management major at Texas A&M University and manager of the women’s tennis team at A&M (a job his father had in college 33 years ago) and Nathan, 19, who is a freshman communications major and a member of Squadron 17 in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. The family has a boxer, Buddy, 9.

Born in Fort Worth, Drain “was a military brat, moving every 1 1/2 to three years.”

He attended San Antonio’s Cole High School for his freshman and sophomore years and eventually graduated from Bryan High School.

Drain attended Texas A&M where he received his bachelor’s (1991) and master’s (1992) degrees, both in kinesiology.

After earning his degrees, Drain worked as the tennis coach at Corpus Christi’s King High School from 1992-94. He then returned to Texas A&M and served as the assistant women’s tennis coach from 1994-99. During that period, he decided to pursue a doctorate in educational administration, and he received that degree in December 1998.

During the 1998-99 academic year, the head tennis coach (Bobby Kleinecke) of Texas A&M at that time and Drain drove to Tyler to recruit one of TJC coach John Peterson’s tennis players.

“We unfortunately did not get the girl to go to A&M, but the visit to Tyler made an impact on me,” Drain said. “When an assistant athletic director position came open at TJC, we moved to Tyler and started in August of 1999.”

What does your job entail and your responsibilities?

I get to work with some amazing people. Athletics, Student Life, Student Affairs, the Dean of Students and the Apache Belles all fall under my umbrella. Very simply, I see our role in Student Affairs as one that works to support and enhance the academic and personal development of our students through programs, services and out-of-classroom learning experiences.

How did you get involved with junior college athletics?

I had no experience with two-year college athletics before I arrived in Tyler. John Peterson was the (athletic director) and tennis coach at Tyler. During that recruiting visit in 1998, I was able to have a side conversation with John about my personal goals and ambitions regarding my career. He was the one who actually sold me on junior college athletics. And I am thankful to him to this day.

What are some of your proudest achievements while at TJC?

It will be hard to ever top the sense of pride I had in hosting and winning the 2007 NJCAA Division III Baseball World Series. To go from a conversation between me and former coach Jon Groth to an estimated crowd of 2,500 watching TJC play Joliet (Illinois) at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Mike Carter Field was something I never imagined. I remember sitting alone in the press box hours before the championship game and writing what I thought would be a short note of thanks that I would send to the Tyler Morning Telegraph and ask them to please print. My emotions made me churn out a 1438-word, three-page single spaced novel. I remember being embarrassed to even send it to (sports editor Phil Hicks). But (he) ran it in the paper after the tournament, and I know I meant every word. It was truly a special event I will never forget.

Why is junior college athletics, specifically at TJC, so important?

I was telling our Student Government officers at a luncheon (recently) that I am a bit of a nerd in that one of my favorite aspects of TJC is graduation. My philosophy came from my years in the athletic department. I get a tremendous thrill of hearing the claps and cheers for a student when their name is called and they walk the stage. It is a great accomplishment, and many times their back story is even greater. You can’t help but be excited for someone who invested their time, monies and energy to better themselves and their families. That is ultimately why I feel junior college athletics is so important. It would be hard to argue that society as a whole does not want an educated society. And in this case, athletics is being used to educate. We are very fortunate to attract nearly 300 athletes a year to come to TJC and call Tyler home. Obviously part of our job is to win on the playing field. That is the nature of sports. However, through athletics, we are preparing individuals for their future. And my hope is that walking the stage is a part of their vision.

Athletics has always played a vital role at TJC. I think we have Floyd Wagstaff to thank for that. Athletics at TJC has certainly been a way for our student body to get involved in the collegiate experience. We work together with our Band, Belles and Cheer to create game day environments that our students and fans will remember. We have a relationship with our community in which we try to give back as our way of saying thank you for their support. We wear the name of Tyler on our uniforms with great pride, knowing we represent not only this community but also a strong and vibrant alumni base. It has been a great privilege of mine to play a small role in the athletic department, and I know their best days are still ahead.

Any particular reasons you decided to raise your family in Tyler and East Texas?

I’ll be honest. I thought we would be here two or three years and then leave. I had absolutely no ties to this area. And maybe the military brat in me thought that two or three years would suffice. But here I am heading into year 21 at TJC. First, Tyler Junior College has been a tremendous place to work. I have been truly blessed to work with some amazing administrators, colleagues, coaches, staff and student-athletes. Second, we are thankful to call Tyler home. Holly and I feel very blessed to have been able to raise two amazing sons in Tyler. Their experiences at Woods Elementary, Moore Middle School and Lee High School were very positive. We sincerely thank the faculty and staff at those schools for their work! Finally, we were blessed that our sons were active in the youth group at Marvin United Methodist Church. We are truly thankful for all who played a role in their spiritual development. I know it is a cliché, but it does take a village to raise a family. Tyler has certainly been that village, and I am very thankful.

TWITTER: @PhilHicksETFS