Community Warmly Welcomes Back Winter Texans
Gene and Linda Grabill's home is like any other.
Carpeted floors, reclining chairs and a cushy sofa dot the living room, while the hot chocolate-scented candle adds to the comfort factor.
The difference? Their home is on wheels.
The Grabills are Winter Texans. Although they hail from Pennsylvania, they load their fifth-wheel RV and call Texas home from October through May.
And, on Wednesday (Jan. 6), the Victoria (Texas) Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomed about 250 such people to town, according to The Victoria Advocate. The organization hosted "Welcome Back Wednesday" at the Victoria Community Center, offering giveaways, barbecue and exhibits to those in town temporarily.
The event was a chance to promote what Victoria has to offer and thank the Winter Texans, said Bridgette Bise, the bureau's executive director.
Winter Texans contribute to the local economy but don't take much out tax-wise, Bise said, explaining they have no children in local schools.
"They buy gas here, they buy groceries and even vehicles," Bise said. "It's good for all Victorians."
On average, they spend $100 per day in town, said Tania Ganauser, who co-owns the Lazy Longhorn RV Park. Her park, which consists of about 99 sites and two cabins, is completely full, she said.
"Winter is our season," she said, adding she already has a wait list for next year. "It's when we make our money."
Victoria is equipped to host about 525 Winter Texans and most RV parks fill up, Bise said.
Other businesses see effects, too.
Grocery stores see sales boosts, H-E-B Manager David Williams said. Pre-cooked items, easy meals and things that fit into smaller refrigerators are popular among the Winter Texan crowd, he said.
"They actually shop a little more than regular customers because they have less space to store the food," he said.
The Texas Zoo also sees an impact, said Kati Curry, the zoo's education curator.
Children are in school in winter and traffic slows, she said, so the visitors boost those counts. Some Winter Texans even volunteer when in town.
Holly Cree, who is in Victoria from Green Bay, Wis., said that, although she's been a "Snow Bird" for 10 years, this is her fourth visit to the Crossroads. Her visit spans from late November to late April.
She comes to escape the icy winters, but isn't upset about the Crossroads' frosty weather.
"It freezes everywhere we go, no matter what," she said, shaking her head. "One thing we've learned is you can never predict the weather."
Part of the Grabills' draw to RVing was the fact that they wanted to travel.
They live in their RV year-round but split their time between their 12 grandchildren in Maryland and warmer climates. They've ventured to the Lazy Longhorn RV Park five years in a row.
"Here, you're close to San Antonio, Corpus and Houston, and the people are friendly," Gene Grabill said.
They find something new to see each year, including the Hotel Blessing Coffee Shop and Schulenburg's painted churches tour.
"It's amazing what there is to see in Texas," Linda Grabill said.