They say everything is bigger and better in Texas and that certainly seems to be the case when you see how Laredo celebrates Washington’s Birthday every February! They don’t just celebrate on Washington’s actual birthday on February 22nd; Laredo celebrates with a month-long event that attracts over 400,000 attendees each year!
The Washington’s Birthday Celebration unofficially began in the early 1800s when Laredo Mayor Samuel M. Jarvis held a reception in his downtown home in honor of the first President of the United States. He hoped the celebration would grow into an annual event, but he never lived to see it since he died in 1893 just five years prior to the first official celebration. So, what sparked the event?
The Washington’s Birthday Celebration website tells the history like this:
“On the morning of February 22, 1898, Indians and white men engaged in a ‘battle’ for control of Laredo, Texas. The ‘battle’ centered at City Hall was fiercely fought but to no avail. In the end, the defenders fell, and the mayor presented the key of the city to the Great Chief Sachem as a sign of unconditional surrender. The Great Chief, in turn, presented the key to the lovely Princess Pocahontas… The ensuing celebration among neighbors lasted for two days, culminating with the reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. Thus, was born the annual celebration of George Washington’s Birthday in Laredo, Texas.”
Since that first celebration in 1898, the Washington’s Birthday Celebration continuously expanded to include numerous pageants and special events including the naming of “Mr. South Texas” and the Jalapeno Festival. Each year, the event attracts people from all over Texas and the surrounding states with attendance now at 400,000 and counting! Because of this, Laredo’s economy flourishes every year during the month of February when an influx of tourists and locals celebrate Washington and the history of their town.
To outsiders, the celebration may seem silly since Washington never visited Laredo (and it’s unlikely he knew where Laredo was). But, Washington’s tenure as the first President of the United States and the stellar reputation he earned throughout Mexico and abroad are enough reason to celebrate, at least in Laredo. In fact, Laredo natives happily look forward to the annual event that they describe as the Super Bowl, Miss America Pageant, and the Academy Awards all rolled into one in their small historic town known as “The Gateway City Under Seven Flags.”