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Toys for Tots kicks off with 'Lip Sync Battle'

The Kleberg-Kenedy County Toys for Tots campaign will offcially kick off its fundraising efforts next Thursday with its second annual "Lip Sync Battle" at the Salazar Building in Kingsville. The public is invited to attend the free event and vote for their favorite performers through monetary donations.

"Everybody should come out because it's going to be a good time," Stefanie Perryman, coordinator for the Kleberg-Kenedy County Toys for Tots, said.

"There's nothing like this in Kingsville," co-coordinator Rebecca Sanchez added.

Started in 1987, the local Toys for Tots campaign collects money and new, unopened toy donations from October to mid-December every year. Donations are used to provide underprivileged area children gifts of toys for Christmas.

In addition to serving children in Kleberg and Kenedy counties, the campaign also provides toys for children in Bishop. Last year, the campaign provided toys for nearly 1,800 children.

While in prior years, the kickoff event did not serve as a fundraiser, Perryman said they had to make a change in 2018 after the campaign lost a significant amount of funding when Toys 'R' Us closed all of its stores after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017.

The Kleberg-Kenedy County Toys for Tots campaign had received about $9,000 worth of toys annually through the retail chain prior to the store closures.

To offset that loss, Perryman and Sanchez decided to incorporate a "Lip Sync Battle" into last year's kickoff event.

"And we raised just over $8,000," Perryman said. "It

was a huge success, and this year we have the same goal in mind."

"Well, we want to go over that $8,000 mark," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said while the overall goal is to raise funds for Toys for Tots, just as important to her was to "bring 'fun' back to fundraising."

"We want to have fun," she said. "We want to scream and yell and hoot and holler, wave money around and have a good time."

During the event, several pre-selected individuals and teams will be competing in a karaoke-style competition in which they will do their best to match their lip movements with prerecorded songs.

During and after the lip sync performances, attendees will have the opportunity to cast votes for their favorites by donating money to the campaign via cash, check or credit card.

"Each vote is one dollar, and you can basically just vote for your favorites as they perform," Sanchez said.

Perryman said the performers are also allowed to solicit votes prior to the event, which will be counted in their overall total in the "Lip Sync Battle" standings.

"So even if you can't make it out, you can vote for the team of your choice," she said.

For the votes to count, however, all monetary donations made must be collected and turned in to Toys for Tots during the kickoff event. All proceeds raised will directly benefit the Kleberg-Kenedy County Toys for Tots campaign and be utilized in purchasing toys through wholesale toy companies.

The overall winning individual or team will be named the Toys for Tots "Lip Sync Battle" Champion and receive a trophy.

Returning performers include last year's winner Ricki Cunningham with Coldwell Banker, KIII-TV news anchor John-Thomas Kobos, Kleberg Bank Chief Operating Officer Brad Womack and his daughter Sienna and teams comprised of Kleberg County Sheriff's deputies, U.S. Border Patrol agents, the Javelina Women's Golf Team and the United States Marines Corps.

The event will also feature several new individuals and teams, such as Kingsville Mayor Sam Fugate, Salazar Building owner David Thibodeaux, Farm Bureau Insurance and Kingsville Parks and Recreation.

"We've got some amazing teams this year," Sanchez said.

Kleberg County Assistant District Attorney J. Dean Craig, who was the 2018 co-winner with Cunningham, will serve as the master of ceremonies for the event.

Perryman said this year's "Lip Sync Battle" has already received more public interest than last year's event.

"And we are excited because we think we're going to have a bigger turnout as far as audience members go," she said.

"Which means more fun and more votes," Sanchez said.

Businesses will also be able to pick up Toys for Tots donation boxes at the event. For businesses unable to attend, donation boxes will be available at the Kingsville Chamber of Commerce, located at 635 E. King Ave.

The "Lip Sync Battle" kickoff fundraiser will be held Thursday, Oct. 17, starting at 6 p.m. at the Salazar Building, located at 200 E. Richard Ave.

The kickoff will be free to the public to attend, with cocktails, light hors d'oeuvres and cakes available during the event.

On Nov. 1, the campaign will begin accepting online applications for families wanting to receive toys through their website at kingsville-tx.toysfortots.org, under "Request a Toy – Family and Individual Request Form."

For more information or to make a donation to the Kleberg-Kenedy County Toys for Tots campaign, contact coordinator Stefanie Perryman at (417) 496-6071 or co-coordinator Rebecca Sanchez at (361) 474-0710.

The organization can also be reached on Facebook by typing "kingsvilletoysfortots" in the site's search bar or in messenger.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

'Tough decisions' for ranchers

Cattle ranchers are facing some tough decisions in the coming months as a drier-than-average year could lead to the need to sell off some of their herds heading into 2020.

"This year has been very dry," Kleberg-Kenedy County Extension Agent Frank Escobedo said. "We started off last fall with some moisture in the ground, but overall for the year we're probably about six to eight inches below from where we need to be."

Escobedo said going into 2019, Kleberg County had a good amount of soil moisture from the previous year's rainfall.

"But then January, February and even mid-March was pretty dry," he said.

Escobedo said while late March, April and early June brought in some rain, after that "the faucet was turned off."

"And then we didn't get anything until about a month ago," he said. "Typically, our average down here is between 18 to 23 inches of rain for the year."

Escobedo said the county isn't in a drought situation at this time. However, with the start of the fall season and expected cooler temperatures, he said grass growth will begin to slow down, providing less forage for grazing cat-


"You can walk some of these pastures already, and it's bare," Escobedo said. "So our cattle producers, they are going to need to make some tough decisions right now in terms of what they're going to do. Less forage when you have the same amount of head, you're going to have to supplement the feed.

"And that's the last thing a producer needs, especially right now with the cost of storing the feed and the low commodity prices for cattle. They're going to have to make some decisions about what they need to sell and what they need to keep."

Escobedo said market prices for cattle typically go down during the fall as "the market gets flooded by the amount of cattle going in," along with a drop in consumer spending on beef products.

"Fall prices are going to hurt producers," he said.

As for area farmers, Escobedo said the rains came at the right time this year, which led to "some really good yields" in cotton and grain harvests.

"When the plants needed the rain, which was late March and April, we got what we needed," he said. "For cotton, we were seeing about 1.75 bales (per acre), which is good, and with our grain we average anywhere between 4,500 on the low end to 6-7,000 (per acre). Those are good yields."

While corn is not typically grown in large quantities in Kleberg County, Escobedo said 2019 was one of the best years in the last decade for the crop locally.

"We averaged about 110 bushels per acre," he said.

Heading into 2020, Escobedo said next year's crops will depend largely on the amount of rain Kleberg County receives in the fall.

"If we get some more rainfall, then we are definitely going to be okay," he said. "Planting starts in the middle of February, but we need a lot of sub-soil moisture. We've already depleted the top layer (of moisture)."

While fall rains would help area farmers, Escobedo said they would still be too late to help cattle ranchers heading into the winter season.

"Unfortunately for the cattle market, the prices will still keep going down," he said. "We'd still get some fall grasses and we would definitely benefit from it, but a lot of that depends on what happens between now and the time we start getting cold fronts when the grass stops growing."

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

Grupo Vidal nominated for Latin Grammy

For more than three decades, Javier Vidal has been performing with his brothers as a part of the Tejano band Grupo Vidal. After 10 albums and countless live performances, the band received its first-ever Latin Grammy Award nomination in September for Best Tejano Album with their 2018 release, "Nunca Te Rindas."

"This is the first time we've ever gotten nominated for anything, outside of being recognized for our longevity by the Tejano ROOTS Hall of Fame a few years back," first singer and bajo sexto player Javier Vidal said. "And just to be nominated is a win in itself."

Vidal said the group has had several name changes throughout the years, but the heart of the group has always remained the same with brothers Javier, Rudy, Ronnie and Daniel performing together.

"My brother Rudy started all of this," he said. "It was his dream to have his brothers sing with him. He just loved music, and that's where Grupo Vidal started."

Vidal said the group got their start in the mid-1980s pantomiming New Edition and Jackson Five songs at the local Walmart.

"Right there in front of the food court," he said. "And we used to do talent shows at the (H.M. King) High School and Texas A&I (University). At that time, it was us and a couple of our cousins."

Vidal said while they were not yet a band at that time — the instrumental accompaniment came from tape recordings — the singing performances of the then-unnamed group were all them.

"We were just kids going out there doing what we loved to do," he said. "Singing, dancing and having a good time, and that took us down a road where we were pretty much performing anywhere and everywhere we could."

The group was especially meaningful to brother Rudy, Vidal said, who had been a dialysis patient after suffering from kidney failure at the age of 12.

"And with someone on kidney dialysis, it can go one of two ways," he said. "You can do the treatment and feel depressed about your life, or you take the other side and be a role model. And for Rudy, he always took the other side because it was just a part of his life and he wanted to show that he could do anything he set his mind to. That was his mentality."

Vidal said while he and his brothers had a lot of fun in those early days, music did not become a serious focus until a few years later, after watching the 1987 film "La Bamba."

"I was 12 or 13 when I saw the movie with my father, and I was excited from what I saw and heard," he said. "As soon as I walked out of that movie, I told him that I wanted to play like that."

Vidal said his father, Robert, was himself a musician who performed with El Conjunto Bernal.

"He was their first singer," he said. "He recorded songs with them, and they had hits, and he taught me how to play the


With Vidal on guitar, the group continued to perform around South Texas for the next few years.

"But it still wasn't a fundamental group," Vidal said. "Just vocals and a guitar. We would go wherever we could and just sing for hours, unplugged and a cappella."

Vidal said the a cappella performances, group singing without the use of accompaniment, was what started getting the Vidal Brothers, as they were now known, recognized outside of the region.

"We started performing in the Valley, in Houston and all of these different places," he said.

The big change in the trajectory of their career, Vidal said, occurred after Rudy talked him into auditioning with record producer Abraham Quintanilla in the mid1990s.

"And from that point on, we had an opportunity to be on the road with Selena, opening up her shows with our a cappella," he said.

Vidal said it all ended, however, after Selena's death in 1995. A couple of years later, the Vidal Brothers performed in the 1997 biographical movie about the singer.

"We performed 'Blue Moon' and 'We Belong Together,'" he said. "It wasn't our faces (in the movie), they had actors, but we were on set."

From there, Vidal said the band has performed both nationally and internationally, and with artists such as Gloria Estefan, Thalia and Pandora.

"These are international artists that have been around for a long time, and we were able to participate in their albums," he said. "So vocally, we've been all over the world."

Vidal said their first album was released in 1996, which he said featured a mix of a cappella music along with songs featuring studio musicians. It also marked their transition to a more conjunto-style of music.

"That was when we changed from the Vidal Brothers to Los Vidal," he said.

Vidal said as the group received more and more offers for live performances, they realized that they needed to become more of a band. With himself on the bajo sexto and his brother Daniel playing bass guitar, the group added drummer Daniel Cantu and Gilbert Rodriguez on the accordion.

"I think we're at 10 albums right now, with another that should be releasing in November," Vidal said.

In late September, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced this year's Latin Grammy Awards nominees for Best Tejano Album, which included Grupo Vidal's 2018 album "Nunca Te Rindas."

Other nominees include Siete's "El Plan," Lucky Joe's "Tu Principe," Elida Reyna y Avante's "Colores" and David Lee Rodriguez's "Asi Me Ensenaron."

"It's been a long road," Vidal said.

While Vidal said he and his brothers are excited about the Grammy nominations, the honor is also bittersweet as Rudy passed away in 2012 from complications following kidney transplant surgery.

"Music is what drove him and why he kept going," he said. "We never even thought about (the Latin Grammy Awards), but Rudy did. He used to say that we were going to get there."

At the end of the day, whether Grupo Vidal wins the award or not, Vidal said it's still about the music and being able to perform with his friends and family.

"It's the sweetest gig ever," he said. "That's what I enjoy, being out there with my brothers and my best friends. Whether it's a pastime, a hobby or a career, it doesn't matter. It's the best job I could ever have."

The 2019 Latin Grammy Awards will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Nov. 14, and will be broadcast on the Univision Network.

To help with travel expenses, Grupo Vidal will be holding a hamburger sale fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the K.C. Hall located at 1600 N. 14th St. in Kingsville. The cost is $7 per plate.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

Sponsorships sought for Main Street art project

The Kingsville Main Street Advisory Board is seeking sponsorship donations for an upcoming, and ongoing, community art project that will install several sculptures in Downtown Kingsville on an annual rotating basis.

"We're hoping to have seven sculptures, but it depends on how much more we can bring in," Downtown Manager Cynthia Martin said. "We still need about $5,000 to get up to that number."

Beginning in late November, the art sculptures will be on display for 12 months in a variety of locations in the historic downtown area on or around E. Kleberg Avenue, from the Downtown Pavilion to Kleberg Bank to the K.A. Childs Building across from HEB.

"So the art will be on display in a very public space," Martin said. "And it will bring people downtown."

The project started as an idea from Todd Lucas, a Main Street Advisory board member and chair for Texas A&M University-Kingsville's art department.

"(The board) wanted to do something with art downtown, and I have a family

member and another friend who are artists and have been entering these (types of) public art competitions," Lucas said. "So that's how it started."

Lucas said the board then came up with a "very modest budget" of about $12,000 to fund the project.

"And currently, we've raised about $7,000 of that," he said. "So we're still trying to raise money to finish it up, but we've gone live on call for entries for artists."

Martin said the funds will be used to construct pedestals for the seven selected art sculptures, along with a $1,000 honorarium for the artist of each selected work. TAMUK professors and local artists Jimmy Snowden and Fulden Wissinger will serve as jurors for the project.

"That $1,000 would help them to move (the artwork) and get it all here," Lucas said. "Because of the size of these large sculptures, it'll cost money."

Martin said another advantage for the artist is that the sculptures on display will be for sale, with 20 percent of the sale price going back into the Kingsville Main Street art project to help fund future exhibits.

Lucas said many towns have similar downtown art projects, which he said will help beautify Downtown Kingsville as well as help drive tourism to the area.

"And then next year, we get to change it," he said. "And then the following year, we get to change it. So we can actually have a rotat ing downtown art exhibit that will enhance our downtown environment for our citizens to enjoy, and it also helps with tourism because now there's this long-term exhibit going on."

"We see this as a sustainable, ongoing program," Martin said. "We want people to come back every year and see what we've got on display."

To raise funds for the project, sponsorships are available ranging from $500 to $2,000 and include, depending on the level of sponsorship, the sponsor's logo in the show's brochure and marketing materials, recognition at the opening reception, a discount on purchasing the sculpture and the sponsor's name affxed to the sculpture's pedestal.

"But we will take any donation amount," Martin said. "And again, that money stays with the program."

An opening reception and unveiling of the art sculptures is scheduled to be held on Nov. 22 during the start of this year's Ranch Hand Weekend festivities.

To submit a sculpture for consideration in the project, visit artist.callforentry.org/festivals.unique.info.php?ID=7076. The entry deadline is Oct. 20.

For more information or to make a donation, contact Cynthia Martin at cmartin@cityofkingsville.com or (361) 219-9325.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

New training facility open for sheriff's department

A renovated skeet shooting range in Kleberg County has become the newest training ground for law enforcement around the Coastal Bend thanks to work done by the Kleberg County Sheriff 's Offce.

Last week, Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid said more than a year-and-a-half ago, he and Kleberg County Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick discussed the possibility of creating a regional training facility to be used by the Kleberg County Sheriff 's Department, which would be located "adjacent to NAS-Kingsville and behind the L.E. Ramey Golf Course."

The facility was to be used to train officers on emergency situations the KCSO would face, as well as others in the area.

As of last week, the newly renovated training grounds were offcially completed using money from the KCSO's asset forfeiture funds.

"When we first started this, it's what I called a 'diamond in the rough,'" Kirkpatrick said. "It's taken on some changes but all of these changes and everything we've done out here has come at zero cost to the taxpayers."

The project was done as part of the Kleberg Regional Public Safety Training and Emergency Operations Command Center project, which includes the $5.3 million renovation of the J.K. Northway Exposition Center.

The facility includes a shooting range for close-up and distance shooting and handson obstacle courses to train law enforcement from multiple agencies "in the best way they can."

"I think we're at the point where we want to incorporate all (law enforcement agencies) into one house," Kirkpatrick said. "It's been a major undertaking. Of course the judge, myself and a lot of others have put a lot of hours into putting this thing under our belt and it's starting to pay off. I think it's going to be a great thing for our community."

Kirkpatrick said the training ground will be used "pretty much on a daily basis" in cooperation with the area's U.S. Border Patrol agents, the Texas Department of Safety offcers, Kingsville Police Department offcers and sheriff 's deputies from surrounding counties.

"They are welcome to come and use this facility whenever they need," Kirkpatrick said. "This is a great venture for us. We have such a great opportunity and a wonderful site out here that we can do what we actually want to do and call it home."

Kirkpatrick said being able to use the facility often is an advantage to all agencies involved because of the lack of opportunities to train offcers on a regular basis.

"Typically, sometimes offcers only get an opportunity to train once a year," Kirkpatrick said. "Here there is such an advantage. We're out here so much that our offcers are able to take the opportunity to come out and shoot and be more proficient as time goes on. They're at a better advantage today than they've ever had before."

Frank Cardenas can be contacted at fcardenas@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0243.