Lighting of the Arroyo Event Organizers Consider Changes after Pedestrian Struck

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HARLINGEN – The annual Lighting of the Arroyo at McKelvey Park in Harlingen is one of the longest-running and most anticipated holiday festivities.

Harlingen Center Visitors Bureau director Cassandra Cuellar Consiglio said the event draws about 2,000 to 3,000 people every year.

James Evans was at the 31st annual event Thursday night. He told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the event was beautiful but extremely crowded.

Evan claims it was not well organized and there was little security for pedestrians headed to the event.

"Across the street here, six lanes of traffic in the dark, at 7:30 at night, on a busy evening, was horrible," he said.

Evans said he watched as a car hit a young girl crossing the street headed towards the park. The girl was not seriously injured.

He fears it could have been worse and said organizers should've better prepared for the crowds.

"They did push people away from the accident because there was a lot of onlookers, but the setup to stop traffic and escort people across the street was too late," Evans said. "We should have police officers out on the street, fire trucks to slow people down. This should be handled a lot differently."

Cuellar Consiglio said the city could have done a better job in letting event goers know the designated parking was located at the Elks Lodge across the street, not at other nearby businesses.

"I'm very sorry that this incident happened," Cuellar Consiglio said, "on behalf of the City of Harlingen, we'd like to apologize to the family."

On Friday, organizers met to review the event, she said, in order to prevent another accident.

"We are going to try to make sure that the areas or paths to the park are clearly marked and make sure that people aren't darting across the street to park at H-E-B," she said. "We want to make sure they park in the designated areas that have police officers that will lead them to the park."

She added the event has grown so much, they're even considering bigger changes to the event.

"We are taking into consideration moving it to a different location and it won't be named 'Lighting of the Arroyo,' it might be 'Holiday in the Park,’" she said, "but we still want to make sure we have a holiday event for the citizens that is safe."

Evans said, with several events happening at McKelvey Park throughout the year, he just hopes the city can make good on their promise to make getting there safer.

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