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Winter Texans keep coming back

By by Dianna Wray
Dec. 13, 2010 at 6:13 a.m.

Tom Canada points to his hometown of Jackson, Mich., on a multi-colored map of North America bolted to the door of his traveling trailer stationed at Dad's RV Park in Victoria for the winter months. He and his wife, Ida, colored in the Plexiglas map's states and territories to represent everywhere they have visited.

When the temperature begins to dip and the sharp cold air of winter fills their nostrils, Tom and Ida Canada know the time has come for their annual migration.

The couple pack up their motorhome and flee the impending chill in Jackson, Mich., heading toward the sunny warmth of Texas.

Tom and Ida Canada are what is known as "Winter Texans."

"We're from Michigan. Why wouldn't we do this?" Ida Canada said.

Every year, thousands of people from the northern states arrive in the Lone Star state to pass the harsh winter months in a more temperate climate.

After retiring 15 years ago, the Canadas decided to start spending the winter months, when temperatures in Michigan dip to 17 degrees below zero, in a warmer place down south.

The first few years, they were "Snowbirds" wintering in Florida, but they started coming to Texas after some friends invited them to come down and visit.

They've returned to Dad's RV Park in Victoria every year since.

"Texas kind of grows on you," Ida said.

Tom agreed.

"We love the wide-open spaces and Victoria is great. It's about the same size as Jackson and it's got everything we need," Tom said.

Winter Texans are mostly older and retired, Lazy Longhorn RV Park owner Erik Ganauser said.

They come to Texas to pass the winter months, contributing to the economy by dining in restaurants, and purchasing things. They don't tend to use the schools or other public institutions, Ganauser said.

"The Winter Texans are pretty beneficial to the city of Victoria. ... They come here to escape the cold from up north and we enjoy having them," Ganauser said.

Dad's RV Park owner Pat Dawson agreed, saying Winter Texans are good for everyone in Texas because of the money they bring money into the state without taking anything out of it.

According to the Texas Association of Camping Owners, the average Winter Texan spends $55 a day. Winter Texans spend an average of five months out of the year in the state, Dawson noted.

"They're really good for the economy. It just makes good financial sense to have them here," Dawson said.

The city of Victoria has even started making a point of welcoming Winter Texans, Victoria Convention & Visitors Bureau director Bridgette Bise said, noting the bureau hosted the city's first Winter Texans welcome in January.

Most Texans head down to the Rio Grande Valley to pass the winter months, but there are some, like the Canadas, who come to Victoria to stay.

"The people. The people here are wonderful," Tom said.

Ida chimed in.

"Yes, the people are friendly and I love the country. I don't know what it is about this old dried up country that I love, but I love it down here," she said.

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