GeoTour Brings Adventure, Visitors To Mercedes
During the Texas Street Festival on September 4th, the City of Mercedes launched the first ever GeoTour in the RGV, bringing visitors to the city while providing a new adventure for local residents.
Explore Mercedes Texas GeoTour utilized GPS technology found on smartphones to set up a sophisticated game of treasure hunting in the city. The geocaching app allowed participants to key in on a search for 35 geocaches. The hidden containers were placed at local businesses and several points of interest, including the city’s famed life-sized boots found on the intersections of many Mercedes streets.
Finding the geocaches earns points for GeoTour participants, which leads to the awarding of specially designed commemorative tags and public recognition on a widely read GeoTour website. It is the first-of-its kind in the Rio Grande Valley. The Mercedes GeoTour is active for a year, allowing participants 12 months to find all 35 of the geocaches.
“It was a challenge getting the GeoTour complete and ready for our launch,’’ said Rose Saenz, an Administrative Coordinator for the Mercedes Economic Development Corporation. “It is rewarding to read the awesome reviews of our GeoTour and see the participants enjoying the locations and having fun geocaching in Mercedes.’’
The city did indeed receive positive reviews for its new treasure hunt adventure. Dennis Heidick of Pharr is an experienced geocacher with over 70,000 finds while participating in GeoTours. He has travelled all over Texas to participate in GeoTours. Serving as a volunteer, Heidick helped set up Mercedes GeoTour and said the project sets the city apart from other communities in the Valley.
“There’s not many (GeoTours) in Texas,’’ he said. “It’s pretty neat to have one in your community. I think it went really well, (in Mercedes).’’
Heidick praised Saenz and the Mercedes EDC staff for their efforts to get the local GeoTour launched. The Mercedes GeoTour already ranks as the second largest in Texas with its 35 geocaches. Heidick noted GeoTours attract visitors from all over Texas to a community like Mercedes. He recalled seeing carloads of San Antonio residents come to Mercedes for the local GeoTour.
“I know when I go up to Houston, San Antonio and Austin for GeoTours, I spend about $120 a day,’’ he said. “That’s money spent at local hotels, stores and businesses. All of that can really benefit a city like Mercedes in having a GeoTour and bringing people here.’’
Saenz said the Mercedes GeoTour had 50 visitors sign in, with 26 being new to geocaching. There were 432 logged finds reported in the first week the GeoTour was active. All participants that submit their completed GeoTour passport will earn a beautiful Explore Mercedes Texas GeoTour Coin and will be entered to win a $1000 gift card to the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets in Mercedes.
Attracting visitors to Mercedes was one of the GeoTour’s key goals. It appears that objective was met, said Joe Flores Jr., EDC Vice President.
“It promoted our city and local businesses,’’ Flores said. “We had people come in who had never been to Mercedes before. We provided them with a positive experience.’’
The plan is to enhance and renew the Mercedes GeoTour beyond September 2022, Flores said. That’s good news for Lorena Garza of Mercedes. She said her family is enjoying the GeoTour experience as they travel around their hometown in search of the geocaches. They have found 16 geocaches so far and look forward to finding all 35 in the coming months.
“It makes for a good adventure,’’ Garza said. “This is something new for us and it has been a lot of fun. You also get to know your community better. It’s a good chance to check out new areas you didn’t even know about.’’
- Ricardo D. Cavazos