McALLEN - Sixteen Valley children and their families gathered Saturday night at the Art Village on Main Event Center in McAllen, all hoping to win a week-long vacation at Medicine Bow Lodge & Adventure Guest Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming or Coulter Lake Guest Ranch in Rifle, Colorado. This was the second year in a row that the RGV Children’s Arts Festival awarded two dude ranch family vacations, one to a child in each of two age groups.

Pediatrician Dr. Martin Garza of DLC Pediatrics in Edinburg, decked out in his tuxedo, came prepared to open the envelopes and announce the winners. As he opened the envelope to announce the winner for the kindergarten through third-grade division, one could almost hear the hearts of the young finalists thumping with anticipation.

"The 2017 RGV Children’s Arts Festival winner of a week at Coulter Lake Guest Ranch in Rifle, Colorado is Briana Benavides,” said Garza.

Seven-year-old Briana is the daughter of Carlos and Diana Benavides of Brownsville. The Benavides family will ride horses in the Colorado Rockies for a week in early June at elevations around 8,000 feet. Briana’s winning art and writing can be seen in Chapters 38 & 42 of the “Kids Color Me Bible Gospel of John” at www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org/kcmbgj.

For the announcement of the second winner in the fourth through sixth grade division, arts festival co-founder Carey Kinsolving once again turned to the man in the tux, Dr. Martin Garza. “The 2017 RGV Children’s Arts Festival winner of a week at Medicine Bow Lodge & Adventure Guest Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming is Claire Bauer,” said Garza.

Claire’s winning art and writing can be seen in Chapter 33 of the “Kids Color Me Bible Gospel of John” at www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org/kcmbgj.

Claire Bauer, 12, is the daughter of Carl and Karen Bauer of Harlingen. Claire is a student at St. Paul Academy.

On Monday morning, Karen Bauer said of her daughter, “She’s still in shock. She says, ‘Mom, I still can’t believe I won. I feel like I’m dreaming.’”

“Claire is a great example of persistence,” said Kinsolving. “This is her third, consecutive year as a finalist in the RGV Children’s Arts Festival.”

Both of the winners’ art pieces are now captured in glass. Artist Yoli Cantu of McAllen Stained Glass created a three-dimensional, fused-glass rendering for each artist. Cantu donated four scholarships to each artist for a class in designing and making fused glass art.

In addition to winning dude ranch vacations for their families, Brianna and Claire won checks for $600 each to help pay for travel to Wyoming and Colorado. All 16 finalists received passes for four people to enjoy a Dolphin Watch or Eco Tour cruise courtesy of Breakaway Cruises at South Padre Island and a coupon for a free ice cream cake at any of the Lynn Lee Dairy Queens throughout the Valley.

Five-year-old Bethany Bridwell of McAllen placed second in the younger division by painting a picture of a colorful heart throbbing with the love of God. Sophia Villarreal, 9 of Harlingen placed second in the older grade division also with a dramatic drawing of a heart. Both Bridwell and Villarreal won two all-day passes to Schlitterbahn at South Padre Island.