SCENE: The 22nd Annual Houston (TX) Art Car Parade 5/9

With the 22nd Annual Houston Art Car Weekend fast-approaching (5/8 – 10), parade fixture and Santa Claus Car owner Bryan Taylor reminisces:

Now of course none of this has anything to do with the temperature aspects of Houston, which by the way for New Yorkers itʼs pronounced HU-Ston, not How-ston like you say the name of the street in Manhattan. I am the first one to admit it can get a tad sticky down here with the humidity and all. Shoot, sometimes the humidity is so bad you have to put a screen on your fish tanks or the fish will escape. This piece is entirely about the nifty, keen, eccentric and not as popularly known sides of Houston.

We are not going to talk about the Dome or Johnson Space Center; this is the semi-silly, somewhat sordid underbelly of the city.

Letʼs start with what is still probably my all time favorite place in Houston…The Orange Show. It is humbly located in small neighborhood just south of the main University of Houston Main Campus and only two blocks off the Gulf Freeway.

The Orange Show still stands as not only a testament to what one man can do when he puts his mind to it but its also considered one of the foremost examples of folk art in the nation.

How does one describe the O Show to people? I usually donʼt and just tell them to go see it for themselves. There is no way a person could reasonably describe the place and then have that individual show up and go, “OhYeah, just like I pictured it”.

Jeff McKissack a retired Postman began building his monument to the Orange in the 60s and opened it 1979. Dedicated to concepts such as good health and hard work it is also one of those places in Houston that just attracts a certain type of person. Artists, musicians, actors, and activists of all varieties flow in and around and through mixed in the regular Houston visitor who just wants to see whatʼs going on.

The Orange Show Foundation, which oversees the site and manages the upkeep, programs and folk art studies of other sites worldwide, also produces the annual Art Car Parade in Houston which is the first and best and largest of its kind anywhere in the World.

Each year, dozens of altered, sculpted and painted wheeled wonders drive to Houston in May for the largest gathering of art cars anywhere. Over 250 entries will wind their way down the streets of Houston thrilling hundreds of thousands of onlookers and have done so for over 20 years.

I actually recall, 1989, sitting on the hood of my Vega at the corner of Bell and Travis, waiting for my fellow Orange Show staffers to show so we could begin setting up for the very first Parade.
Not much of a success the first year as there was literally fewer viewers than there were in the Parade.

Not so now as it has become a major institution in Houston. Unlike other major cities, our city government supports art cars, the police support art cars, even the local Visitors Bureau promotes art cars.

Oh yeah, I digress, the Orange Show itself. Built out of items Jeff scrounged from demolished building sites and other things he had accumulated, tractor seats, wagon wheels, railroad spikes, tiles and bricks of every shape and size, he began to fashion this amazing multi- level monument extolling the virtues of his favorite food.

There is even a small Museum that shares odd outlooks on the topics of perseverance and determination. “Keep a Kickin’, Keep a Kickin’ ” If you ever make it to Houston you must go see this place. For more information check out their website at http://www.orangeshow.org

And If you arenʼt doing anything the weekend of May 9th, I really recommend heading our way for the 22nd Annual Art Car Parade. You will be thanking me for the rest of your life.

Thanks for playing,
Rev Bryan Taylor

For more info on the parade check out Houston Art Car Klub and The Orange Show.

(I also just checked Widipedia and yes, Texas is in the South. – Bryan)

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