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Culture / Cars

Unique Houston — The Crazy Fun Legacy of the Art Car Parade

How the Astros, Hurricane Harvey Heroes and the Mayor Fit In

BY // 06.02.18
photography Emily Jaschke

A springtime landmark on the Texas arts calendar, another exciting Art Car Parade rolled through downtown, as the storied and uniquely Houston institution presented by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art commanded the streets for its 31st year. More than 250 cars took to the road, including 129 totally new entries. A brisk and rainy morning gave way to a brilliant and dazzling afternoon as the parade proper kicked off.

We were back at City Hall for the first time since the Astros World Series championship parade, and, per usual, the VIPit was stationed around the building’s reflection pool as the vantage point of choice, with two rows of bites from buzzy, foodie-approved restaurants to choose from and plenty of cocktails and local brews (from Saint Arnold beers to Austin’s Deep Eddy vodka) to be had for those lucky enough to secure tickets. We ate our way down the rows of vendors, from a tangy, spicy ceviche courtesy TacoDeli to a juicy hot dog from FM Kitchen & Bar brimming with smoky flavor. (We also enjoyed the southern-inspired fare of downtown fave Treebeards and the ever-reliable sandwiches of Antone’s.)

Eye-popping winners of the venerable parade, announced the following day at a ceremony at Smither Park, included winners of the Mayor’s Cup, the grand prize trophy, which went to the  “Hippysaurus” dinosaur car by the Waters family. Also big winners were first-place finishers “It’s Only Rock & Roll But I Like It,” from Heights High School instructed by Rebecca Bass (a whimsical tribute to the Rolling Stones) plus the ode to peace “Imagine” by Ruth Sosa Bailey, “Pop Art” from Cherie Smith and Sharon Neyland, and “Zephyr” by Andy Hazell and Charlie Lawson.

Some of our returning favorites included the Prince-inspired “Purple Reign,” also from Heights High School; the couture-informed Hermesillac from HISD visual arts curriculum specialist Rickey Polidore; the ABBA-loving “Dancing Queen” party bus by Jay Carnes; a Batmobile by John Salazar; and the iconic “Brunehilde, the Biggest Astros Fan” Art Car, the giant mouth-on-wheels last seen cruising downtown during the rapturous World Series championship parade.

For a full list of parade winners, click here.

Who: Mayor Sylvester Turner who led the parade alongside Judge Ed Emmett, who were flanked by a group dubbed Harvey Heroes – among them Fire Chief Samuel Peña, Police Chief Art Acevedo, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, and Harris County meteorologist Jeff Lindner (whose kind, unassuming and reassuring demeanor during his many press conferences during the storm fashioned him a sort of cult-figure, going so far as to earn an unsolicited GoFundMe for a vacation by admirers).

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Other Harvey Heroes included volunteers Keri Henry, Adam Brackman, and artist Paul Middendorf. Dr. Jeannette Epps, a NASA astronaut, was grand marshal, and she was soon joined by 2017 grand marshal actor and art collector Cheech Marin, who returned in a low-rider this year, sans oversize novelty joint, however. Also seen were chairs Bevin and Dan Dubrowski, Orange Show founder Marilyn Oshman, big-ticket collectors Penelope and Lester Marks, Don Mafrige Jr., journalists Mills McCoinErnie Manouse, and Craig HlavatyRachel Hecker, and Natasha Rubin (aka Mrs. Marin).

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