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CityPASS Home  »  City Traveler Blog  »  Moving Masterpieces: Houston Art Car Parade

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Moving Masterpieces: Houston Art Car Parade


As far as big parades go, the West Coast has its baskets of Pasadena roses and the East Coast has all those flowery bonnets strolling down Fifth Avenue in New York City. But it’s down south, in Houston, where you’ll find the streets blooming with one-of-a-kind “art cars.”

Befitting its Texas-sized roots, the Houston Art Car Parade was the first Art Car parade in the world, and to this day it remains the largest.

This year’s weekend of activities, taking place May 10-12, will celebrate the arty auto-pageant’s 25th anniversary and, as in years past, parade-goers will have a chance to witness a collision of imaginatively decorated wheeled-wonders, from classic cars and motorcycles to giant monstrosities that will have you wondering not only what they are, but how they make it down the street. This parade even has a bit of a “green” thumb, with human-powered vehicles including bicycles, roller-blades and skates of different stripes and sizes participating in the event.

So how did Houston end up as the Art Car parade capitol?

In a city that prides itself on art for young and old alike, this particular spectacle started back in 1984, when The Orange Show Foundation, a Houston art center dedicated to preserving and promoting visionary art environments (read: quirky folk art spaces), commissioned the “Fruitmobile,” recognizing that the art car is a mobile visionary art site. This led to the first annual Art Car Parade, co-sponsored with the Houston International Festival in 1988. The parade has grown into Art Car Weekend, attracting participants from around the world and including a series of events that celebrate this art form.

The weekend’s festivities kick off with what is widely regarded as one of Houston's wildest parties of the year, the “Art Car Ball.” It’s a chance for fun-loving parade-goers to dress up in their own costumes with moving parts that light up or beep and just might rival a few of the cars out on the street. And to take the party into high gear this year, the one and only Dirty Dozen Brass Band will be providing what’s sure to be a high-octane performance.

This is one place where you can toot your own horn all weekend long—as long as it’s on wheels!

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