Art Car By Day

Last weekend The Orange Show heralded Houston’s return to semi-normalcy with a special version of its much-loved Art Car. No, it wasn’t an Art Car Parade, filled with thousands of Houstonians cheering various mobile masterpieces while crammed tightly together alongside the parade route, like in the 33 years past, but it sure was a heck of a lot of fun.

Festivities kicked off on Friday with the Art Car Experience by Day, a special walking tour of 80-some cars spread along The Orange Show’s property off the Gulf Freeway. When I arrived a half hour after gates opened, there wasn’t much of a crowd—something to be expected since most places of work don’t send their employees out to enjoy an art event during business hours. In fact, several of the cars hadn’t even rolled into their parking spots (I guess they slept in ahead of their three-day stop in the spotlight) and staffers were still figuring out the sound system, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the sights.

As you’d expect, The Orange Show went above and beyond in handpicking the cars for this special event (the actual parade will return for its 34th year in 2022, staff announced during the evening’s festivities, and word on the street is there’ll be around 300 cars). But this year, O.G. contenders, like the iconic flamey and producey Fruitmobile, as well as new entries, including Frankenkitty, with its protruding neon-green tongue and zip-tie whiskers, and anathematic 2020 car Dumpster Fire, which released actual smoke, were parked ready and waiting for photo ops along the gravel runway.

But what put the morning over the edge of awesomeness was that The Orange Show managed to include the interactive feel of Art Car by way of QR codes. Attendees could simply whip out their phones, scan a code in front of each car, and read up on all the deets about any particular piece (well, almost any … a few last-minute entries and classics—we’re looking at you Scrapdaddy—didn’t have write-ups). Reading about some of our favorite cars added a new level of appreciation to the work that our fellow Houstonians put in to bringing these amazing drivable works of art to life. I know I’ll never look at the Roachster the same way again.

Want to see some of our favorite cars of the day? Just check out our slideshow. —Emma Schkloven 

Art Car By Night

As a non-native Houstonian, I’d never even heard of Art Car before I moved to the Bayou City last year, and so I had no idea what to expect as my coworker and I hopped onto the back of a golf cart that was shuttling folks from the parking lot to the Orange Show for last Saturday’s Art Car by Night, the pandemic version of the Art Car Ball. 

When we walked in, Los Skarnales’s Salvador Velasco was blaring on the trumpet, vocalist Felipe Galvan was hyping up the crowd, and I got a pang of nostalgia for the festivals and concerts of the old days (you know, pre-pandemic). 

My coworker and I wandered around, admiring the cars (lit up for the evening’s events) and people watching—if car-heads, concertgoers, and the attendees of a Rocky Horror screening all gathered together for a party, that would be the crowd at Art Car. 

We saw folks in lit-up suits, capes, and more. As we waited in line to get a hotdog we gaped at a woman’s fabulous Carmen Miranda costume, and wondered if the Captain Hook walking around in shiny leather pants (à la Ross Gellar in Friends) was with Peter Pan and Tinker Bell (spoiler, he was, as was Carmen Miranda and a guy who looked like Bob the Builder).  

While the costumes were fun, what struck me most was how kind and friendly everyone was. We shared a table with a family while we ate, and another guy offered to let us take a boomerang of his food for social media. After we snapped a picture of the zebra-striped makers of a zebra-stripped art car, they immediately ushered us into the driver’s seat so we could take our own photo. Then they walked us over to another car that we could climb up to the top of. 

It was clear everyone was ecstatic to be able to gather together at a live event again and that they wanted to share that joy with everyone they ran into. And as I danced along to Kam Franklin when The Suffers came on later in the evening, I couldn’t help wanting to spread that joy too.

And if you missed out on the fun last weekend, The Orange Show Saturday night hinted at plans for more events on its property as well as work on a full campus plan that’s TBA for now. —Catherine Wendlandt

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