The Houston Art Car Parade cruises into town this weekend, this time with a brand-new route. Although Houston’s omnipresent road construction cannot slow down the city’s beloved tradition, it can make it change course.
Because of construction along Allen Parkway, the world’s largest gathering of art cars will roll through downtown Houston from Smith to Pease to Walker, looping around Hermann Square and City Hall onto Bagby before turning onto Lamar, coasting past Sam Houston Park and ending at the Pierce Elevated.
Participants have responded positively to the detour. “We’ve been working really well with the city to get a great route. The artists are very excited about it, so we’re excited as well,” said Jonathan Beltier, director of communication for the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, the organization coordinating the parade.
All the pageantry and panache fans have come to expect will remain exactly the same. For instance: The Orange Show and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will host a happy hour on April 7 in conjunction with MFAH’s current exhibition "Sculpted in Steel." Highlights include the debut of the Reagan High School Bohemian Rhapsody-themed art car, under the instruction of award-winning artist Rebecca Bass.
One of the wildest parties in town, the Legendary Art Car Ball, takes place April 8 with outrageous costumes and live music set amid a selection of entries.
The party keeps going on April 9 with the parade. The lineup may include cars, unicycles, lawn mowers, go-carts and anything with wheels. For a special treat, people can purchase a ticket to private seating through the VIPit Experience. Perks include VIP parking, reserved seating, entertainment, live parade commentary, and plenty of food and beverages.
This year’s celebration is the culmination of 29 years of growth for the parade, garnering enough momentum throughout the years to register on both the local and national radar. What started as a procession of 40 cars with 2,000 viewers in 1988 has amassed a tremendous following. By its second year, the number of parade entrants had doubled and the crowd ballooned into the tens of thousands. Each year afterward has brought more entries and fans as well as international acclaim.
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“Houston has become the mecca for this specific type of art. Nearly 80 percent of this year’s entries come from the people in the greater Houston area,” said Beitler. The remaining 20 percent, Beitler estimates, come from 25 other states as well as Mexico and Canada. In previous years, cars from the United Kingdom have participated.
Beitler says this year’s parade will host more than 230 entries – 75 of which have never entered before. An estimated 250,000 fans will come to watch the spectacle of visual art on wheels.
The Orange Show plans to return to the banks of Buffalo Bayou next year – just in time for the event’s 30th anniversary.
The 2016 Houston Art Car Parade Weekend runs April 7-10 in downtown Houston. Visit www.thehoustonartcarparade.com to purchase The Legendary Art Car Ball and VIPit Experience tickets.