Wallflowers and shrinking violets have no business in this annual spectacle. The Houston Art Car Parade is a place for extroverts to shine in a colorful art-meets-engineering display of just about anything that rolls. Sure, many entries started life as factory issue automobiles, but we've also seen bicycles, unicycles, skates, Barcaloungers and all sorts of otherworldly creatures.
What's new this year is that the parade start has moved back to Allen Parkway before rolling into downtown along Smith Street. It's hard to top last year's Cheech Marin as parade marshal but they've done it, tapping NASA astronaut Dr. Jeanette Epps. She'll take a break from her work supporting the crews of the International Space Station to climb into artist Jim Robertson's Jet Car, a perennial favorite.
The creative genius behind that iconic 1959 Cadillac, artist/muralist Robynn Sanders, says it's not unusual for her to spend 200 hours painting an art car, and that she even included silver and gold leaf on the Saint Arnold Caddy.
Sanders has been busy working on a new project for this year's parade, painting a Porsche Boxster for Nicole Strine, one of the founders of the Houston Art Car Klub! and the group's president for 11 years.
"Basically [Strine's] dad had raced Porsches his entire life and so when she got the Porsche she wanted to pay homage to her dad’s racing so it’s a bit of a blend of racing stripes and also trying to show emotion and movement with the lines," says Sanders. "But also keep it funky with bright, happy, psychedelic colors." The Boxster makes its debut in the 2018 parade.
Sanders, who has been painting art cars since 2009, is pumped about the parade start returning to Allen Parkway. "So many more spectators can get a better view; it's not so crowded like downtown," says Sanders.
This year's parade pays tribute to those who helped to aid in rescue and recovery during Hurricane Harvey. The "Harvey Heroes" section of the parade will include a convoy of boats and vehicles, as well as first responders and volunteers.
The 2018 parade line-up includes 21 low-riders, 41 entries from out-of-town, 95 daily drivers, 11 non-profit entries and 129 new, never-before-seen entries, all vying for trophies and glory.
Judges will look for craftsmanship, design, originality, transformation and overall theme when awarding the $10,000 in prize money. We giggled last year at the macramé shark in Fins and Needles (Shadow Creek High School), the tweeting POTUS of Tweet Tweet (Shelly Buschur and The Birds), and the sardine can contraptions in Something's Fishy (Marlene Lacoviello and Jana Jordan).
With the tax deadline extended until April 17, there's plenty of time for fun during the parade weekend. Our recommendation is to check out the Sneak Peek on April 12 at Discovery Green, where viewers can eyeball some of the entries up close while jamming to tunes by New Orleans funkmasters Dumpstaphunk, then head over to Allen Parkway and downtown April 14 to snag a great viewing spot and watch the zaniness roll by.
The pretty party people are queuing up for the Legendary Art Car Ball on April 13, with performances by Ms. YET (Moon Goddess), Kiki Maroon and others, as well as the weekend-capping awards ceremony on April 15 at Smither Park.
31st Annual Houston Art Car Parade weekend schedule:
Thursday, April 12
9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Main Street Drag (eight caravans make 32 stops at schools, hospitals and community centers)
6 to 10 p.m., Sneak Peek, Discovery Green and Avenida Houston, 1500 McKinney, free
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Friday, April 13
7 to 11 p.m., The Legendary Art Car Ball, Hermann Square Park at City Hall, 900 Bagby, $30 to $35
Saturday, April 14
11 a.m., Lineup Party, Allen Parkway and Gilette Street, free
Noon, VIPit Experience at the Houston Art Car Parade, Hermann Square at City Hall, 900 Smith, $25 to $4,500
Noon, Reserved seating along the parade route, Lamar Street along Sam Houston Park, between Bagby and the I-45 overpass, $25
2 to 4 p.m., The 31st Annual Houston Art Car Parade, Allen Parkway and Smith Street in downtown Houston, free
Sunday, April 15
Noon to 2 p.m., Houston Art Car Parade Awards Ceremony and Brunch, Smither Park, 2402 Munger, free
The 31st Annual Houston Art Car Parade weekend, powered by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, is April 12-15, 713-926-6368, thehoustonartcarparade.com.