The Party Begins: Art Car Weekend 2011

​Art Car Weekend is upon us in all its quirky extravagance, so make sure to check out at least one of these three upcoming events.

 Art Car Ball

The festivities kick off Friday with the Art Car Ball, an event that many Houstonians consider the party of the year. Here, the unordinary is the source of allure. There might be a sword swallowing act, chainsaw juggling or ice sculpture competition. Whatever's in store, be prepared to take part in some wild stuff in this everything-goes street performance/block party.

The highlight of the night is always the costumes; in fact, Barbara Hinton, a board member of the Art Car Weekend, says they're a reason to keep the kids at home.

"The costumes can be pretty outrageous, some won't be appropriate for family viewing," Hinton says.

Notables of years past include a woman donning a condom-covered tutu, a couple wearing a matching suit and dress made of live grass that took six weeks to grow, and a woman clad head-to-toe in feathers which, throughout the night, slowly fell off.

There will also be live music from Los Skarnales, Beans Barton and the Bi Peds, and Come See My Dead Person, and a food-tasting competition among eight of Houston's best mobile food trucks.

7:00p.m. to 11:00 p.m. May 20. The Orange Show Monument, 2400 Block of Munger St. $25-$30.

Sneak Peek Much more kid-friendly than the Art Car Ball is the Art Car Sneak Peak at Discovery Green. Here visitors get a chance to see more than a hundred art cars up close and personal. There's a car for everybody, and the sneak peek allows a great opportunity for you to spend time discovering your favorite. 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. May 21. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. Free.

Art Car Parade ​It's the granddaddy event of them all, the Art Car Parade. Houston-born socialite, fashion icon and philanthropist Lynn Wyatt is set to act as grand marshal for the parade that is expected to draw crowds of around 250,000 people. This year, nearly 270 cars from makers all over the country will cruise the Allen Parkway strip, while spectators will attempt to fight the heat and enjoy the spectacle. Hinton says the best place for families to watch is at Sam Houston Park where there will be many activities for children. Best of all, it's nice and shady. So bring your hats and water bottles and come ready to look at interesting cars and sometimes even more interesting people. As Johnny Rojas, an art car artist and Art Car Weekend organizer says, "cars are half the eye candy, the people are the other half." 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. May 22. Allen Parkway from Waugh to Bagby. For information, call 713-926-6368 or visit Free.

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