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A Sneak Peek At Houston’s Art Car Parade

One of Houston’s most popular events is coming up the second weekend in April. The Art Car Parade is in its 29th year of featuring weird, wacky cars.

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  • Reagan High School Students Creating Their Art Car (Photo Credit: Rebecca Bass)
    Reagan High School Students Creating Their Art Car (Photo Credit: Rebecca Bass)
  • Reagan High School Students Creating Their Art Car (Photo Credit: Rebecca Bass)
    Reagan High School Students Creating Their Art Car (Photo Credit: Rebecca Bass)
  • Reagan High School Students Creating Their Art Car (Photo Credit: Rebecca Bass)
    Reagan High School Students Creating Their Art Car (Photo Credit: Rebecca Bass)
  • Reagan High School Students Creating Their Art Car (Photo Credit: Rebecca Bass)
    Reagan High School Students Creating Their Art Car (Photo Credit: Rebecca Bass)

For 29 years now, the Orange Show has been parading weird and wacky art cars down the streets of Houston. The first art car parade featured 40 cars and was seen by about 2,000 people. This year, 230 art cars will entertain tens of thousands.

There will be lots of cars from Houston, but there are also entries from a couple dozen other states, Mexico and Canada. The Orange Show’s Jonathan Beitler says there’s a big change this year because of construction on Allen Parkway. For the first time ever, the parade will be held downtown, along Smith Street.

“For having had the parade along Allen Parkway for the majority of its 29 years, it’s a little challenging. But the City of Houston has been very helpful to create a route that we think is going to be perfect for our spectators,” said Beitler, communications manager for the Orange Show.

Among the cars this year, will be one called Bohemian Rhapsody. It was built by Reagan High School students, led by their teacher Rebecca Bass. Every year she spends up to $500 of her own money, to buy a beat up car to transform into art with her students.

“It’s a Nissan Sentra, it’s just missing the front end. But we were going to mess with the front end anyway, so it was perfect, perfect palette to do stuff with,” said Bass, the semi-retired art car teacher for HISD.

The car is a bedazzled wonder. It’s covered in thousands of bits of costume jewelry, donated by Houston-based accessory chain Charming Charlie. A life-size Freddie Mercury sculpture dances on the roof of the car. But for Bass, it’s about much more than the creative process with her students.

“Something they may not learn in school is how to work together, and how to be a team and a unit. Kids need to be in a team so they learn how to speak up for themselves when they need to, they may need to compromise a little bit here and there. It’s a huge learning tool for the rest of their lives,” said Bass, whose art cars have been featured by Houston Public Media in the past.

You might be wondering what happens to art cars after the parade. There are some people who drive them every day, others tour them around the country. Bass donates hers to museums and auctions — you can find Reagan High School art cars in Mexico, Germany and even Kuala Lumpur.

The Houston Art Car Parade is free to the public. It runs from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. April 9th, 2016. The parade route will open to the public at 10 a.m.

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Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

News Director

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez leads news coverage for Houston Public Media across broadcast and digital platforms. Ramirez is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Before becoming News Director, Ramirez held the position of Executive Producer for Daily News, leading daily and breaking news coverage, helping...

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