Cruise down memory lane with these mesmerizing photos of Houston’s Art Car Parade through the years

Cruise down memory lane with these mesmerizing photos of Houston’s Art Car Parade through the years

It all began with the “Fruitmobile.” In 1984, Carl Detering, a Houston businessman and developer

It all began with the “Fruitmobile.”

In 1984, Carl Detering, a Houston businessman and developer whose company helped pave Houston’s roads, donated a 1967 Ford station wagon to the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, which in turn commissioned Houston artist Jackie Harris to transform the car into a mobile masterpiece that would be auctioned off at a fundraising gala later that year. With $800 worth of paint and plastic fruit, the iconic Fruitmobile was born.

When the group who purchased the fruit-covered car at the gala donated it back to the Orange Show, the vehicle became a “roving ambassador for goodwill.”

The “Fruitmobile” by Jackie Harris (Image provided by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

Inspired by the Fruitmobile, the Orange show held the “Road Show” in 1986, an art exhibit that featured a dozen decorated cars. The spectacle proved so popular that the Houston International Festival asked the Orange Show to organize an art car parade for its 1988 event. On April 9, 1988, the world’s first art car parade, some 40 artfully decorated vehicles and a handful of marching bands, cruised down the streets of Houston as part of the Houston International Festival. The inaugural event drew some 2,000 spectators and included gems like “101 Howdies,” a yellow VW Bug covered with 101 hand-shaped cutouts which waved around like antennas.

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By the following year, the parade had doubled in size and the crowd had swelled to tens of thousands.

The annual art car parade now encompasses an entire weekend of events featuring more than 250 artful automobiles created by artists from around the country. The formidable, four-day celebration draws an audience of over 250,000 spectators.

This year, the festival begins on Thursday, April 7, with Main Street Drag, a pre-parade art car convoy which travels around Houston exhibiting at schools, nursing homes, and hospitals. The spirited Art Car Ball will be held Friday, April 8, and the parade itself will roll on Saturday, April 9. at 2 p.m. Festivities conclude Sunday, April 10, with an awards ceremony. For more information, visit thehoustonartcarparade.com.

Now, it’s time to cruise down memory lane 🚗 Click through the gallery at the top of the page or scroll below for select highlights of the Houston Art Car Parade through the years.

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1988

“Fruitmobile” at the 1988 Art Car Parade in Houston (Image courtesy of the the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
“101 Howdies” at the 1988 Art Car Parade in Houston (Image courtesy of the the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

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Darrell the clown at the 1988 Art Car Parade in Houston (Image courtesy of the the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

1989

The “Button King” Dalton Stevens at the Art Car Parade in downtown Houston in 1989 (Photo by Tom LaFaver, Image provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
The art car parade in downtown Houston in 1989 (Photo by Tom LaFaver, Image provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

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“Mad Cadillac” by Larry Fuente at the Art Car Parade in downtown Houston in 1989 (Photo by Tom LaFaver, Image provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

1993

Tom Kennedy, in The Ripper the Friendly Shark, following the sixth annual Art Car Parade in Houston, May 1, 1993. More than 200 ornamented, embellished, camouflaged and otherwise transformed vehicles from cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, lawnmowers, wheelchairs, grocery carts and costumed roller skaters participated in the parade. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (Associated Press)

2000

“Pig” , a pot-bellied pig, gets a snack while riding in “The Pig Car” in the Art Car Parade in Houston, Texas April 15, 2000. More than 250 artists from around the nation brought their wheeled entries to Houston to show off their work and compete for cash prizes. The parade is one of oldest and largest of its kind. (Photo by Paul S. Howell/Newsmakers) (Getty)
Mick Howley acts as chauffeur for the “Tie Rod” car as it moves through downtown Houston, Texas in the Art Car Parade April 15, 2000. More than 250 artists from around the nation brought their wheeled entries to Houston to show off their work and compete for cash prizes. The parade is one of oldest and largest of its kind. (Photo by Paul S. Howell/Newsmakers) (Getty)

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Umbrellas and beads covered “Rhythm of the Rain”, one of the winning entries in the Art Car Parade in Houston, Texas April 15, 2000. More than 250 artists from around the nation brought their wheeled entries to Houston to show off their work and compete for cash prizes. The parade is one of oldest and largest of its kind. (Photo by Paul S. Howell/Newsmakers) (Getty)

2005

HOUSTON – MAY 14: The license plate says it all on “Fusion of Contradiction” during the Everyone’s Art Car Parade May 14, 2005 in Houston, Texas. The parade includes around 280 cars and is part of Art Car Weekend along with a street festival, parade, carnival, ball and other events. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images) (Getty)
HOUSTON – MAY 14: Anne Owen and Abigail Owen-Pontez strap into “Elee”, a car made of cutlery from American Airlines during the Everyones Art Car Parade May 14, 2005 in Houston, Texas. The silverware was purchased by Houston artist Mark Bradford when the airline had to convert to plasticware after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The parade includes around 280 cars and is part of Art Car Weekend along with a street festival, parade, carnival, ball and other events. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images) (Getty)
HOUSTON – MAY 14: Madeleine Clay sits in her father’s car “Mirror Image” during the Everyones Art Car Parade May 14, 2005 in Houston, Texas. The parade includes around 280 cars and is part of Art Car Weekend along with a street festival, parade, carnival, legendary ball and other events. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images) (Getty)

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The 17th annual “Everyones Art Car Parade” in downtown Houston. This year’s 280 car event is known for it’s different art forms of transporation. (Photo by Greg Smith/Corbis via Getty Images) (Getty)

2007

Houston Art Car (Image courtesy of the Houston Art Car Parade)
The Art Car Parade in Houston in 2007 (Photo by Ed Schipul, Image provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

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The Art Car Parade in Houston in 2007 (Photo by Ed Schipul, Image provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

2013

HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: A paradegoer rides in an art car on Allen Parkway during the 26th Annual Houston Art Car Parade on May 11, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) (2013 Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: An art car is seen on Allen Parkway during the 26th Annual Houston Art Car Parade on May 11, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) (2013 Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: An art car is seen on Allen Parkway during the 26th Annual Houston Art Car Parade on May 11, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) (2013 Getty Images)

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HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: An art car is seen on Allen Parkway during the 26th Annual Houston Art Car Parade on May 11, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) (2013 Getty Images)

2014

2014 Houston Art Car Parade (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
2014 Houston Art Car Parade (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

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2014 Houston Art Car Parade (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

2015

2015 Houston Art Car Parade (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
2015 Houston Art Car Parade (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
2015 Houston Art Car Parade (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

2016

Houston Art Car Parade 2016 (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
Houston Art Car Parade 2016 (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
Houston Art Car Parade 2016 (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

2017

2017 Houston Art Car Parade (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
2017 Houston Art Car Parade (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
2017 Houston Art Car Parade (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

2018

2018 Houston Art Car Parade (PHOTOGRAPHS by Emily Jaschke)
2018 Houston Art Car Parade (PHOTOGRAPHS by Emily Jaschke)

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2018 Houston Art Car Parade (PHOTOGRAPHS by Emily Jaschke)

2019

Houston Art Car Parade 2019 (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)
Houston Art Car Parade 2019 (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

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Houston Art Car Parade 2019 (Photos by Morris Malakoff, Images provided by Orange Show Center for Visionary Art)

Do you have photos of the Houston Art Car Parade? 📷 We’d love to see them! Share them with us at Click2Pins.com.


Information for this article is from the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, the Houston Art Car Parade, the City of Houston, and “The Orange Show: How Jeff McKissack’s Vision Changed Houston” by Rebecca J. Jacobs-Pollez.

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