Monday, January 30, 2006

Peels On Parade

January 27,2006
Travis M. Whitehead
The Monitor

Texas Citrus Fiesta Kicks Off

MISSION — Sara Valdez and her friends have been working diligently on a dress made of congealed orange juice.

"We are going to use other products, possibly cenizo leaves, sunflower leaves, petals," said Valdez, whose daughter Rachel will model her "product" costume dress tonight at the Mission High School gym on 1802 Cleo Dawson.

The product costume show is part of the Texas Citrus Fiesta. The event kicked off Thursday night with the coronation of Summer Marie Flowers, 18, as Queen Citrianna. This year’s King Citrus was also chosen.

Berta Peña, executive director, said Thursday’s festivities also included a competition for the 2007 Queen Citrianna. That competition included young women dressed in ball gowns which resemble an agricultural product from their hometowns. For example, the contestant from Mission was the Duchess of Star Ruby. Other contestants included the Duchess of Lemon from Weslaco and the Duchess of Papaya from Pharr.

"A lot of them have sequins and rhinestones," Peña said. "Some people spend $6,000 to $7,000. The dresses are embellished with laces or appliqué."

The winner of that competition also will be announced tonight.

Peña was in the middle of preparations last week for the fiesta, which concludes Saturday with the Parade of Oranges and the Fiesta Fun Fair.

"It’s going good, thank God," she said. "Hopefully it’s going to be bigger and better. We have a couple of things at the Fun Fair that are new."

One of those new things will be a juvenile diabetes information unit, a semi tractor-trailer which will open into a series of booths will information about diabetes. This presentation will encourage children to be more active. Another booth will encourage dental health by providing places for people to brush their teeth. They will also give away tooth brushes and toothpaste.

The parade — consisting of many colorful floats — begins at 12:30 p.m. at Farm-to-Market Road 495 and Conway Avenue. The floats will compete in various contests, including the product category. Floats in this category must be made of 85 percent product, such as orange peels or other materials.

"That’s the biggest contest," Peña said. "First prize is $1,000."

Why such a big prize?

Peña said the citrus fiesta is trying to encourage more people to get involved. Participation has died down in recent years because of heavy work loads and other commitments. Other prize money will go to Winter Texan R.V. parks that have the best float.

Anyone wishing to see these colorful floats can stand along the Conway Avenue on Saturday afternoon and watch the parade head south to 4th Street. By that time, however, the Fiesta Fun Fair at Market Square on 115 West 10th Street will be in full swing; it will start at 10 a.m. and end at about 8:30 p.m.

"We will have entertainment throughout the day, arts and crafts, all kinds of food," Peña said. "We also have a vaquero cook-off. One of the meats has to be presented with citrus."

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Travis Whitehead covers features and entertainment for The Monitor. You can reach him at 683-4452.
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