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MISSION—The Annual Texas Citrus Fiesta Product Costume Show has been around for decades, a competition that isn’t like any other, Girl Scout Troop 162 leader Rosie Olivarez said. Scouts, from her troop and neighboring troops, between the ages of eight and 17 have participated, though it is no easy task.
“Every year we learn something new, it is a big bunch of creative people here (at the Citrus Fiesta)…It’s wonderful that they share that passion,” Olivarez said. “It’s a labor of love. If we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t be spending the time on the product.”
Olivarez explained the girls work long hours when preparing for the event, and they look for materials year round. Grandparents, parents and children are all involved in creating useable products for the costumes since all items must be found locally.
Sylvia Vick, Olivarez’s sister, assists with the Girl Scout troop and is a costume designer this year, with her daughter, Miranda Vick, as a model. Sylvia Vick explained this year she has chosen Egypt as her country and will dress her daughter as Cleopatra.
“We made cuffs for the Cleopatra costume, we used grounded tangerine peel and burnt citrus product,” Vick said. “It is a fine powder…and it’s very delicate.”
As part of the regulations, at least 50 percent of the costumes must include citrus items and only agricultural products from the Rio Grande Valley can be used in the competition. The troop leader said her daughter is always on the lookout when on the road; any plant or color can be useful.
“The hard part is finding out the name of each product, the technique of drying and meshing it,” Olivarez said. “It has a little bit of everything in it. You have to discover the science, for example which product has a good texture and how does it work with different glues.”
The troop leader explained a lot of trial and error is helpful; she said her troop has tried multiple types of glue and learned that onion skins cannot be ground up. She attributes many of these techniques and tips to the women who have been practicing the art for years.
“The ladies there at the (Citrus Fiesta) are so wonderful. Had it not been for them we would have not entered,” Olivarez said. “It’s scary and intimidating when you do it alone; these ladies started it and they shared secrets.”
Vick said in their first year of competition, they didn’t realize the ground up materials were so delicate and easily removed from the costumes. Their models carelessly snacked on foods and walked around before the costume show; while veteran models and designers knew only slight movement was allowed when dealing with citrus and floral materials.
The theme for this year’s costume show is “Kaleidoscope of World Cultures,” which provided a large selection for costumes. Olivarez said the girls sat together and bounced ideas off one another. Though the scouts compete against each other, it’s more of a friendly rivalry.
“This year it’s open to anything; for the hats portion we have everything from a crown, a sombrero and Hawaiian head dress,” Olivarez said.
JoAnn Olvera worked with her daughter, Maxine Rodriguez, to create a cowboy costume for her 5-year-old son and model, Adam J. Ortiz. Olvera explained the cowboy hat was one of the first items that was finished, which was completely covered in black, burnt citrus.
Olvera said it has taken weeks to complete the hat and the costume itself was still a few stages before completion. She said all the moments up until the showcase are very crucial to the display of the costumes.
This year, Girl Scout Troop 162 has a total of four mothers designing a costume, three Girl Scout designers, two Girl Scout models and one Girl Scout apprentice assisting her mother. A total of seven outfits will be entered in the showcase by the Scouts and mothers.
Costumes this year will be inspired by countries like Mexico, Australia, Germany and Ireland. The girls have the costumes designed down to the tiniest of details; Olivarez said from head to toe, the costumes must be covered. Items that have been used to decorate the costumes include mesquite, burnt citrus, chile peppers, and seeds and flowers of all colors, found locally.
Winning costumes are placed on display throughout the year at Texas museums and Citrus Fiesta functions.
This troop started their interest in this competition three years ago; Olivarez hopes her Scouts will pass on the tradition to future Girl Scouts.
“We want people to come out to see what we have done and get inspired,” Olivarez said. “This is the first event, so it sort of kicks off the Texas Citrus Fiesta…I hope more people come this year so they can see how much work goes into this.”
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