When two students at Mission Collegiate High School suggested constructing a float for the Texas Citrus Fiesta Parade of Oranges, Principal Orlando Farias hesitated.
Everyone had just returned from winter break, the deadline to enter the event – Jan. 20 – was drawing near, and they had less than a month to put a float together. And they weren’t talking about constructing just any old float. The school is the only newcomer this year to the products division of the annual Parade of Oranges, held at the end of the Texas Citrus Fiesta. To qualify, the float must be covered in products grown specifically in the Rio Grande Valley.
This year’s parade is slated for Saturday, Jan. 31, at 3 p.m. It will run north to south on Conway, starting at Farm-to-Market Road 495 and ending on Fourth Street.
When he started discussing the idea with employees on campus, they all encouraged it. The school’s art teachers drew up a sketch of what the float should look like, working with this year’s “Old Time Rock & Roll” theme.
Art teacher Lourdes Acuña is the one who first sketched the outline of the float and handed it to Farias, telling him, “This is your job, do good.” She said her boss works just as hard as the staff and that has created a dedicated workforce. The school’s based in portables on Mission High’s campus this year, but when their building is finished, Mission Collegiate with be “revolutionary,” Acuña promised.
“We have a lot of energy and unity,” Acuña said. “I do the extra work because I love my job.”
Farias volunteered his own trailer and has been prepping it at night for the parade, installing pallets anchored to the bottom of the trailer and creating two levels. The top level will be covered to look like piano keys and the bottom level will be outfitted with benches to seat each of the school’s class presidents. The husband of one of the school’s teachers volunteered to make the benches.
In fact, the entire project has been a labor of love for all involved, with students taking time during their lunch break to paint branches shaped into the words “Mission Collegiate” and gather leaves from the school’s small garden for the background.
The signs will be posted down the middle of the trailer, between the benches.
But the pièce de résistance is a wooden jukebox, detailed with onion seeds, corn, lemon leaves and soon to be covered in grapefruit slices. Wednesday, Farias said he planned to bring his trailer to the school Thursday, so everyone could start putting the float together. The fruit can’t be added until Friday, he said, so it will still be fresh. Paramount Citrus donated the grapefruit.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Acuña said as she displayed bags of onion seeds in different colors and pointed out the detail on the jukebox.
The school will be competing with the likes of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, which took first place in the division last year, and Split Rails RV Park, which took second place last year and first the year before, as well as Mission Nursing and Rehab. Farias said his goal is to beat Father Roy Snipes over at the church.
And next time, Farias said, they’ll start planning in August or September.
“It’s a good experience. It’s a learning experience,” Farias said. “Maybe we make it a tradition, and we’re just going to raise the bar every year.”