Parade of Oranges transforms Conway Avene

Conway Avenue was a sight to behold Saturday as sock hops, ’50s diners and Elvis impersonators took over Mission during the Texas Citrus Fiesta Parade of Oranges.

City of Palmhurst leaders were ecstatic to come in first place in the general category with their brightly colored diner walls and jukebox in the back filled with oranges and grapefruit. City Manager Lori Lopez said they used several hundred pounds of citrus to make it happen because in previous years, they’d been told they didn’t have enough citrus.

20150131-Citrus-Fiesta-Parade-236“We’re doing it more than anything because we wanted to do a tribute to Berta Filut,” Lopez said. “She’s always included all the surrounding communities, and we thought it was important more than ever to come out this year.”

Filut, who served as executive director of the Texas Citrus Fiesta nearly 20 years, died in September.

Mission Regional Medical Center, which came in second place in the general category, had affixed a motorcycle to its float, and Mission Consolidated Independent School District’s float, titled “Leader of the Pack,” came in third.

Meanwhile, Our Lady of Guadalupe remained the team to beat, taking first place in the parade’s toughest competition, the Valley Product division. Floats in this division must be completely covered in citrus, and few are brave enough to attempt the challenge.

In the past six years, the church has only missed first place once, and they were told they didn’t have enough citrus on the truck pulling the trailer, said Bernie Declaire, one of the float’s organizers.

Still, newcomer to the Valley Product division, Mission Collegiate High School Principal Orlando Farias declared his goal was to beat Father Roy Snipes next year. Mission Collegiate came in second this year, and Split Rail RV Park, another perennial competitor, took third.

One of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s toughest weapons is master carpenter David Moreno, who has been shutting down his business for two weeks annually for more than 15 years to lead the church to victory.

Declaire, a Winter Texan from Canada, begins talks with Moreno and Father Roy before he even reaches the Valley each year. This year, Declaire said, the Fiesta’s theme, “Old Time Rock & Roll” proved difficult to adapt to the church.

However, Father Roy came through, stating “The church was built on the rock, and then little-by-little we’re rolling around with the times and singing a song.”

That turned into the words emblazoned on the sides of the float, “Built on the Rock-Rolling Along-Singing a Song.” It featured a moving clock, six jukeboxes with lights, five dogs, four guitars, and the pièce de résistance, La Lomita, an important part of Mission’s history.

Though a core group of four to seven people work on the float in the three weeks coming up to the parade, the Friday before is all hands on deck with volunteer students slicing fruit and affixing it to the float.

Moreno said every year, they use the either church, Lady Guadalupe or La Lomita, but the theme is always different. His favorite float was a few years ago when he was challenged to create a round locomotive that emitted smoke.

Every year, the church is depending on them to come through, and both Moreno and Declaire agreed that hearing they got first once again is a pressure off their backs. It’s a lot of work, but they look forward to the challenge and seeing everything come together in the end.

“We’re blessed,” Moreno said. “That’s all I can say. We’re blessed and we’re happy that the good Lord gave us a lot of strength and knowledge to do what we did.”

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