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This article appeared in the Feb. 4 issue of the Progress Times.
Rio Grande Valley locals gave homage to the Texas Citrus Fiesta’s 90th anniversary during the Product Costume Show on Saturday, January 8. Participants were encouraged to use previous categories of past competitions.
Camila Longoria, Sandra Martinez, Rosie Olivarez, Jeniffer Ruiz-Longoria, and Bryson Olivarez created pieces for the hat category, while Sandra Martinez, Destiny Gonzalez, Brianna Garza created styles for the adult costume category. Lastly, Sara Young, Jeniffer Ruiz-Longoria, and Camila Longoria made pieces for the youth costume category.
One contestant, Young, former Lady in Waiting in 2014, said the experience of the product show brought back memories she wanted to share with her children.
“Now that I have my children, I wanted that [participation] to start as early as possible,” said Young.
The substitute teacher created the concept of ‘Prince Citrus’ and became inspired by her son, Noah.
“Since it was Diamond themed, I wanted to do it related to royalty. I thought it would be cute to do a royal Prince Citrus…since there’s already a King Citrus.”
Young and her son Noah worked together to pick and polarize products, such as orange peels, lemons, limes, bougainvillea flowers, acorns, and cantaloupe seeds.
Fourth-grader Camila Longoria blew judges away with her 1932 Citrus Aviator costume, earning her first place and People’s Choice Youth Costume.
The costume, inspired by Amelia Earheart, took months to make.
“It was so much fun,” Camila said, enjoying the costume-making experience she had with her mother from start to finish. The creation was a lengthy process, from picking lime leaves by hand and getting citrus to grind them up for the costume.
“I’ve been involved in the Texas Citrus Fiesta. It’s been part of my history and tradition here because it’s something I’ve always grown up with,” said Ruiz-Longoria. “My daughter, she’s the one who really encouraged me. She loves designing…it’s something she really enjoys.”
Ruiz-Longoria said that even through her extracurricular activities and community service, her daughter made time to participate. She also said lots of bonding time happened between her and her daughters.
“It’s a wonderful experience to see all their hard work and all of their designs in the final product,” said Ruiz-Longoria, mentioning her other daughter, Madison, who helped. “To see both my girl’s faces light up…they just look back…and they kind of reflect on it.”
The mother-daughter duo air-dried various citrus (mainly oranges), pulverized and microwaved them for the entirety of the costume. Orange membranes, grapefruit membranes, pumpkin seeds, and lime seeds became small details for the costume piece to add texture.
“I was so happy and so proud of what I made,” said Camila as she thought back to when she first put on the costume. “I was crying inside because I was so happy that what I put on that piece of paper became an entire outfit.”
This is the Longoria family’s second time participating in the TCF Product Costume Show. The family also wants to continue it as a tradition.
Brianna Garza covered herself head to toe with locally grown produce while paying homage to the famous 90s doll franchise, Bratz.
The Mission resident, whose family has participated in TCF, chose to do design after enjoying the events with her family.
Garza chose the Cartoon and Disney theme and designed a Bratz outfit inspired by the ‘Bratz: Fashion Pixiez film.’ The design was a green two-piece shirt with matching pants, tri-colored butterfly wings with white and orange sneakers. Orange onion, purple onion, bougainvillea, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, melon, shredded citrus leaves, and burnt mesquite were the local produce used in her costume.
“It took me a week and a half because it was pretty simple…but…it’s a lot of handwork,” said Garza.
Garza said she had a fun experience overall, as she has a passion for fashion design. This is the third time Garza participates in the Costume Product show.
“It’s something I recommend people to do,” said Garza. “It’s a good bonding experience with people.”
Bryson Olivarez, Kingsville resident and an attending senior at the University of Texas Agriculture and Mechanics, amazed the judges with his ‘Big Top’ top hat.
Olivarez’s aunt, a Valley native, asked him to participate, leading the art major to put his skills to the test.
“She asked me if I was willing…I said: sure, sounds cool,” said Olivarez.
With the category open to previous themes for the 90th anniversary, Olivarez chose ‘Under the Big Top.’ With the artwork he is doing now, revolving around ‘child-esque’ and motifs with carnivals and clowns, it struck Olivarez’s interest.
“The first thing that came to my mind was…a big carousel at the top of the head. I just ran with it,” said Olivarez. Though, when he arrived on the day of the contest, he had some doubts about his entry.
Work was continuous for Olivarez, the lengthy process being a trial and error as he put his engineering skills to the test. He measured the headpiece to his own head, leaving it to fit loose on his model. The hat was inspired by Rococo and Baroque art from the 17th and 18th centuries, alongside Mexican folk art. The hat weighs 8 to 10 pounds.
“I know a lot of the hats were traditional…mine was more of a…sculptural wear-piece,” Olivarez said.
The carousel hat, completed in 3 weeks, was a skeleton entirely out of cardboard before adding the citrus accents. The sculpture used orange, grapefruit, tangerines, chile ancho, black and navy beans, and jalapeños. The patterned and layered hat even lit up in various parts.
Despite the non-traditional design, Olivarez took home first place and People Choice Hat.
“I was very honored to be asked to be part of it,” said Olivarez. “It made me very happy to see others acknowledge the hard work I put into my hat.”