The future was wide open at the first ‘official’ Houston Art Car Parade

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Updated 12:37 pm, Thursday, April 6, 2017

When the Houston Art Car Parade rolls through downtown on Saturday afternoon with nearly 250 vehicles it will mark 30 years for the Bayou City’s quirkiest procession.

Comedian, author and all-around pop culture icon Cheech Marin will be riding in style at the parade, presiding as this year’s Grand Marshal in the Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s special multi-colored 1959 Cadillac convertible.

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Thousands of people will come out to watch the family-friendly spectacle, which has become a Houston institution.

The parade festivities are organized by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Arts, which is a non-profit that cares for The Orange Show Monument, the adjacent Smither Park and The Beer Can House.

Now in its 35th year of service, The Orange Show provides award-winning community art tours, artist-led workshops, community murals, and other arty projects throughout the city.

Courtesy of the Orange Show, we’re sharing photos of the first official Houston Art Car Parade in 1988 as it invaded downtown. 

A small parade two years earlier only hinted at what was to come for the event. Rachel Hecker and Trish Herrera had organized a New Music Parade in 1986 in conjunction with the New Music America Festival. 

The Art Car Parade was a confirmed hit in 1988. There were only 40 cars in the parade that first year, with an estimated crowd of 2,000 coming out.

LOWRIDER: Cheech Marin to ride in sweet Saint Arnold Cadillac during Art Car Parade

The organizers returned the next year and Houstonians began designing art cars of their own, adding more vehicles to the mix. The parade initially coincided with the Houston International Festival but split from the now-defunct even in the early 2000s.

By 1989, the parade doubled in size and the crowd was in the tens of thousands. Artist Harrod Blank came from California with his art car, “Oh My God.”

Houston had itself a whole new tradition. 

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