March 10th, 2010

The Orange Show: I’m Glad You Didn’t Say Banana

I learned of the existence of the Orange Show about six months ago from a fellow volunteer at an art festival. She was shocked to learn that anyone who claimed to be involved in the art scene had never seen such an important cultural icon in Houston. I attempted to visit for months, but with visiting hours comprised of noon to five on Saturdays and Sundays only, it left small opportunity for someone who enjoys long brunches/writing sessions at Café Brasil during said days.


By some fortuitous happenstance, I read of the Orange Show season opener less than a week ago and immediately knew it would be the perfect day to visit the Orange show. The Opening Day festivities were not only a celebration of The Orange Show’s re-opening after a lengthy restoration process, but also served as an opportunity to make trophies for the 2010 Houston Art Car Parade and for Danza Azteca Teokalli de Houston, a traditional Aztec group, to perform a blessing ceremony at the monument.


As Saturday finally rolled around, I found myself stuck in the traffic that epitomizes Houston as I attempted to navigate I-45, my least favorite highway. Finally pulling off the interstate, I saw Munger Street and made a very dangerous last-second lane change (I am infamous for my driving skills, beware of a silver MINI Cooper). My girlfriend had already called, more than once, to inquire why I was late and, more importantly, ask if I had cash, since they were selling Orange Show beer glasses at the door.


As I walked up to the venue, an orange painted Bronco pulled up next to me and from inside I heard, “Nice orange dress!” In my rush to get dressed that morning, I failed to realize that I had chosen to wear an orange dress to the Orange Show! The stars truly had aligned.


The Orange Show is a maze-like structure, built with typical building materials and found objects. It was created by Jeff McKissack, a postal worker, in order to celebrate his favorite fruit. Once inside the monument, I find myself lost several times as I navigate the various balconies, walkways, alcoves, and arenas. At the Orange Show, turning a corner means you could be greeted by messages proclaiming, “I LOVE YOU ORANGES” in multi-colored mosaic tiles, discover a stoic lion cast in stone, or stumble on an outline of the United States that illustrates where oranges are grown by highlighting those respective states with the color orange.


Thankfully, I have plenty of time to explore the structure as I am not the only one running late on this day; the Aztecs have yet to arrive, so we spend some time checking out the trophy workshop. Three sets of stairs, covered in containers filled with foil stars, plastic animals, seashells, etc., sit next to a table crowded with trophies recycled from old bowling tournaments, spelling bees, sports competitions (bowling is not a sport), and employees of the month from long ago. A number of children crowed around the table, covering every inch of a trophy with the treasures from the stairs. It would have made Kathy Lee Gifford proud.


We hear word that the blessing ceremony is about to commence and we make our way over to the main amphitheater. I pawn off my numerous belongings with my girlfriend in order to take photos from different angles. From my perch above the majority of the audience, my eyes are greeted by a kaleidoscope of colors in the form of feathers, painted shells, metal work and dyed leather that adorn the dancers. With skin the color of burnt sienna and lit by the warm sun, they perform beautiful dances in unison, urged on by the beat of a drum played by the oldest member of the group. The drummer’s weathered face is reflected in the wizened image of the gold eagle that sits atop his proud head.


For the next thirty minutes, our eyes are treated to a wondrous sight that had been witnessed by many others in centuries long past. It was so moving that it brought my companion to tears, or so she claimed; I couldn’t make out any tears behind those big, dark glasses.


The last dance ends and, as I make my exit, I run into the couple from the orange Bronco and I notice that they are awash in the spirit of orange. I am able to get a better look at their orange hats, orange sunglasses, and fresh orange flowers carried in one hand. In the other hand, they are holding orange fizzies they are sipping on. I have to ask, “Who are you people? Why are you dressed this way? Are you affiliated with The Orange Show?” to which Seth simply replies that for he and his lady friend, Danielle, “Sometimes its Orange Saturday”.


Where – 2402 Munger Street, Houston, TX 77023 (View Map)
– A Love Affair With Citrus
– Orange, If You Can Manage
How Much
– A Single Dollar. I’m Sure You Can Spare a Solitary Washington.
– 1PM to 5PM Saturday and Sunday
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— Afrodet


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