The citrus industry in the Rio Grande Valley was in its infancy when Mission had the first Citrus Fiesta in 1932. They saw the celebration as a way to spread the word about the bountiful winter harvest of grapefruits and oranges from this lush, subtropical area The theme of that first fiesta, held outdoors against the background of the citrus trees, was “Coronation and Pageant of Citrus.” The celebration ended with the coronation of King Citrus and Queen Citrianna. This became a tradition of royalty, with a citrus industry leader chosen as king and a queen. Other feminine royalty chosen from Rio Grande Valley representing a community and its product or industry.
The second fiesta did not take place until 1934 because of damage caused by a hurricane in 1933. Except for the World War II years, the fiesta has been held annually. In the 1930s Fox Movietone News enjoyed showing the Valley’s lovely ladies in bathing suits in a swimming pool full of floating grapefruits while the rest of the nation was in a deep freeze. The fiesta still shows off the lovely ladies and handsome boys at the coronation of King Citrus and Queen Citrianna. Since 1932 the fiesta has presented its Product Costume Style Show where exquisite costumes made of citrus and other local Valley products are exhibited. Through the years, and with modern technology, the costumes have become intricate works of art using Valley citrus, fruits, vegetables and foliage that have been pulverized, dehydrated, blended and microwaved.
We’ve never attended the coronation, but enjoyed the two hour parade which featured the princesses of various fruits, vegetables and shrubs riding in convertibles with their flowing gowns artfully arranged over the back of the car. Generally the color of the gown had something to do with the color of the fruit and the princesses were always accompanied by tuxedo clad young men appearing to be about nine years old. We have never heard of some of the featured flora and some of the princesses did not always typify today’s standards of beauty, so we were left with lots of questions as the convertibles went by.
Mission has more campgrounds than any other town in the valley and they each contribute floats, cars or golf carts featuring an elderly looking king and queen from that campground. The golf cart is an especially apropos choice since that it how many of us navigate those huge RV resorts. Some were far more ambitious than others decorating their contributions to the parade. There are many aspects of spending winter here that put us into our second childhood.
This year’s theme was Mardi Gras and we marveled at how much easier it was to attend this parade than the ones we went to at the real event last year. We just strolled down the curb and selected a spot. In between the royalty of fruit and the geezer royalty, local businesses took advantage of the captive audience to advertise. The lawyer whose high pressure commercials we constantly see on TV was driving cars with his 1-800-CAR CRASH phone number prominently displayed. Lots of medical and therapy services also passed by. With all the geezers here, treating our ills is big business. The military was well represented as well. The parade started with a tank and every time a group of soldiers passed by with a flag, everyone sitting at the curb rose up in respect.
It was all rather charming and small towny. Many middle and high school contributed bands, packs of cheerleaders and dancing groups. There were so many people in the parade there must have been few people left from Mission to watch. We did our part to clap and cheer and left with a few Mardi Gras necklaces as a reward.