79th year celebrating Texas Citrus tradition

MISSION — With a cardboard chapel covered in citrus and Looney Tunes displayed throughout the float, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic parish led more than 100 floats that followed the theme of Cartoons and Comic Book Characters lined up on Conway Avenue between 2 Mile Line and Griffin Parkway for the 79th Annual Texas Citrus Fiesta Parade of Oranges.

Irene Ramos and her family were among the hundreds of parade viewers who gathered along either side of Conway Avenue with lawn chairs.

She said attending the parade with her family was a tradition that has been ongoing for several years.

“We look forward to it,” she said. “They’re exciting because families and friends all gather together and support each other.”

The Mission native said though she enjoys seeing the colorful dresses worn by the royal court, her main focus for the parade is seeing her daughter, who is a cheerleader.

Like Ramos’ daughter, Bryceidee Leos spent the past three years cheering in the parade, though this year she was in the parade as the Duchess of Ruby Red Grapefruit.

“I had to walk it before, so it’s going to be a bonus to be in a car,” the 17-year-old said.

Leos wore a bright red ball gown with a large bow on the back with grapefruits embroidered into it. She said that she and her mother designed her dress after she was told she was going to be representing the ruby red grapefruit.

“We had interviews in December,” the high school senior said. “I had to be interviewed to be a duchess. I didn’t get in automatically.”

The Mission native said this was her first time competing in a pageant. She said she became excited to find out what she would be representing during the 79th Parade of Oranges.

Leos said that being a part of the Texas Citrus Fiesta is about more than just the looks and the dresses.

“It’s about studying,” the Mission native said. “You have to study your fruit. Everybody thinks it’s about the dress, I did too, but no, it’s not.”

For her, getting involved in the citrus celebrations gave her an opportunity to learn about the history of the city where she grew up.

“I had to learn about John H. Shary,” she said. “It’s cool to know about the history of where you’re from. I studied like a month before. I went on Google and found every single page.”

Her studying paid off. On Jan. 28, after the Royal Coronation of King Citrus and Queen Citrianna, Leos was named the 80th Queen Citrianna in 2017.

“I don’t get crowned until next year,” she said. “It’s delayed for some reason, but I’m excited to wear the huge crown.”

She said the contest wasn’t just about competing, but also about friendship.

“It was interesting and really cool and an awesome experience,” Leos said. “I got along with so many girls, and I met a lot of girls from different places. It was awesome. There weren’t bad vibes or anything; everyone was really cool with each other and I liked that.”

She is looking forward to getting to know more people and learning even more about Valley native produce.

“I am going to try and be a good queen while learning more,” she said. “I know there’s more to learn while representing other cities.”