MISSION — Subtropical and tropical fruit decorations rained over the city Saturday kicking off this year’s Texas Citrus Fiesta festivities.
As part of the annual celebration, the community center was host to the Product Costume Show, Shoebox Float Competition and the Ultimate Grapefruit Pie Baking Showdown.
As one of the oldest celebrations in the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Citrus committee chooses yearly themes to give a twist to the competitions while also giving participants room to expand on the theme.
The 2018 theme is “Hawaiian Pirate Adventures.”
Those who compete in the Product Costume Show must begin preparations months in advance of the competition.
Joann Ortiz, co-chair for the Product Costume Show, explained the contestants must design their own outfits, including apparel, accessories and shoes.
“They (costume participants) go all around the Valley and they’ll pick up oranges that have fallen or some of them will have their own orange trees or Bougainvilleas,” Ortiz said. “They’ll pick them up also and start drying them very early with a dehydrator or out in the sun.”
Gathering of materials usually begins in October and sometimes it continues up to the final days. “They start working on their outfits and some of them are ready by the first of January while others are in just before the event day,” Oritz said.
All the citrus used in the costumes has to be grown and picked in the Valley. Some of the participants just dehydrated the fruit and placed it on cloth, while others cut and ground the fruit to make powers of orange and grapefruit peel.
Both of Mission resident Dalia Vivian’s children participated in the competition. Her daughter entered in the Product Costume Show as “Little Hawaiian Tourist,” with her son contributing to the hat design.
“I got into this because my sisters were involved in this and their daughters would do this,” Vivian said.
The first year, she recalled, she was lost going in to the competition. But after inquiring with the citrus fiesta office, she got the hang of things and that year her daughter won first place.
“She has white onion, purple onion; all the green is from orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit (tree leaves),” Vivian said, describing her daughter’s outfit.
Another contestant was Mission resident Sara Young, who has participated in the Texas Citrus Fiesta contests for several years.
“When I was younger, I think I did it four times – I did costumes,” Young said. “This year I wanted to be involved some way, so I did a hat.”
Her hat was decorated with lemon slices, citrus peel and leaves, with additional citrus pieces topped with a pineapple stem.
Not all of the fruit on display was decorative.
Before the Costume Product Show began, eight bakers entered the Grapefruit Pie Baking Showdown. The grapefruit pies ranged from traditional to unique, but all were required to highlight the sweetness of the Valley citrus.
Local students also had the opportunity get in on the celebration of citrus.
Fourth- and fifth-grade students from the Mission, Sharyland and La Joya school districts were tasked with making mini-floats using a shoebox. Using all their creativity to carry out this year’s Hawaiian pirate theme, the students decorated the shoeboxes with fabric topped with citrus products such slices, peels and powders.
The projects will be on display during the Texas Citrus Fiesta Parade on Saturday, Jan. 27.