Celebration of Citrus: Parade of Oranges, Fiesta on Saturday

MISSION — The 83rd Texas Citrus Fiesta is shaping up to be out of this world.

The annual event, which is taking on the theme of “Space Odyssey Adventure” is set to kick off on Saturday with the Fun Fair, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m at the Leo Peña Placita Park in Mission.

“We have live music entertainment, we have vendors, food vendors, craft vendors, information booths and so forth,” said Lisa Rivera, the executive director for Texas Citrus Fiesta.

“Our parade, of course, starts at 3 p.m.”

The parade will start on FM 495 and trek down South Conway Avenue to First Street. Like past years, the parade will feature colorful floats that celebrate the local citrus industry, as well as a slew of special guests.

“Our Grand Marshall is Dr. John Da Graca,” Rivera said. “He is actually from Texas A&M University in Kingsville, but he is here stationed at Weslaco A&M, the branch that’s here. He’s actually an expert on citrus and citrus virus diseases. He has a citrus center there. He’s worked with citrus for many, many years.”

Scheduled to make an appearance at the parade are the Texas A&M Parsons Mounted Cavalry. The Corps of Cadets Mounted Unit makes appearances at events all over the country. The unit was disbanded in 1943 when the U.S. military demobilized its horse operations.

The unit was revived in 1973 and named after then Commandant of the Corps of Cadets, Colonel Thomas R. Parsons. The Parsons Mounted Cavalry is now made up of 90 cadets and 50 horses.

Also scheduled to appear at the parade is the 501st Legion, a volunteer organization that is known for wearing Star Wars costumes, primarily that of the Storm Troopers, known for their white helmets and armor.

“Of course, we have our local people that are part of (the parade),” said Rivera. “We have people from everywhere, Mercedes, Harlingen, Rio Grande City and so forth. And of course, our beautiful duchesses. We have duchesses that will be part of our parade. Some other cities will have their own floats, and the duchesses will be representing them.”

According to Rivera, the fiesta is a celebration of the culture and history of the Rio Grande Valley, particularly the cultivation of citrus fruits in the area.

“The difference from other (celebrations) I believe is they’re more of a celebration of what’s going on, like Christmas. Ours actually has to do with the culture of the Rio Grande Valley, not just the Mission area,” Rivera said. “Texas Citrus Fiesta, we’re housed in Mission, but Texas Citrus Fiesta represents the Rio Grande Valley. … We cultivate the citrus industry. We’re part of it, and that’s what we’re trying to educate the people. Our citrus industry, our citrus growers — it’s a cultivation. It’s what we’re about.”

fjimenez@themonitor.com