Some background - -
Mission, Texas, is a small city of approximately 50,000 people. It sits right on the border with Mexico. In its early years, it grew because pioneer agriculturists planted citrus groves. Though trade with Mexico and nearby maquiladora plants are eclipsing citrus as the main industry, Mission still celebrates the annual Texas Citrus Fiesta as it has for 71 years. Mission is really an overgrown small town, and the flavor an agricultural, rural culture is evident during the festivities.
A festival requires a Queen (and king, but he’s secondary) and of course, that also requires a Royal Court. The local high school gym becomes a coronation ballroom for the night as pretty young ladies of all ages became part of the pageantry. This was not a beauty contest per se and the girls were dressed in elaborate gowns representing various fruits. There was a Duchess of Watermelon, a Duchess of Ruby Red Grapefruit, and a Duchess of Papaya – and many more. Each was introduced with such formalities as saying they from “The House of Gonzalez”, or Smith, of Hughes – or whatever her family name was. Of course, they didn’t come from the towns of Mission, Edinburg, or McAllen – they came from the “Royal Province” of . . . Each Duchess walked the runway, bowed to the King and Queen, then joined the rest of the Royal Court. The gowns were so huge the girls had to have help to sit down. For some reason, Americans are fascinated by royalty, even though our Constitution expressly forbids having hereditary titles.
(As always, be sure to click on each photo - you'll see the full sized image that way.)
There are costume contests too – mostly little kids, but a few adults too. This little girl was dressed up as if she was at a sock hop in her poodle skirt. Most times I enjoy watching kids performing in public, but I often sense they are pushed into cavorting before crowds by parents trying to live out their dream through their kids. But this girl was having a ball. When she saw a camera, she turned on the charm. She loved walking the runway. Not so with this tyke – she walked half way down the ramp, and burst into tears. Mom was right there to help, but I have my doubts she will want to do this again.
It was a long night for little girls and old photographers. There were endless awards, but then again, why shouldn’t there be? A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into the evening, and everybody should have their fifteen minutes of fame. The long list of kudos certainly kept the announcer busy.
As I looked out over the gym (the same gym where I’ve taken innumerable basketball and volleyball photos), I wondered how much longer events like this will continue. They come from a day when America was mostly rural - country fairs, festivals, and church socials were a way for people to get together. Today, air conditioning and television keep most people inside, and for younger people, at least, a lot of socializing is done over the Internet. The city of Mission, Texas, is no longer a small town. In reality, Mission is part of a group of cities that include McAllen, Pharr, and Edinburg – and unless you look for the city limit signs, you won’t know which city you’re in. It is now a metropolitan area, not rural. The low attendance at the Royal Court festivities were self-evident. In fact, I took this photo from a balcony area where I was the only person.
It was a fun night. In the next few days, I’ll post stories on the Fun Fair and the Parade – both parts of the 2008 Citrus Fiesta.