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2005 Houston Art Car Parade Part 1

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May 15, 2005, 11:52AM

ARTISTIC VISIONS ON PARADE

No speed limit to creativity

Art car entries turn Allen Parkway into one moving exhibition

By ZEKE MINAYA

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

It was easy to tell what Ethan Dominguez thought about the 17th annual edition of the Art Car Parade Saturday.

The less-than-knee-high tyke, too busy jumping up and down to lace his sneakers, could not believe his eyes. "Look at that!" the 2-year-old shouted at his mother, pointing at car after car, "Look at that!"

"He's been saying that all day," said his weary but smiling mother, Laurie.

Houstonians let their freak flag fly high Saturday, with artists and mechanics, political provocateurs and welders unleashing their imaginations onto Allen Parkway.

Among the more than 280 entries were cars decked out as boats, festooned as flowers and rigged up as mythical creatures. There were vehicles protesting politicians and one carrying an aspiring politician. Others featured musicians performing everything from oldies to punk rock.

Abigail Reeves drove something called the Barking Schnauzer III. The car was painted with intricate designs and patterns, drawing compliments from onlookers. The detailed paint job took her a week, but it was worth it, she said.

"You get to meet people when you drive a car like this," said Reeves, 54, "People come up and talk to you."

The event is put on by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, a center for folk artists. The first art car parade in 1988 had 40 vehicles and few onlookers. Saturday, about 200,000 people came out to enjoy the parade, according to Adriana Perez, a spokeswoman for the Orange Show Center. "It went really, really well," she said, "It was a hot day, but it was good."

The various vehicles competed for prizes in 14 categories, including best art car, best political statement and a parade participants choice. Winners are to be announced today.

"There are some silly things in the parade, sure," said Doug Markham, a lawyer who has been coming to the parade for 15 years, "but there are also some really great examples of artistry."

Kinky presence

Richard "Kinky" Friedman, the black-clad, cigar-chomping 60-year-old musician, author, prankster and would-be gubernatorial candidate, was the perfect choice for grand marshal of an event that celebrates imagination and individuality, according to several spectators.

"He's a true Texas character," said Sarah Reid, 44, "There aren't a lot of those these days."

Before the start of the parade, Friedman settled into the back of a gold-speckled, dark-red lowrider practicing hand waves.

"There's the beauty queen wave," he said, tilting a cupped hand every-so-slightly from side to side. "There's the James Dean wave," he said, slicing his hand through the air while trying to imitate the cool of the late matinee idol. "There's the Richard Nixon wave," he said, sprouting both his hands over his head while forming a V for victory with his fingers.

The crowd cheered Friedman warmly much of the way. When his ride stalled, he quipped, "This smells like a Republican trick." He gamely tried to push it but was distracted by the cheering women riding atop a nearby 117-foot dragon.

"Kinky saw the girls and before you know he was looking for the ladder to climb on," said Flynn Mauthe, the driver of Draka the Dragon.

"Kinky? What kind of name is Kinky?" asked Charles Mortellaro, a 25-year-old construction worker who flashed numbers at the passing cars, rating them on a scale of one through ten. He did not hand out too many low grades.

"The cars are all a show of self-expression," he said. "How could you not like that?"

I walked from where I live in Montrose to the Art Car Parade Saturday afternoon. I walked down Allen Parkway from beginning to end. I took pictures of the various cars along the way. I hope you enjoy the first installment of my series of Art Car Parade pics.

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