The citrus industry in the Rio Grande Valley was still young when Paul Ord and the Young Men's Business League introduced the first Texas Citrus Fiesta in Mission in December 1932. They saw the celebration as a way to spread the word about the bountiful winter harvest of grapefruits and oranges from the lush, subtropical Rio Grande Valley. The theme of that first fiesta, held outdoors against the background of the citrus-bearing trees, was "Coronation and Pageant of Citrus." John H. Shary, considered the father of the Texas citrus industry, reigned over the one-day celebration. It started with a half-hour concert and ended with the coronation of King Citrus and Queen Citrianna. This became a tradition of "royalty," with a citrus industry leader chosen as king and a queen chosen from Rio Grande Valley "duchesses," each representing a community and its product or industry.
The second fiesta did not take place until 1934 because of damage caused by a hurricane in 1933. Other than during World War II, the fiesta has been held annually. In the 1930s, Fox Movietone News enjoyed showing the Valley's lovely ladies in bathing suits in a swimming pool full of floating grapefruits while the rest of the nation was in a deep freeze. The fiesta still takes delight in showing off the lovely ladies and handsome lads at the coronation of King Citrus and Queen Citrianna. Coronation is now held indoors amidst the flourish of herald trumpets during the last week of January. Since 1932, the fiesta has presented its Product Costume Style Show where exquisite costumes made of citrus and other local Valley products are exhibited. Through the years, and with modern technology, the costumes have become intricate works of fold art using Valley citrus, fruits, vegetables and foliage that have been pulverized, dehydrated, blended and microwaved. These costumes have been featured in National Geographic, Southern Living and Texas Monthly magazines, and at shows from Kansas City to Washington, D.C.
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