CITRUS FIESTA. The Citrus Fiesta is a two-week festival held annually in Mission to publicize the citrus industry of the region and to attract visitors. It occurs in December or January, depending on the harvest season. It was started by John H. Shary in the late 1920s. A royal court chosen from prominent valley families includes King Citrus, Queen Citrianna, the Princess of Orange Blossom, the Princess of Grapefruit Blossom, a lady-in-waiting, Princess Anna (who must be six years old), and her attendants, the Princess of Lime Blossom and the Princess of Lemon Blossom. The king's and queen's attendants include the royal crown bearer and four train bearers for the queen's train, which can be up to twenty feet long. Twenty-two duchesses are selected from valley communities. Crowns are designed for each new king, queen, and fiesta theme. The queen's gown was originally made of by-products from citrus plants.
The first annual fiesta was held in 1932 with the theme "Coronation and Pageant of Citrus." The one-day celebration included a coronation ceremony with Shary as King Citrus I and citrus exhibits, fruit-packing contests, a flying circus, a football game, and a parade. By 1934 the fiesta was expanded to two days with the addition of the Fiesta Style Show and the Fruit, Vegetable, and Flower Style Show, which features costumes made from local agricultural products. In 1936 the Texas Citrus Fiesta was officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization. By 1939 the celebration included an air show and a one-day school holiday so that Mission children could participate in the first day of the festival. In 1941 Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr., was crowned king and the theme was "The Rio Grande Valley Serves America;" that year the tourist parade was introduced. From 1942 to 1946 the fiesta was cancelled due to World War II. In 1948 the Ex-Kings Association was formed and given the duty of selecting the new king. The following year the Texas Citrus Fiesta got its own building, and by 1950 it was underwritten by the Mission City Merchants and became self-supporting. The fiesta continued to become more elaborate through the 1950s, and in 1961 there was an unsuccessful attempt to move it to McAllen. C. B. Curtis carved a new queen's scepter out of an orange branch in 1963, and it became the first year that the Queen's gown was required to be all white and no longer had to be citrus products. By 1970 the Texas Citrus Fiesta had become a week-long celebration with a multitude of events, including skeet-shooting tournaments and the international motorcycle races.
By 1982 the Fruit, Vegetable, and Flower Style Show had been renamed the Product Costume Show to allow the use of other natural products as cover on costumes. The devastating freeze of 1983 that killed half the producing trees in the valley led to changes in the fiesta. The Parade of Oranges floats were allowed to be covered by natural products other than citrus, and the Products Style Show allowed the use of ashes and sawdust from destroyed trees. By 1989 the fiesta had been expanded to two weeks. Added to original activities and events were the Fiesta Fun Fair, which included the Little Fest for children, a petting zoo, and local food specialties.
Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin.