The Houston Art Car Parade is a free event that happens in the Montrose area once a year – every year – since its official start in 1988. The event attracts thousands of spectators and a couple hundred of entries that range from hand-painted station wagons to professional replicas and even artfully structured bicycles with just as artfully costumed riders. Not included in the actual parade but standing by to feed the citizens of foodie central were several food trucks – of course – including The Waffle Bus and The Golden Grill.
The artwork on wheels are decorated by local artists – both aspiring and professional, as well as group efforts by schools, clubs, businesses, and nonprofit groups hoping to raise awareness over varying social issues. This year there were several of these, including 3 of our own decorated vehicles representing Houston NORML – the city’s chapter of the national organization for the reformation of marijuana laws.
The route for the parade is pre-decided and announced before the event so that those watching from the sidelines can gather on either side of the streets when the cars get rolling. From 10am until 2pm, the public was encouraged to roam amongst the stationary art cars that were lined up mainly along a closed off section of Smith street from Pease St. to Walker St. This was a temporary change from the usual route down Allen Parkway due to construction (something Houstonians are usually annoyed by but pretty used to). Nonetheless, the event was a colorful merging of art and lively interaction between members of one of the most multicultural metropolitan areas in the US, and this particular route placed the festivities right in the heart of the city. And even though the Houston police parked right next to our weed van, attendees and participants alike were very receptive – and at the very least, amused – by our message.
Our triple entry lineup was led by our Communication Director’s black Escalade that is covered in bright green pot leaf graphics and our logo imprinted on both rear doors, along with more leaves in the shape of the state of Texas towards the rear. The red jeep flying our All-American hemp flag directly behind the weed van was included to represent our veterans that believe in both the mental and physical medical benefits that cannabis safely offers to those returning from war (as opposed to pharmaceuticals). Bringing up the rear – and the vehicle that caused perhaps the most commotion – we had a white pickup truck with a fake jail cell installed in the bed of the truck, meant to carry the casualties of the failed War on Drugs.
If you were there, you may have seen us waving our pro-marijuana signs, shouting out our anti-prohibition sentiments, passing out event flyers, or our children passing out beads. Surely you saw and may have taken pictures with “Hempy” – our happily dazed life-sized pot leaf mascot. Whether you supported our cause on the spot, took genuine interest in coming out to our events in the future, or politely declined any involvement past a giggle and a photo, we’d like to thank you all for accepting the presence of NORML at the world’s largest art car parade. It would surprise many of you to know that our flashy pro-pot sentiments would have easily landed us in prison in other parts of the country, including in states where marijuana is legal. But that’s why we do this. Because we weren’t looking to win a grand prize at the end of the parade. What we intended to do – and succeeded in – was peacefully fitting into our own community and getting people interested in helping us to decriminalize pot possession and legalize cannabis in general. We believe prohibition has done more harm than good to our society and that marijuana can help Houston’s economy grow, help heal our sick, and aid our stressed.
We know the majority of Houston and Texas support our efforts, and that there is very little public opposition to our plight. We look forward to next year, not only to attend the 30th Houston Art Car Parade, but more so for our chance to make real legislative change right here at home! If you’re ready to see Texas legalize marijuana, come out to our meetings and events to learn what you can do to free the weed. We need your help!