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Lighted art cars rock and roll at first annual Gloworama

Lighted art cars rock and roll at first annual Gloworama

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Fireworks at the end of the parade signaled the start of the low-key AfterGlow party in the George R. Brown Convention Center. Bill Olive
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Evelyn Fasnacht's open sleigh art car heralded the arrival of Santa. Bill Olive
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Holland Chaney, left, Kate Fester and Vanessa Riley, who made a voluptuous Mrs. Claus. Photo by Bill Olive
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Add a few lights and an art car becomes party of the illuminated parade. Bill Olive
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The "Dance" mobile was sponsored by Carnes Funeral Home. Bill Olive
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Cool dudes light up the night on the Avenida de las Americas. Bill Olive
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Lights and more lights entertain the crowd of 8,000. Bill Olive
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Russ Richmond and Marianne Mallia Bill Olive
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This normal-looking Santa makes an unconventional arrival — driving a red Lincoln. Bill Olive
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Callie Brown, left, Andy DiRaddo and Terri DiRaddo Bill Olive
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Rusty Riall, from left, Joelle Litwak and Buddy Lewis were among street skaters accompanying the art cars. Bill Olive
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Evelyn and Jim Fasnacht Bill Olive
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Now really, what was Santa doing cruising  the streets of downtown Houston with a pole dancer and a belly dancer? And what about the ice cream sandwiches flying out of the window of the Snow Dog ice cream truck?

That was just a sliver of the unconventional activity sparked by the art car crowd on Saturday night for the launch of the city's first illuminated art car parade — Gloworama.

More than 50 whimsically lighted art cars glided, jerked and jived down Avenida de las Americas in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center, entertaining a crowd of more than 8,000. And in true art car tradition, the scene was total whacked-out fun. 

Santa arrived, not in an open-air sleigh but driving a red Lincoln. A bagpiper in full kilt regalia performed in the stern of a rolling pirate ship.  A personal favorite was the Carnes Funeral Home "Mobile Disco" vehicle -- a hollowed out school bus with disco tunes blaring, riders tossing Mardi Gras beads and funeral home frisbees into the crowd and signs encouraging all to "Get Up and Dance,"  a mortician's ultimate fantasy.

Costumed, illuminated skaters swirled in and out of the rolling procession adding another layer of visual stimulation to the scene.

 "I think we have the beginning of a fabulous event . . . next time, I want 10 times the route," said art car owner Evelyn Fasnacht, who along with Sharon Adams of the Convention and Entertainment Facilities Department, divined the colorful antidote to Thanksgiving weekend blahs. The event, underwritten primarily by H-E-B, was co-sponsored by the CEFD, the Houston Downtown Alliance and Art Cars of Houston. 

Fasnacht drove her own holiday-themed art car loaded with lights, a Christmas tree, lighted reindeer soaring overhead and fashion designer Vanessa Riley, riding on the trunk, portraying a voluptuous Mrs. Claus in an original costume.

For a first-time happening, the night was chock full of activity. It began with a light show spectacular by Andy DiRaddo's  LD Systems illuminating one side of the George R. Brown. While the crowds gathered along the boulevard for a view of the show, a contingent of heavy hitters, plunking down $150 per person, partied on a convention center balcony where food, drink and an overhead view of the parade were included. Mayoral candidate Annise Parker was among them.

"This is so incredibly fantastic," Parker said. "Houston is just on the verge of being one of the most cool cities in the country."  

The partying went on late into the night with the AfterGlow, a schmooze in the convention center where the art cars were parked for close inspection and where the Rich Latimer Band played.  

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