Welcome to the Orange Show: ripened in the hot Texas sun,
sweetened by its eccentric creator's singular vision, the
Orange Show was Jefferson McKissack's present to the world,
a strange and strangely appealing mishmash of found
objects, homebuilt robots and bizarre dioramas splattered
across his south Houston canvas. Oh, and it's a tribute to
McKissack started building his odd monument in the late 1950's. Working during
the day as a postman in Houston, he would scour the streets for strange and
interesting bits of stuff. Just stuff, effluivia that people threw away and no
one else was interested in. It all fit together in McKissack's mind, though,
and he spent all his spare time over the next two decades planning and shaping
the "Ninth Wonder of the World - the Orange Show".
Most of it relates only tangentially, if that, to the orange, the object of
such devotion from the man who refused to be called an artist. A clown
McKissack salvaged from a store display found a welcome home in the Orange
Show, with a sign that read, "I am alert, care of myself every hour every
minute. You can too if you will. CLOWNS NEVER LIE."
Elsewhere McKissack built a steamboat that runs around a shallow pond and fires
a cannon at some Indians while a mechanical monkey claps its hands.
McKissack was convinced that the Orange Show would attract 300,000 visitors a
year after it opened. When he finally unveiled his masterwork, only about 150
showed up, but an ecastatic and proud McKissack conducted personal tours of the
strange museum cum amusement park for everyone in attendance that day.
Six months later, and eight days before his 78th birthday, Jeff McKissack died.
For a while, it appeared the Orange Show would die, too, prey of the local real
estate boom - the land the Orange Show sat on was more valuable than the Orange
Show itself. A local effort saved McKissack's Taj Mahal from destruction,
however, and volunteer effort keeps it alive and in business today.
Check out the Orange Show Foundation at the URL below; you can buy books about
the Orange Show and other neato Orange Show stuff, and you also get to help
keep the place in business.
Ironically, years after McKissack's death, the Orange Show has entered a new
period of public awareness and respect. Although still far short of the
300,000 visitors a year he envisioned, the Orange Show manages to draw about
18,000 people every year to see the bizarre junkyard of dreams devoted to the
wonders of the orange.