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Houston's wacky Art Car Parade moved into the fast lane Thursday when Everyones Internet, a Houston-based Internet service provider, agreed to sign on as the May event's lead sponsor, a parade official said.
The popular parade, which drew more than 100,000 spectators last year, was facing the prospect of offering smaller cash prizes, trimming travel allowances for out-of-town participants and reducing its promotional efforts after Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. ended its sponsorship.
The oil company had sponsored the Art Car Parade -- the nation's largest and oldest -- for five years. In 2003, it gave $125,000 to the event, which includes lectures and art car appearances at schools and nursing homes. The sponsorship was dropped after Pennzoil was acquired by Shell Oil Co.
Susanne Theis, executive director of the Orange Show, which produces the parade, said the Everyones Internet sponsorship will replace about three-fourths of the lost Pennzoil money. Theis said her group continues to look for secondary sponsors, who would be allowed to appear in the parade carrying corporate banners.
Everyones Internet CEO Robert Marsh said he and his brother, chief financial officer Roy Marsh, learned of the parade's financial difficulties last November when they read a Houston Chronicle story about the lost sponsorship and possible cuts.
"Normally we're yin and yang," he said. "When I'm hot, he's cold and vice versa. But on that morning at breakfast, we both had that story in our folders for discussion."
"Our relationship grew slowly," he said of his company's connection with the Orange Show Foundation. "But as we learned more about the Art Car Weekend, we found that it wasn't just a local event. It was one that receives considerable national exposure."
Marsh said his company has agreed to sponsor the event for at least three years but declined to specify the dollar amount of the commitment.
The parade will be called Everyones Art Car Parade, and the weekend of events will be Everyones Art Car Weekend. Theis said the event will begin May 7 with the annual art car ball. Last year, 250 vehicles participated in the parade.