The Texas Rose Festival began in the 1900s when the scary Bubonic plague hit several parts of America, including the city of Tyler in Eastern Texas. It took from the people their health, happiness, and a significant source of income for them-peach orchards. A pest called San Joes scale infected the peaches, and local farmers suffered heavy losses.
But the citizens of Tyler took this unfortunate turn in their stride and used it to create something beautiful: a city of roses. This very disaster the beginning of an enthralling legacy- the Texas Rose Festival.
From 1920 onwards, they started growing roses and gradually became the prime supplier of roses in the country. They practically turned it into a center for rose cultivation. Today, it is known as the Rose Capital of the World and sports the most extensive rose garden in the USA.
Rose Growing Industry in Tyler, Texas
Rose cultivation was practiced in Smith County in Tyler since the 18th century. Some families depended on rose growing for income even before the plague hit the community. But after the plague, the people had to do it full time since they had no other option. The climate was just right, and they began to produce on a commercial level.
The first batch of roses was shipped from Texas in 1917. By 1945, the city had about 200 nurserymen employing 1500 people. Today, over 300 varieties of roses are grown in East Texas. Some varieties include Radiance, Talisman, Étoile de Hollande, and President Hoover.
Today, Tyler alone ships around two hundred and fifty cars of supplies. Each vehicle contains about twenty- five thousand saplings. The city also shines in rose-based products like rose petal jelly. In 1946, a Rose Research Foundation was founded by Dr. Eldon Lyle in Tyler.
The Texas Rose Festival
Ever since the rose industry started blooming in Tyler, the community has been exquisitely celebrating its legacy. The Texas Rose Festival is held every year in the third week of October. It draws thousands of eager visitors and tourists to the city. It has the lion’s share in fuelling the economy of Tyler.
The first-ever Texas Rose Festival was organized in 1993 by the Gardening Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and the local rose growers. The theme was ‘Festival Fairyland’, and it was a blast. There was a coronation, a rose show, and a parade. So, they decided to do it again next year with the theme ‘A Garden in Venice,’ thus starting a legacy of community pride and celebration.
The Rose Queen and Her Court
A central event of the Texas Rose Festival is the Rose Queen and her fancy court. The most striking thing about them, of course, is their lavish costumes. Their gowns are fashioned as per a unique theme every year.
The Rose Queen, often from a wealthy background, is flanked by her court. Among the court is the Dutchess of the Rose Growers; usually, a woman selected from a rose growing family. Young women having connections with Tyler residents are also invited to participate as duchesses and escorts.
Moreover, girls in their sophomore year from families who have long ties with the festival show up as ladies in waiting. Finally, you also see adorable elementary school kids parading as train bearers, scepter bearers, and attendants to the Rose Queen. This wonderful tradition has a legacy of 27 Rose Queens starting from 1993.
The Rose Parade
The parade is undoubtedly the most exciting part of the Texas Rose Festival. Hundreds of floats with people aboard assemble at Glenwood Boulevard, about to embark on this enthusiastic parade. They are accompanied by people in drill teams, riding horses, and driving vintage cars. People are capturing the spectacle with cameras as the participants march through the East Texas Fairgrounds toward the Rose Stadium.
The Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium is vast and grand, just fitting for this proud event. People buy tickets to save seats for themselves on the shaded side of the stadium. The parade goes around the grounds of the stadium so that the viewers can admire the floats up close.
Tyler Rose Museum
Another tourist attraction during the Texas Rose Festival is the Tyler Rose Museum. The museum tells the story of the local rose growers and the rose-growing industry in Tyler. It also displays memorabilia from the Texas Rose Festival like costumes and other items, right since 1993, the first year of the festival. The museum runs on funding from private sources and the efforts of volunteers.
The museum preserves and displays an impressive collection of photographs, video clips, and newspaper clippings from previous rose festivals. The museum also sports a gift shop with all sorts of cool souvenirs that you can take back home to remember this day by. There are t-shirts, paintings, key chains, and everything else that catches your eye in a typical tourist shop.
Tyler Rose Garden
The Tyler Rose Museum sits on the nation’s most extensive rose garden, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden. Established in 1952, the garden stretches over a space of 14 acres. It is home to a jaw-dropping variety of rose bushes- 38,000 bushes with over 600 varieties. The grounds of the garden are decorated with reflecting pools, fountains, and walkways.
Moreover, a variety of other flowers like lilies and tulips were also added to this beautiful garden in 2012. With so many feathers in its cap, no wonder the garden is everyone’s favorite location for group photos, personal photoshoots, and professional assignments!
In the southeast corner of the Tyler Rose Garden sits an Idea Garden. The idea garden is an innovative way of promoting acceptable gardening practices. It is a 10,000 square foot place where you see styles and demonstrations that might give you ideas to work on your garden or backyard.
There are benches and pergolas where you can sit and appreciate the creations. The idea garden features hundreds of varieties of flowers, shrubs, bushes, and trees. In fact, the garden keeps an online database of all these species.
Moreover, this garden is a haven for environmentalists. All plants are grown using water-conserving methods. The gardeners are dedicated to using organic landscaping and gardening practices. They compost yard waste and avoid pesticides instead of relying on beneficial insects that do the job of pesticides.
The Queen’s Tea
For all its beauty and splendor, the rose garden also hosts the Queen’s Tea. The tea is open to all people free of cost. It is an opportunity for the people to meet the Rose Queen and mingle with her court. Some of the most adorable moments of the Texas Rose Festival are captured during the tea.
The Arts and Crafts Fair
The annual arts and crafts fair is an excellent opportunity for the community to display their creativity to the public. There are vendors selling pieces of art, photography, jewelry, handmade artifacts, and street food. You can aptly describe it as a carnival of fun, color, and joy.
Texas Rose Festival 2021
In January 2020, the organizers announced that the Rose Queen of the 87th Texas Rose Festival is Anna Grace Hallmark. Elizabeth Reid Walker has been picked to be the Rose Princess, and Emily Ann Milton shall serve as the Dutchess of the Rose Growers.
The festival will take place in October 2021, with the theme ‘Secrets of the Garden.’ Just like every year, the festival will include the Queen’s Coronation, Ribbon Cutting, and Rose Presentation ceremonies, the Queen’s Tea, and Rose Parade. There’s also a concert and family entertainment show, an art show and sale, a garden tour, a luncheon and lots of other exciting events.
While there will be no festival in 2020, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden will be open for visitors. October is the best time to visit the garden because it is the peak season of the rose-growing industry. That’s when the days are cooler, and the blooms are large and beautiful, and the whole thing is a feast for your eyes
Keep Tyler Rosey Campaign
To keep this wonderful rose growing tradition alive, the residents of Tyler also started a Keep Tyler Rosey Campaign in August 2011. It is an initiative that encourages local business people to do things that will showcase the Tyler rose industry to firms and organizations outside Texas. It could be planting rose bushes, using them in decorations, using the image of the rose in the company logo, or even small gestures like gifting saplings to associates.
No doubt, the Texas Rose Festival has been a big hit with the community of Tyler. In 2010, fans of the festival requested more activities surrounding the festival. So, the organizers started arranging for more events stretching till the end of October. They include wine tasting, gardening seminars, garden and museum tours, concerts, entertainment shows, cooking classes, marathons, and so on.
The Texas Rose Festival is one of the most beautiful examples of people coming together and celebrating their identity. One obvious benefit of the festival is the flourishing tourism industry in Tyler.
But apart from that, it gives people a strong sense of belonging and unity. It gives them something they can turn to for happiness in difficult times. It gives them something they can talk about for the rest of the year, something they can flaunt, cherish, and adore.
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