Former Texas Rose Queens Share Advice
By DAYNA WORCHEL
A casual observer may look at the queen of the annual Texas Rose Festival and think that she has it made. For almost an entire year, she wears pretty clothes, attends parties, and is the center of attention at many gatherings leading up to and including the big event in October.
But many do not see the hard work that goes into the preparation for the coronation. And the queen also acts as a representative of the Tyler rose-growing community to the outside world, which several past rose queens consider to be one of the most important aspects of the job.
"The Rose Festival is great. It's like being an ambassador for Tyler," said Louise Spencer Griffeth, who wore the crown in 1968. She is one of three former festival queens who offer some words of wisdom to the current royalty on topics ranging from how best to represent the city of Tyler to having a plan of action in place for when the reign ends.
Ms. Griffeth said she felt a great deal of responsibility when she was queen.
"I wanted my parents and their friends, who had known me since I was a small child, to be proud," she said.
She said she sponsors several of the rose duchesses from Dallas and that it is an honor to do so.
"Just do your hometown proud," she said to the queen of the 2009 festival, Emily Anne Austin.
Jill Ramey, who was crowned in 1950, said that it is important that the young people today understand that roses are what put Tyler on the map and that serving as queen is a civic responsibility.
"The purpose of the festival has always been to celebrate the roses," said Ms. Ramey, whose daughter, Claire Ramey Turner was queen in 1979. The family tradition continued with granddaughter Grace Turner in 2007.
After the peach industry in the area was devastated from blight, many of the experienced nurserymen in the region turned their skills to growing roses. By the 1920s, millions of rose bushes were flourishing in local fields. According to the Tyler Rose Museum website, the city rapidly gained national prominence for rose production and soon earned the title of "Rose Capital of the Nation."
Ramey said that, like it or not, today's royalty cannot separate Tyler from the roses, and it is important that the rose queen love the city and love serving the city. She said that it is necessary that the real purpose of the festival is understood.
"The Rose Festival is the icing on the cake and Tyler is the cake," Ramey said.
Anna Clyde Malone, who was queen in 1996, said it's good to have a plan of action in place for the time after being queen. She said she found this to be true in her own situation after a very busy year.
"It was hard to suddenly not be as busy - all of the activities and responsibilities suddenly stop," she said.
Malone said during the time when she was queen, she worked on a Habitat for Humanity home, judged various contests, including a quilting competition, and traveled.
"It was a lot of fun and responsibility and it helped me grow - it has a positive economic impact for the community," she said of her experience.
She also said to be prepared for interaction with people of all ages, whether they are seniors, children, or adults, and to be sensitive to them.
But the most important part of all in the experience is to "enjoy it while it lasts, and then continue that tradition of community service."