Duchess Virginia Winston Anderson Is 'Compassionate, Artistic, Kind'
By COSHANDRA DILLARD
For Virginia Winston Anderson, becoming the duchess of the Texas Rose Festival was a long time coming. Since serving as a train bearer for Queen Caroline Key in 2000, she has dreamed of playing an even bigger role during the week of activities which celebrates Tyler's rose legacy.
Duchess of the Texas Rose Festival Winn Anderson poses with her sister, Haley McGrede Anderson, her father, Rowe Anderson, who currently serves as the vice president of the Order of the Rose, and her mother, Betty Gordon Anderson.
The daughter of Rowe and Betty Anderson -- and affectionately referred to as Winn by those close to her -- is eager about this year's festival, to be held Oct. 13-15. "I've always wanted to be in the Rose Festival, but I was actually shocked. I was excited but I was surprised. I didn't think I'd ever be the duchess. ... I've been looking forward to it for so long. I just became in love with it in 2000. Being a train bearer, you get to see all of it at such a young age."
Mrs. Anderson said the family is proud of what her daughter has accomplished and looks forward to seeing her fulfill a dream.
"She's very compassionate and very artistic and kind. Her dad and I are just very, very proud of her," she said. "We were just absolutely surprised and thrilled. It's something that all of us have enjoyed. I was a train bearer myself and I've participated years ago. Then Winn was a train bearer. Now she's grown up, and it's just such a fun surprise for her to be honored."
Miss Anderson, who just celebrated her 19th birthday, now attends the University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa where she is majoring in psychology. However, she is also interested in art, design, writing, event planning and may study hotel hospitality.
The University of Alabama is also where this year's queen, Morgan Elizabeth Rippy, attends. The two young women were friends in high school, but have grown closer while at college.
To get a better understanding of the rose industry and its impact on Tyler, Miss Anderson accompanied the queen and Tyler court members to a local rose nursery this month.
"I learned so much about roses," she said "It was interesting and I'm glad I learned that so I can tell other people about it. It's such a big part of the city; you need to know the background and how Tyler became the rose capital of the world."
Miss Anderson also realizes she'll be a part of that history, noting that the Tyler Rose Museum will preserve her memories.
"We're all going to go down in history. It's really exciting to think that 20, 30 or 40 years from now, my dress could still be on display. I plan on coming back to Tyler and living here, so I plan on visiting the museum a lot, or maybe even working there someday," she said. "I'm proud to be from Tyler, Texas. I really am. I think it's a great city and I'm glad that I was raised here."
The duchess is excited about meeting out-of-town participants and the upcoming fall events, especially the coronation -- a grand production that introduces the royal court in a backdrop of roses and creative storytelling.
"There's a lot that goes on that people don't really know about," Miss Anderson said. "There's a lot of work that goes into it. If I had to sum it all up, I look forward to the whole city coming to these events in October. I like seeing how it's not just one group - everyone comes. Those days will be the result of working really, really hard."
She added, "It's a great thing each year for our city. It's not just about the little things or who's the queen and what the dresses look like. It helps our community in a lot of ways. It brings people in, brings attention to our city."
Miss Anderson is a 2010 graduate of All Saints Episcopal High School. While in high school, she volunteered for the Komen Race for the Cure, Meals on Wheels, the East Texas Symphony and participated in mission projects through Marvin United Methodist Church and All Saints School.
She's participated in dance since she was 3 years old, participating in Young Life and Dance-N-Drill drill team with competitive dance and cheer. Miss Anderson attended Camp Mystic for seven years.
Miss Anderson represented Tyler as the duchess of the Nacogdoches Heritage Festival and the Waco Cotton Palace.
Family members who have participated in the Rose Festival include her mother, Betty Gordon Anderson, who served as an attendant to Queen Mary Martha Fair in 1971 and served as a lady-in-waiting in 1979. Her aunt, Emily Gordon Gabriel, served as a lady-in-waiting and her uncle, Gus Allen Gordon, served as an escort. Her cousins, Mary Martha Fair, Virginia Rice Fair and Kay Elizabeth Fair all served as previous rose queens in the years 1971, 1978 and 1981 respectively.
Her father, Rowe Anderson, currently serves as the vice president of the Order of the Rose.