Azalea & Spring Flower Trail Opens With ‘Absolutely Gorgeous' Display
By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
Plano retiree Merilann Noble found it hard Friday to stop gazing at the colorful flowers blooming in Tyler's Azalea District.
"Oh, they are just so gorgeous, just beautiful," Ms. Noble said. "It's amazing that Tyler does this every year."
Ms. Noble was among dozens of people attending Tyler's 53th Azalea and Spring Flower Trail, which started with a ribbon-cutting event at 212 W. Dobbs St., home of Guy and Joan Pyron.
"This is an event we look forward to with pleasure," Pyron said. "We are happy to share."
Ms. Noble showed up to the ribbon-cutting event to support granddaughter, Leah Andreone, one of this year's Azalea Belles, and take in the sights.
There was no shortage of interest in the occasion -- at times tourists and cameras seemed to rival the number of blooms.
Jerry Woolverton, Tyler Chamber of Commerce board chairman, said this year's display of spring color is "absolutely gorgeous" in spite of the finicky Texas weather -- a summer drought and early round of spring storms.
"We were worried," he said. "The good Lord has a sense of humor -- this year is perfect timing."
He predicts more than 100,000 people will visit Tyler over the next three weeks, generating an economic impact of about $2.5 million.
Councilman Martin Heines thanked the crowd for visiting and the Azalea District and trail area residents for their green thumbs.
"We welcome people from outside to come in and enjoy the beauty," he said.
Directional signs point the way through the 10-mile trail, which is bursting with colorful blooms -- azaleas, dogwoods, tulips, wisteria and redbuds.
There are two routes, featuring homes off Lindsey Lane and Dobbs Street, and plenty of parking opportunities off South College Avenue and near Belmont Drive.
Susan Travis, of the Tyler Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the blooms have a little competition this year when it comes to beauty: the Azalea Belles.
The young women, dressed in period costumes, can be found along the trail, welcoming visitors and guiding the way to popular sites.
Shari Rickman, of the Tyler Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a new gift shop in the chamber offices, 315 N. Broadway Ave., means people can take a little slice of Tyler life home with them.
The shop features a variety of Tyler-themed items: T-shirts, mugs and garden items.
"The bird feeders are my favorite," Ms. Rickman said.
Proud parents April and Vernon Thomas. of Tyler, spent their time at the opening ceremony snapping photos of daughter, Dashia 'Nera Thomas, one of the Belles.
"She's very excited," Mrs. Thomas said. "A lot of planning and preparation went into getting ready for this event. I encourage (community service) all the time. I always tell her, as much as you can, give back."
Miss Thomas said the day was all she had hoped.
"It's been great," she said with a smile. "I really like the dress."
A few feet away, Emily Williams, 16, a former Azalea Belle from Noonday, was enjoying the experience of playing her violin for festival visitors.
"I'll be playing here at different times, when people are here," she said. "I'll probably be following the bus schedules."
Proud Tyler grandmother Donna Goodwin spent the morning hugging her tiny, cooing 5-month-old granddaughter, Autumn Joy.
Originally from San Antonio, Ms. Goodwin said her family visited Tyler several years ago after a brutal freeze nipped the azaleas in the bud. Two Belles approached the disappointed family, apologized for the conditions and invited them to return.
"I looked at my husband and said, 'We need to raise our daughters here,'" Ms. Goodwin said.
Daughter Bonnie Goodwin, 16, now a Belle, seems to appreciate the move.
"After my parents moved to Tyler seven or eight years ago, my two older sisters got to be Azalea Belles, and now it's my turn," she said. Pointing to her baby niece, she added, "We're going to pass on the tradition."
Related Azalea Trail Festivities include:
Azalea Trail Arts and Crafts Fair: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Bergfeld Park, 1510 S. College Ave., Tyler. A free public concert starts at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Azalea Quilt Show: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Harvey Convention Center, 2000 W. Front St., Tyler. Admission is $6 per person, $5 for seniors ages 65 and older and children younger then 12.
Tyler Azalea 10K and 2-mile run: 8 a.m., today at Bergfeld Park, 1510 S. College Ave., Tyler. Entry fees are $20 and $35.
McClendon House Living History Tours by Candlelight: 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. today at the McClendon House, 806 W. Houston St., Tyler.
10th Annual Tyler Rotary Azalea Trail Chili Cook Off: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today (or until the chili is gone) at First Christian Church, 4202 S. Broadway Ave., Tyler. Cost is $5 per person; children younger than 5 receive free admission.
Beauty and the Beast Bicycle Tour: 9 a.m. today at KE Bushman's Winery and Celebration Center, 1565 FM 2493E, Bullard. Event open to cyclists of all ages and includes fully stocked nourishment rest stops.
Tyler State Park Dogwood Days Driving and Walking Tour: 8 a.m. until dark, today through April 8 at Tyler State Park, 789 Park Road 16, Tyler. Admission is $5 for people 13 and older. Call 903-597-5338 for details.
Seventh Annual Life in Tyler Photography Contest: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Tyler Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Drive, Tyler.
Prestige Estates Azalea Trail Art Exhibit and Sale: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today; 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Prestige Estates Assisted Living, 6928 Paluxy Drive, Tyler.