Influx of visitors expected for colorful city tour starting today

MICHAEL CARMICHAEL tended to his garden in Tyler on Old Bullard Road along the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail earlier this week. The annual event kicks off today and features 10 miles of residential gardens and historic home sites.

While the history and beauty that surround the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail attract thousands of visitors to Tyler each year, Michael and Patrice Carmichael's appreciation for the trail may exceed that of many.

Over the last 20 years, the couple has moved to four different homes, each located on the trail. The Carmichaels said preparing for the annual spring event is a year-round process with lots of planting, pruning, raking and more.

Although the weather has delayed the blooming of many flowers at the Carmichaels' home, they anticipate their gardens will become much more colorful over the next few weeks.

"We just love the neighborhoods and the beauty of the flowers in the spring," Michael Carmichael said. "We love the setting of (the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail) and all the visitors coming through and seeing all of it. It's nice to share it."

The 60th Azalea & Spring Flower Trail will kick off Friday after a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting and opening ceremony at the home of Guy and Joan Pyron, 212 W. Dobbs St. The trail will run for three weekends, through April 7.

Over the three-week period of the trail, local residents and visitors alike are encouraged to take time to view gardens, join in on various community events, and experience the beauty of Tyler in the springtime.

The trail begins at Broadway Avenue and Houston Street and later splits into two trails.

Visit Tyler Vice President of Marketing Holli Fourniquet said last year's event had about 100,000 visits.

"This time of year is one of the busiest times of year for the Tyler community as far as tourism is concerned," she said. "Tourism is important to the economy because visitors that come to town to see the flowers usually stay at a hotel, eat at the restaurants, stick around for some entertainment, or they might go shopping."

For a fourth year, an open-air shuttle service will be available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Friday through Sunday the trail is open. Barring inclement weather, the shuttle will depart each hour from Broadway Avenue and Dobbs Street for a fee of $10. Children 5 and younger can ride for free.

At Friday's opening ceremony, attendees will get a chance to tour the Pyrons' garden, be greeted by dignitaries and meet this year's Azalea Belles: a group of local high school girls who are selected to be ambassadors of the trail. U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, is slated to speak at the event and discuss the history of the trail.

"Tyler is already known as a beautiful city," Fourniquet said. "We hope that people are able to get out and enjoy it. We hope people who have never visited Tyler before come to see the beauty of the area and return many times because they fall in love with the city."

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