Texas Rose Festival participants and volunteers gathered at Willow Brook Country Club on Friday for the annual Kick-Off Party to the rose season.

The event caps off a week of Queen’s Coronation rehearsals and is held when out-of-town families taking part in the festival are in Tyler.

Texas Rose Festival Association President Britt Brookshire used the news conference before the party to recognize rose court royalty and the role of the festival in putting Tyler in the spotlight.

“This year marks our 86th year celebrating the beautiful flower and promoting the local rose industry and civic pride,” Brookshire said.

Standing in front of a backdrop with name of the party’s theme, “Pose the Rose,” Brookshire pointed out that each year the festival attracts about 100,000 visitors during its four-day run in October.

The news conference was a chance for Rose Queen Hanna Claire Waits to talk about being an ambassador for the festival and Tyler. It was announced in January that she would serve as rose queen.

“Since the beginning of the year, I have really enjoyed promoting the history of the Texas Rose Festival and the impact it has on the East Texas community,” she said. “I am proud to be from Tyler and that our city is known everywhere as the Rose Capital.

She thanked festival volunteers, many who were present.

“While many aspects of the festival have evolved over the years, one thing has remained the same — the commitment of hundreds of volunteers and supporters in Tyler and Smith County,” she said. “On behalf of this year’s court, thank you to all of the men and women who are working behind the scenes to make another spectacular festival come to life.”

Duchess of the Rose Growers Alexis Renee Smith said she was honored to represent all those with ties to the region’s rose-growing industry.

“The rose is the symbol of our city and its beauty is ever present,” she said. “The industry my family and so many others began is still attracting tourism to our beautiful city.”

She praised volunteers and supporters for giving “their time and money to make this extraordinary festival come to life year after year.”

Rose Princess Elizabeth Schoenbrun said she appreciated the opportunity to represent her family’s “many years of service to the festival.”

She said the Kick-Off Party was an opportunity to “share our hospitality with the guests visiting us this weekend.”

All three of the young women are from families with long ties to the festival. Each will be entering her sophomore year of college this fall.

The children who will serve as Miss Waits’ royal attendants were positioned in front of the speakers. Many who will be in the festival as rose court participants were in attendance.

Brookshire thanked those who had worked to make the Kick-Off Party possible, including Catherine Bankston and Shelby Burkett, the party committee’s leaders.

He said the party was exceeding expectations.

The 86th Texas Rose Festival will take place Oct. 17-20 in Tyler. The festival honors the region’s rose-growing history and the rose as a symbol of beauty.

Events include the Rose Queen’s Coronation, the formal presentation of the rose queen, rose princess, duchess of the rose growers, the women from Tyler who serve as ladies-in-waiting and the women from other families who are presented as duchesses.

Other events are the Rose Show, Queen’s Tea, Rose Parade and luncheons for men and women.

The theme of the festival is “Portraits of Inspiration.”

“We hope all can join us ... as we celebrate our 86th Texas Rose Festival,” Brookshire said in closing.

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