Earlier this year, the event that put Tyler on the map was postponed. However, for the first time ever, The Texas Rose Festival is broadcasting a virtual presentation sponsored by Christus Trinity Mother Frances: a documentary about the history of the event and what it has done for Tyler.
“As COVID has taken front seat in this year’s business, it has unfortunately caused us to postpone our 2020 festivities until 2021,” said Liz Ballard, executive director of the Texas Rose Festival. “This virtual presentation is a true gift where we can share what the festival has to offer for our city, how it’s an opportunity to bring everybody together for the parade.”
Tom Ramey III, former Rose Festival president, gave a short history of how the Rose Festival came to be through the work of his grandfather.
“To understand roses, you’ve got to go back in time to the fruit called the peach,” Ramey said. “Long before Georgia or Atlanta grew a single peach, or could spell the word peach, Tyler and Smith County were the capital of peaches for the whole United States.”
In the early 1900s, Tyler was one of the biggest exporters of peaches in the United States. However, around 1920, a small insect pest called the San Jose Scale wiped out the entirety of Tyler’s peach crop.
“It was an economic tsunami for this community,” Ramey said. “America had just come out of World War I, this was before the depression, which would be 7 or 8 years later, but there was a great sense of optimism in the country, and then this happens to Tyler, Texas. But like in all difficult times, entrepreneurs rose to the top.”
According to Ramey, the same soil that was great for peaches was also perfect for roses. Over the course of the next few years, the rose industry took off in Tyler. Soon after, the Tyler Garden Club came to Chamber of Commerce manager Russell Rhodes to insist he somehow publicize local rose growing. With assistance from Ramey’s grandfather, local attorney Thomas Ramey, the effort evolved into the Rose Festival, with Thomas as the first president.
The Rose Festival celebrates an integral part of Tyler’s economic development that many may not know about.
“Eighty-five percent of every commercial rose sold in the United States comes at some point in its life, through Tyler, Texas,” Ramey said.
Tyler does grow some roses, but the city is better known for rose processing.
Mayor Martin Heines called the economic impact of the Rose Festival very important to this community.
“The history of our community is woven into the fabric of the event,” Heines said.
Throughout the short documentary, viewers can learn more about the events that have shaped the traditions and customs of The Rose Festival in recent years—including what happens when a Rose Queen runs late. Viewers can also see what the brand new costume designer and royal court have to say about the event.
Those interested in the event can visit Tyler Paper’s Facebook page, the Rose Festival’s Facebook page, or www.texasrosefestival.com to learn more about the history of the festival, what all goes into the parade, the dresses, and the coronation.The virtual event is taking place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22.
The in-person Rose Festival event is scheduled for Oct. 14-17, 2021.