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Tyler, Texas: The Rose Capital of America

The annual Texas Rose Festival in Tyler celebrates a rich history and pride in a continuously successful cultivation of roses.

By Erica Buehler on August 3, 2022

Tyler Rose Garden
Nathan Lambrecht

Named the Rose Capital of America, Tyler’s connection to the flower stems back to the late-1800s, when a blight wiped out the region’s initial crop of peaches and it was discovered the land’s soil was perfectly fertile for the impressive, thorny rosebush.

Today, this growing community of 106,000 residents 90 minutes east of Dallas has embraced its rose roots, from an annual festival to businesses that promote Tyler’s rosy connections.

Every October since 1933, the Texas Rose Festival has celebrated a rich history and pride in a continuously successful cultivation of roses. The festival includes a parade, local vendors and attendees decked out in opulent attire. Vibrant ballgowns dripping with beads and jewels are donned by parade-goers and the Rose Queen herself, whose coronation and tea are some of the many ceremonial events found throughout the festival.

rose
Nathan Lambrecht

Consistently named among the best annual events in Texas, the Texas Rose Festival is an anchor for the city’s visitor industry.

“Thousands of people come to town for this festival,” says Liz Ballard, executive director of the Texas Rose Festival Association, who has been involved with the event for more than 15 years. “Our whole mission is to promote Tyler and Smith County, promote volunteerism and community pride, and celebrate our rose industry and its legacy.”

“Our whole mission is to promote Tyler and Smith County, promote volunteerism and community pride, and celebrate our rose industry and its legacy.”

Liz Ballard, Texas Rose Festival Association

Ballard also oversees the Tyler Rose Museum, which is intertwined with the festival and its history. The gift shop, like many local businesses, has an array of products infused with roses in some way.

“I house the history of all the costumes and queens’ gowns, and we celebrate and merchandise the rose,” says Ballard. “Our whole goal is to attract as many people to our community so we can share our hospitality and get everyone to slow down long enough to smell a rose.”

Rose Festival Museum
Todd Yates
Rose Festival Museum

Capturing History

Tyler’s history is also chronicled at the Goodman-LeGrand Museum & Gardens, an ode to the community’s love of roses. Built in 1859, the home saw a series of owners until the last remaining one, Sallie Goodman LeGrand, died in 1939. She bequeathed the estate, including the house itself, all its contents and nine surrounding acres to the City of Tyler. Her request was that the city maintain the home and open it as a public museum.

“The museum has been in my blood,” says Debbie Isham, special events and Goodman-LeGrand Museum supervisor for the City of Tyler and a veteran of Tyler’s hospitality industry.

Much-needed restoration work at the museum is in full swing, Isham says. Phase two of a five-phase restoration project is currently underway, rounding out at about $800,000.

“The project has come a long way just in taking care of the house and artifacts,” says Isham. “There are some original items from the 1800s and the buzz has brought in a lot of new visitors who’d never been here or toured the home before.”

Tyler Rose Garden
Nathan Lambrecht
Tyler Rose Garden

By Any Other Name

Throughout the museum are rose motifs, from antique quilts to wallpaper and among the many items in its gift shop.

“The painted ceiling in the north parlor almost looks like a quilt pattern, but it’s gold leaf with roses painted in parts of the ceiling,” says Isham. “The family themselves had a huge garden and grew their own roses and camellias.”

And, aside from gift shop proceeds, the museum runs solely on gifts through the door and grant writing, all in a constant effort to keep this piece of Tyler alive.

“The house had to become a museum and gathering place for the community,” says Isham. “And now we’re preserving Tyler’s history. By keeping the home structured and its elements true to its inception, the history stays alive for all who visit.”

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