What a difference a trip makes. In the 1930s, some of Tyler’s town leaders attended a world’s fair and returned home inspired to find ways to bring tourists to Tyler. Roses seemed like a natural place to start, since Tyler had plenty of them.
So began the Rose Festival, an event that celebrates both the natural beauty of the flowers and all of the good things that the city has to offer.
The Rose Festival, which marked its 75-year anniversary in 2008, is held each October during harvest season for the rose industry. That, says Henry Bell, chief operating officer of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce, is how Tyler became known as the Rose Capital of America. In addition to Tyler’s municipal rose garden – at 14 acres, it’s the largest in the country – there are thousands of rose bushes in and around the town; at harvest time, the blooms go to the festival “to use however they want,” Bell says.
The festival features a rose queen and her court, a parade and tours of the rose fields; a museum commemorates rose festivals past. The Rose Festival has become such a popular attraction, Bell says, that it brings in approximately $2 million to the town annually.
Tyler Azalea Trail
Although the town is known for its roses, its azaleas also demand attention. The Tyler Azalea Trail that celebrates their beauty marked its 50th anniversary in 2009.
Held each spring, when azaleas are at their peak, the centerpiece of the festival is an 8-mile trail featuring thousands of azaleas, dogwoods and other flowering trees and shrubs.
“It was started by homeowners looking for a plant to beautify their yards at a different time of year than the roses,” Bell says. “They traveled to Georgia and brought azaleas back. It’s all over the city now. People come by the busloads.”
Because it’s a trail that anyone can drive or walk through, the festival is free. Lots of events have sprung up around the trail, including craft shows and charity runs and the Main Street Flower Market. “We wanted an event to bring people to the historic sights downtown,” says Beverly Abell, director of the City of Tyler Main Street Department. “We realized they must like gardening and historic sites, so we brought those together.”
The market is held outside the Goodman Museum, the first Tyler building to make the National Register of Historic Places.
Although the Rose Festival and the Tyler Azalea Trail are among Tyler’s best-known festivals, many other events keep Tyler lively all year long. Several music festivals are held in the area, many of which take place in the city’s historic downtown square, that feature a variety of music styles ranging from symphonies to jazz to country. Sporting events include a regional junior golf tournament and various races throughout the year, and a renaissance fair, a state fair and several gala events as well.
All of them add to the uniqueness of Tyler, Abell says. “You don’t have to go to another state, or even another town. There’s all this creative, vibrant stuff going on. We’re fortunate to have people creative and visionary enough to put all these things together right here.”
Read about more events in Tyler, TX.