(Keywords: sew on rhinestones, Triangle Rhinestone, crystal)
TYLER, Texas – The big reveal always sets off a standing ovation and a chorus of oohs and aahs.
The Tyler Morning Telegraph reports the climactic moment takes place near the end of the Texas Rose Festival Queen’s Coronation, the formal presentation on stage of the rose queen and her court.
After the court members have their moment in the spotlight comes the much anticipated entrance of the rose queen. It is the first time the public sees the queen in her gown.
The show stopper is the gown’s flowing train. Typically about 6 feet wide and 16 feet long, the train is covered with beads, sequins, rhinestones and iridescent crystal jewels that sparkle under the stage lights.
The train’s design and decorative embellishments reflect the festival’s theme and the heritage and interests of the queen, a young woman from a family with a long history of support and service to the festival. The gown is a breathtaking work of art.
This year’s festival runs Thursday through Sunday.
The rose queen and lavish coronation ceremony have been part of the festival since its inception in 1933. The first queen, 20-year-old Margaret Copeland, was presented as queen of the Rose Kingdom under bright lights in Tyler’s Bergfeld Park. She is praised in one account as having “all the dignity and graciousness associated with royalty.”
Queen Margaret’s coronation gown was made of white chiffon and velvet and described as having dignified lines. “Her train was made of white crepe and adorned with gleaming sapphires,” notes the description in “50 Years: Texas Rose Festival Association.”
Since Queen Margaret’s humble dress, the queen’s gown increasingly has become more elaborate. For the past few decades, the gown has been designed exclusively by Winn Morton of Dallas, who is known for his creativity and ability to work with the world’s finest fabrics.
Last year’s rose queen, Emily Kay Evans, wore a gown that depicted the theme “Celestial Wonders.” It took months for teams of seamstresses to meticulously sew by hand over 200,000 stones and jewels and 75,000 gold beads onto 50 yards of satin and lace, construct the dress and then precisely fit it to Miss Evans.
“The top of the train has a large golden sun that spreads down creating a fiery border that looks out into the blue of the heavens with jeweled plants and stars. The back of the train is also blue, acting as a heavenly backdrop to the queen’s gown. The result is a gorgeous 16-foot long and 6-foot wide masterpiece,” reads the description from the festival.
Queen Emily wore a crown made of 14-carat gold covered with golden beads, colored jewels and hanging Swarovski crystals designed to look like shooting stars. She carried a scepter topped with a large sun-shaped star encircling a crystal.
The rose queen also wears her gown and crown while riding atop a float in the Rose Parade and greeting guests during the Queen’s Tea held in the Rose Garden.
After each festival, the queen’s family typically bequeaths the gown, crown and scepter to the Tyler Rose Museum.
From its inception, one of the museum’s missions has been to preserve and present the coronation gowns. The idea for the museum first was proposed by Bart Fair, a young man who in the 1970s worked at a cleaners in Tyler where some of the gowns were stored. Fair found it unacceptable that the gowns were put away never to be seen again. He was passionate that they should be in a setting that showcased their grandeur.
The more he pushed the idea of creating a museum to preserve the festival’s history of pageantry, the more community and festival association leaders agreed. After money was raised by donors and the city gave financial support, the museum became a reality.
The Tyler Rose Museum opened to much fanfare in October 1992. Crowds couldn’t wait to see the exhibits paying tribute to the area’s rose growing industry and the festival.
The coronation gowns are the museum’s star attractions and one of the first things the thousands of annual guests see as they enter the building overlooking Tyler’s famous rose garden.
“Aren’t they beautiful?” reflects Liz Ballard, as she looks at a display of queen’s gowns at Tyler Rose Museum. “You can’t appreciate the craftsmanship and what goes into making one until you get up close.”
As executive director of the Texas Rose Festival and director of the museum, Ballard is in charge of both continuing and preserving the traditions of the annual celebration that helped brand Tyler as the Rose Capital of the World.
About 75 per cent of all queen’s gowns and regalia are now the property of the museum. Ballard makes sure the gowns are taken care of for future generations to admire.
About 10 gowns are always on display. Gowns are kept on view for only about three months at a time to reduce their exposure to bright lights, which eventually would begin to fade the fabric.
Ballard said the week of the Texas Rose Festival brings largest attendance to the museum thanks to thousands who are in town for festival events.
When not on view, the coronation gowns are in storage at the museum.
“We keep them back here,” said Ballard as she entered a room in the back not open to the public. She opens one of a series of large cabinets and carefully pulls back chemical-free cotton sheeting protecting a gown in storage.
“We cover all the embellishments with acid free paper,” she said, pointing out the paper wrapped around layered fabric in the shape of roses protruding from a gown’s train.
Museum employees must be extremely careful that the thousands of beads, jewels and sequins do not snag or tear the delicate fabric or damage the props.
The museum also takes great pains to make sure the gowns are not exposed to harmful moisture or sunlight.
Ballard informs previous queens and their families when a queen’s gown goes on view. Seeing a queen’s gown on display is an emotional experience for a former queen and her family.
“The gown brings back the memories,” Ballard said. “Seeing it back out always means so much to them.”