By Holli Fourniquet
Each year, Tyler comes alive with color during the spring. Spring brings with it one of the most popular events of the year: the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail. The 2017 Azalea & Spring Flower Trail will be held for three weekends, March 24th-April 9th. During this time, more than 100,000 tourists visit Tyler to take in the scenic beauty.
The Azalea & Spring Flower Trail features more than ten miles of beautiful azaleas, dogwoods, spring flowers, and of course, the ambassadors of the Trail: the Azalea Belles.
The Azalea Belles are area high school girls who greet guests along the Trail while wearing antebellum–style costumes. They are the ambassadors of the Trail who answer questions, pose for photographs, and promote Tyler.
Applications to become an Azalea Belle are now available online at visittyler.com/azaleatrail or at your high school counselor’s offices.
The opportunity is open to freshman and sophomore high school girls residing in Smith County who will be available for the event times and enjoy working with people. The girls must be academically eligible and are required to attend certain events and trainings.
Visit Tyler will provide the dresses. A typical schedule involves working 3 ½ hours on Saturday mornings or afternoons as well as Sunday afternoons, and there will be at least two Belles at each location.
Applications are due no later than 5pm Monday, January 23rd and can be mailed or returned in person to the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce located 315 North Broadway, Tyler, Texas 75702.
History of the Trail
While oil booms gave Tyler an economic head start in the 1930’s, azalea and rose blooms gave the city its beauty. Azaleas were introduced to Tyler in 1929 by Maurice Shamburger, one of the city’s early nurserymen. Pleased with results of a test garden of azaleas, Shamburger shipped the colorful plants here by the boxcar loads from Georgia.
After completing his garden in 1929, Shamburger discussed the beautification potential of azaleas with Mrs. Sara Butler of the Tyler Courier Times Telegraph. Mrs. Butler not only encouraged Shamburger to promote azalea plantings in the city, but planted a number of bushes at her own home on Charnwood Street.
That home site, along with several other gardens on Lindsey Lane, soon became springtime showplaces with their colorful azalea blooms, and Tylerites began buying the plants by the thousands. Some of the thick, towering azaleas at older homes on the Trail date back to the ‘30’s and ‘40’s.
By 1960, the blooming azaleas were attracting so much attention that the Chamber of Commerce established a marked route. The first Trail featured about 60 homes on a five-mile route.
The Trail was an instant success. Within two years it had expanded to 75 homes and was attracting 15,000 visitors. By 1964, 25,000 people a year were coming to see the azaleas. In 1986, it expanded to two miles, and as of 2009, the Azalea Trail stretches ten miles and attracts more than 100,000 visitors to Tyler.
The History of the Belles
With the success of The Trail escalating and more tourists coming to town, The Chamber decided guests needed to be welcomed in true southern style. In 1964, the first Azalea Belles were introduced to the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail. The first group of Belles was made up of two chamber secretaries. These ladies made their own costumes by hand and distributed brochures to guests along the Trail.
Now the Belles are a much beloved and anticipated part of the three-weekend event. The Belles are always happy to visit with guests and pose for photos in any of the beautiful gardens.
For more info on becoming an Azalea Belle and to download an application, go to visittyler.com/azaleatrail.