Under a bright blue sky, thousands of spectators cheered for their favorite school band and gasped in excitement at Queen Morgan Elizabeth Rippy's lavish float at the Texas Rose Festival Rose Parade Saturday.
A pre-parade show in Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium began at 8:45 a.m. and included the Tyler Junior College Apache Belles, TJC Marching Band and Dance-N-Drill Flyers.
The parade stepped off at 9 a.m. Saturday on Front Street at Glenwood Boulevard. The route continued west to the East Texas Fairgrounds and culminated inside Rose Stadium.
Laura Carey, of Whitehouse, said she and her family started attending the festival about five years ago in support of her daughter, Katelyn, a majorette in the Whitehouse High School Band.
She and her sons, Thomas, 13, and Timothy, 11, set up their chairs along the edge of the parade route on Front Street, a few blocks west of Glenwood Boulevard.
Ms. Carey said coming to the parade is a tradition not only for area families but for the entire East Texas community.
“All of us seem to have a little part of us in the parade,” Ms. Carey said. “We know someone in the band or know someone whose daughter aspires to be in the court.”
Ms. Carey said they are looking forward to getting to “be a part of something so big.”
“It's an awesome turnout, there are so many parents out here supporting their children,” she said. “It shows how wonderful and supportive the community is for the industry.”
More than the music or the antique cars, the festival hinges on Tyler's history with the most romantic flower known to man.
About one-fifth of all commercial rose bushes produced in the United States are grown in Smith County, while more than half of the nation's rose bushes are packaged and shipped from this area, according to the Texas Rose Festival website.
Margaret Herring, 72, of Tyler, and her daughter, Carol, are both long-time attendees of the Rose Parade.
She said she enjoys the intricate costumes and elaborate floats and takes special interest in noticing how families incorporate their crests throughout the years.
While the parade is a tradition for the Herring family, this was the first year Staci Pickens and her husband, Kerry, 32 and 33, of Mount Enterprise, were able to bring their three children to the event.
“I grew up coming to the Rose Bowl Parade in Tyler,” Mrs. Pickens said. “It's 10 times bigger than any other parade we've gone to.”
Their daughter Kaylie, 11, participated in the parade with the Rusk County Oilers cheerleading group.
While keeping a watchful eye on their 11-year-old and 4-month-old sons, the Pickens said they were excited to see Kaylie perform.
Newly inducted into the parade's excitement, the Pickens plan on coming back next year to enjoy another one of their daughter's performances, the cars and of course, the music.