Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

September 9, 2013

BUSINESS: MUM'S THE WORD

Homecoming flowers a Texas tradition and business boon for upcoming festivities

Amy Brocato Pearson
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — It's the essential fall accessory.

It's bright. It's bold. It's blingy. It's big. In fact, bigger is better when it comes to the iconic Homecoming mum.

What started as a simple token of affection between a boy and his Homecoming date has blossomed into an industry of epic proportions. Ranging from $15 to nearing $100, depending on what you want on it, mums are big business in Cherokee County.

From a simple live flower pinned on a blouse, maybe with a ribbon, maybe not, silk mums have morphed into shoulder-sized creations embellished with everything from bells to footballs to beads and lights.

Reese resident Marion Micheaux, who was taking pictures of her twin daughters outside the Tomato Bowl in downtown Jacksonville Wednesday morning, said she remembers the Homecoming mum being the ultimate status symbol at her Plano high school.

"Oh my gosh," she said, laughing. "If you had a boyfriend at Homecoming, he'd better buy you the biggest mum he could get his hands on. If you didn't, you'd better get yourself something pretty impressive."

Receiving a mum from a boy wasn't as important as having a well-appointed flower, she said.

"If you had a boyfriend, you'd get one of those picture buttons and  make that the center of your mum," Micheaux said, "Especially if he was a football player. Of course, one of my friends put a picture of Brad Pitt on her senior mum."

Cindy Bobbitt, owner of Cindy's Floral on East Rusk Street in Jacksonville, has been in the floral business 19 years, the last two in Jacksonville.

"Mums are definitely a Texas thing," she said, confirming a recent Reuters report that reiterates everything is bigger in Texas - including the Homecoming mum tradition.  With over a week to go until Jacksonville High School's Homecoming, Bobbitt already has 50 pre-made mums ready to fly out the door on the shoulder of a happy high school girl. Then she'll take custom orders from the young ladies who have a very specific idea in mind for their mum.

"It used to be the boys who came in and bought them for their dates," Bobbitt said. "Now I see more girls buying them for themselves."

Parents also buy them for their daughters, said Tigerlillies owner Lindsey Terry. Sons for mothers, husbands for wives, parents for small children.

"Mums are definitely a family affair," Terry said. "We design them for little girls as young as two."

Terry, who has owned Tigerlillies, on East Commerce Street, for seven years, said that every year she sees the mums get "a little bigger and a little more different."

This year, she's concocting creations in metallics, iridescents, holographs and "anything that catches light," she said, embellished with "diamonds, crystals, sequins" and "anything shiny."

One design that has attracted attention this year is the "highlighter" head, with the bloom featuring a fluorescent color like a Highlighter marker.

"When people get their mums here, it's going to be unique and distinctive," Terry said.

A vast majority of the mums that both Bobbitt and Terry sell during the Homecoming season do feature the Jacksonville colors of blue and gold, plus a lot of white at Cindy's and a lot of black at Tigerlillies.

Officers in the Cherokee Charmers only purchase gold and white mums to set them apart, Terry said, but the trend is catching on among Jacksonville High School seniors as a whole.

Bells, footballs and football helmets are "must haves" at Cindy's, with other embellishments added to fit the wearer's personality, like cheer, dance or musical embellishments.

At Tigerlillies, ribbons festoon from the mum almost to the ankle and at Cindy's, the variety of ribbon is overwhelming, from a chevron pattern to a metallic tubular mesh pattern. Terry said each mum takes about four hours of labor to create.

Hazel Simmons, owner of Musick Flowers & Gifts, said mums in school colors are most popular at her shop.

With different price points and a unique design for every taste, the variety of mums is almost endless, as individual as the one who wears them.

The most unique one she's ever made? Terry said one young man came in and wanted to spend $250 on a mum for his Homecoming date. The young lady in question wore the mum on a harness which fit around her neck and across her back and covered her torso, with ribbons, charms and embellishments hanging to the floor.