All of East Texas seems to be holding its breath. It’s cold, damp and dreary, but that matters less with each passing day. If you’ve ever been in Tyler for spring, you know it makes a grand entrance that’s well worth the wait.
It starts with a hint of color, a shadow almost in the redbud trees. Then you blink and they’re blooming crimson-purple alongside the bradford pear and Mexican plum. Daffodils burst from the earth and what seems like a minute later, tulips outshine them in every available pastel color.
Then come the azaleas. All winter what looked like plain hedges stood outside Tyler homes and businesses. The blooms are unobtrusive, almost unnoticeable. Then one day they’re springtime on steroids.
Tyler is known for its roses, but during a few weeks of the year, azaleas far outshine those blooms. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or experiencing the floral wonderland as an area native, here’s what you need to know about the 2019 Tyler Azalea Trail.
What is the 2019 Tyler Azalea Trail?
Every year, usually in March the azaleas bloom in Tyler. Residents have been planting these shrubs since the 1930’s, and many of them have gotten huge. In springtime, the 10-mile long Tyler Azalea Trail winds through brick street neighborhoods where azaleas adorn historic homes. Dogwoods and tulips expand the color palette.
Azalea Belles are freshman and sophomore high school girls who greet trail visitors wearing antebellum dresses. The Tyler Chamber of Commerce has a collection of long antebellum style dresses (like Scarlet wore, the application says,) so all the girls provide is their pair of long white satin gloves. They act as ambassadors for the more than 100,000 trail visitors every year.
During the Azalea Trail, multiple organizations host events, historic home tours, entertainment, arts and crafts and more. The flowers alone are worth the trip, and all the other events make this an experience you don’t want to miss.
How did the Tyler Azalea Trail Start?
Believe it or not, the azalea trail was one of the good things to come out of The Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) had the goal of putting Americans back to work. In Tyler, employees built the red brick streets and created the drainage system that winds through what is now the azalea district.
At the same time, Maurice Shamburger was one of the city’s early nurserymen. He worked with the Tyler Courier Times Telegraph’s Mrs. Sara Butler to promote azalea plantings around the city and at home sites. Ms. Butler’s home on Charnwood Street became a showplace when azaleas bloomed, and neighbors rushed to plant bushes of their own. Some of the trail’s biggest, thickest azalea bushes were what they originally planted in the 1930’s.
In 1960, the Tyler Chamber of Commerce established an official route. That year the trail was five miles long and featured 60 homes. In 1964, two chamber secretaries sewed their own costumes and became the first Azalea Belles, distributing brochures and greeting visitors.
Since then the trail has expanded to a city-wide event. Southern Living, Texas Highways and other publications have given it national recognition.
What are the Must-See Events for 2019?
The 2019 Tyler Azalea Trail has back-to-back, packed weeks of events. You can visit the trail at any time, but here are the top events and activities.
Azalea Spring and flower Trail Opens. Every year the official ribbon cutting ceremony starts at 10 a.m. at the home of Guy and Joan Pyron at 212 West Dobbs Street.
The Tyler Rose Garden is also open daily, free admission. The Tyler State Park Dogwood Days has a driving and Walking Tour that runs March 22 through April 7. Plus, Gold Leaf Gallery is showcasing members of Tyler’s “Palette of Roses” art league all month long.
- 8 a.m. Tyler Azalea 10k
- 9 a.m. Azalea Arts and Crafts Fair at Bergfeld Park
- 7:30 p.m. East Texas Symphony Orchestra concert – The 5 Browns
- Annual Azalea Quilt Show – All day
- Roseland Plantation Historic Tour and Afternoon Tea
- 4 p.m. 23rd Annual Gemstone and Jewelry Show at Harvey Convention Center
- Annual Historic Home Tour
- Texas Rose Horse Park Spring Horse Trials
- 2019 Azalea Trail Junior Golf Classic
The 2019 Tyler Azalea Trail spans three weekends, running from March 22 through April 7.
What Can Area Businesses Do to Attract More Visitors?
The 2019 Azalea Trail will bring more than 100,000 visitors to the area, and they’re all bringing their wallets. They’ll dine at East Texas restaurants, shop in Tyler stores and fuel up after they drive the trail. For local businesses that brings both opportunity and competition.
Those tourists are going to spend their cash. Here’s what you can do to make sure they spend some of it at your business.
Optimize Your Website for Local Search
When visitors hit the Tyler Azalea Trail, they’re new to the area. When they need something, they’re going to whip out their mobile phone to search for it.
On mobile, proximity matters more than it does on desktop. Google and other search engines assume they’re searching on the go because they intend to actually go. If they’re looking for a burger to fuel up, a new pair of shoes for the Azalea 10k or an azalea bush to take home, search will serve up nearby results.
If you offer what they’re looking for and your website is designed properly, they’ll find you. Now is the time to make sure your content is professional, your message is clear, your address is correct and your site functions. If it isn’t, you still have time to contact a web design company and SEO agency.
Advertise Where Visitors Look
If you offer something people can use along the 2019 Tyler Azalea Trail, position your marketing where they’ll see it. Know your audience and how you can help them get the most out of their visit.
Up Your Social Media Game
Potential customers and clients don’t just look at your website. They also check your social media feeds to see what you’re really about. Make sure your feed shows what makes your business unique.
The 2019 Azalea Trail is a good time to invest in targeted advertising. There are more people in the area, and they’re all looking online for advice on where to shop, eat, stay and relax.
Optimize Your Physical Space for Photos
People love to take selfies and share them on social media. Find a place inside or outside your business that encourages them to do just that. If you have great azaleas, install a bench and backdrop. Inside, think where might be a good photo location and use lighting and decor to provide the perfect setting for word of mouth and buzz.