Homecoming tradition grows to Texas-size proportions

October 27, 2011  

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Shelby Foster
sfoster@smu.edu

Girls show off their mums. (Photo by Shelby Foster/Beyond the Bubble staff)

The home of Cecilia Valudos is overrun with fake flowers, plush bears, feather boas, bells, cardboard letters, trinkets and miles of ribbon. Focused moms and timid teenage boys wander through the shelves, bins and racks, ready to consult with Valudos about creating the perfect concoction for their lucky daughters and dates.

It’s homecoming season in Colleyville, Texas, and everyone has mums on the mind. And like everything else in Texas, these mums are glitzy, sparkly, frilly, and downright enormous.

But mums weren’t always this size. In decades past, they have been a special token of a boy’s affection and were made of real chrysanthemum flowers. Only a few simple ribbons were attached.

“It was a whole different world back then,” said Debbi Mitchell, who graduated in 1975 from Killeen High School.

She explained that it was embarrassing to receive a mum from your parents, because that meant no boy wanted to take you to homecoming.

“The florist delivered them to the school that morning,” said Mitchell. “You never really knew if you were getting one or not.”

An announcement over the intercom the week of homecoming included a list of girls who were the chosen recipients.

“You felt very privileged to get one,” said Mitchell.

Today, the mums have grown to gargantuan proportions. Real chrysanthemums have been replaced by silk versions, and the parents are now the ones forking over hundreds of dollars for a mum.

Valudos, owner of C&C Floral Events has been creating mums for 14 years, and considers herself a “master mum maker,” someone who has the experience and technique it takes to create a unique product.

Because the mums can get very pricey, ranging from $200 to $700, mothers usually have to step in to help the high school boy pay for his date’s creation.

“Boys want to please the girl and try to have everything on there that represents them,” said Valudos. “Moms want it pretty and detailed but worry about the cost.”

Some of the more detailed mums can be draining to assemble. “Sometimes we have to walk away until the next day, because they have so much detail that we need to think about it,” she said.

Mums can include a plush animal (or two) dressed in a miniature version of the girls’ sports uniform, or representing any other extracurricular activities.

Valudos says that they try to match the mum to the girls’ personalities, while trying to provide the best and biggest option — some weighing up to 10 pounds.

“You have a tie that goes around your neck that keeps the mum from touching the ground but it pulls your neck down,” said Maggie Neece, who is a junior at Colleyville Heritage High School and has received a total five mums. Her collection of mums all feature a teddy bear with golf accessories, to represent her involvement on Colleyville Heritage’s golf team.

“They all try to out-do each other,” said Valudos. “The mums are trophies on the wall.”

But before the girls can tack them to their corkboards after a night of homecoming festivities, they have to get a boy.

Jared Wiegand is a sophomore at Coppell High School, and he puts more thought into his date’s mum than asking the big question.

“I normally run out of time and don’t feel like doing anything special so I just go up to the girl and ask in person,” said Wiegand. But he’s always got a beautifully crafted mum in tow.

He is the most proud of the mum for his date this year, which was made by a family friend.

“It not only had lights and a huge bear but had lots of other frou-frou stuff that made it stand out from the others,” he said.

Many schools incorporate the mums as an integral part of the homecoming tradition. But other schools, like Palmer High School, find other ways to show their school spirit.

In Palmer, a small town 30 miles south of Dallas, students look forward to the homecoming parade more than getting crafty.

Junior Reagan Mitchell reused an old silk mum in previous years, but didn’t sport one this year.

“During class, it gets annoying. I feel like I should wear one,” she said. “But I don’t want to because it gets on my nerves.”

Mitchell explained that some students do get mums, but it’s mainly girls who have been in a relationship for an extended period of time.

Delaney Wolfe is a senior at Palmer High School, and didn’t have a mum for homecoming this year either.

“I decided to make a t-shirt instead,” she said. “I mean I like mums, they’re cute, but they get in the way of my day.”

But regardless of the way they may celebrate, high schoolers across Texas look forward to homecoming as the highlight of the school year.

“It’s a tradition and I could never look at high school the same without thinking of the homecoming process,” said Wiegand.

Many wonder whether it’s even possible for the mums to get larger in coming seasons, but Valudos is certain the trend is here to stay.

“Mums are like diamonds, they can never be too big!” she said.

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