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Homecoming season means big business for mum-makers


Sept. 29, 2012 at 4:29 a.m.
Updated Sept. 30, 2012 at 4:30 a.m.

Theresa Starkey of Sunshine Florist puts the finishing touches on a mum for a Cuero student in the back room of Sunshine Florist in Victoria. Although mums are traditionally made to match student's school colors, recently, Sunshine Florist has started making mums in nontraditional color schemes by request. Long mums at Sunshine Florist start at $39.95 and long senior mums start at $45. Garters for boys start at $32.95 and little sis mums start at $26.95.

From long spools of ribbon to sports-themed embellishments and school-specific colors abound, Sunshine Florist is a haven for all things homecoming.

It happens every football season as the shop helps area schools celebrate in style.

"We try to keep something up for display at least for each school here, and in the surrounding counties," Susie Starkey, the store's owner, said. "But, this time of year, it keeps us pretty busy."

And Starkey isn't alone. With area high schools in the grips of football season, homecoming is big business for many throughout the region.

Starkey said she had no idea how many mums and garters she and her cohorts put out annually, but said they tried to offer something for everyone.

"We try to keep some made up ahead of time, so people can pick from what we have and then add to them," she said, adding prices typically run about $50 and up for mums. "They're all individual."

Rosemary Daugherty, a floral designer with Devereux Gardens and the woman in charge of creating mums, said football season always means added work. In addition to her homecoming creations, she still works on the shop's wedding and funeral orders.

"It all has to get done," she said with a laugh. "This year has been a little more hectic because homecoming hit sooner than we expected."

Daugherty created 133 mums last year, she said, and 2012 appears to be right on track. Orders come from as far away as Corpus Christi.

Some students this year opted for pops of neon or camouflage ribbon incorporated into their mums and garters, she said, and each item is one-of-a-kind.

"Everything is personalized," she said, explaining prices range from $45 to about $200. "We try to make every one special."

A large, over-the-shoulder design with three mums joins the mix this year, she said, while the shop also offers football-shaped mums students wear around the neck.

Flowers aren't the only homecoming necessity, however. For many girls, the dress is equally important.

Dillard's, inside the Victoria Mall, recently hosted a fashion show to display this season's trends, said Mary Grace Perez, sales manager of the women's department.

This year's dresses follow four major styles.

Colored sequins, which provide a bit of bling, are popular, while dresses with lace accents or metallic fabrics also go over big.

Another major trend, the "high low," is a dress style that comes above the knees in the front, but drops lower in the back.

Perez said there was no specific price range dresses fell into but said, once accessories, shoes and more entered the mix, it was possible for an ensemble to add up to $350 to $500.

Still, she said, it's worth it.

"When your daughter wants a dress, and she looks good in it, price doesn't matter," she said.

Rosanna Alvarado, who manages the Jade and Madalynn Quinceanera Boutique, agreed that prices fluctuate. While some of her customers pay about $160, she said others pay up to $500 to find that perfect dress.

At her shop, she said, shorter, ballerina-style dresses are big sellers this year, while people also look for rhinestone embellishments.

The boutique has also placed restrictions on certain dresses, Perez said, explaining they only sell one style of dress per school.

"We won't even sell them the same style in a different color," she said. "We want the girl to stand out and feel special."

Marlena Gutierrez, a senior at St. Joseph High School, had her dress all ready to go Sept. 20, for her school's homecoming the following week.

"I usually go more simple, but my dress is fluffier this year," she said. "It's a little fancier."

While she assured William McArdle, the school's president and principal, her wardrobe would meet the dress code, fellow senior Mary Gower offered her own input.

"Modest is hottest," she said.

Marlena and her cohorts on the school's student council kept busy in the weeks leading up to homecoming, coordinating the school dance, dress-up days and other things that go into the elaborate week.

A special Mass, alumni golf and tennis tournaments, night-time pep rally and more all join the festive mix.

And the excitement isn't limited to students.

McArdle said the faculty and staff enjoy seeing all that comes with homecoming week. From the boys' elaborate ways of asking girls to the dance, to the mere excitement in the air, he said everyone enjoys the time.

"It's fun, as educators to be there that evening, to see the students dressed up and looking so adult," he said. "It's a fun time to be in high school."



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