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Victoria woman reigns as Duchess of Paradise Found in Fiesta San Antonio

By ALLISON MILES
May 13, 2013 at 12:13 a.m.
Updated May 14, 2013 at 12:14 a.m.


Did you know?

San Antonio's Fiesta celebration got its start in 1891.

• Fiesta has taken place nearly every year since its inception. The only exceptions are 1918, during World War I, and 1942 through 1945, during World War II.

• Claire Driscoll is the only woman to have served as Fiesta queen for three years - 1904 through 1906. Since then, queens' terms have been limited to one year.

Source: Fiesta San Antonio website

Every girl might be a princess, but one Victoria woman took that ideal to the next level.

Lexey Long donned a glittering crown and ornate gown when she stepped out as part of the queen's court in April's 2013 Fiesta San Antonio celebration.

It was a first for the 21-year-old Victoria native, a Baylor University junior who had never before been a debutante.

Long has attended Fiesta celebrations for several years, she said, but her own experience began last summer.

The public relations major in June was studying abroad in Italy when her mother, Cheryl Guthrie, asked if she wanted to participate.

"I said, 'Absolutely,'" Long said. "I'd never done anything like this before, so I was excited."

Participants must be invited by a member of the Order of the Alamo, Guthrie said, explaining the order invited 11 San Antonio women and 11 from outside the city - plus a queen and princess - to participate.

The next step came in August, Long said, with the big dress reveal. That was when she learned the year's theme - The Court of Nature's Tapestry - and her own title, Duchess of Paradise Found.

She also caught the first glimpse of her Fiesta dress, which had already been years in the works.

The magenta creation with its long, beaded train featured tropical flowers and plants. It was a design and color scheme, she said, that suited her well.

"They kind of paired the girls with the dresses, and it was amazing how it worked out," she said. "Everyone loved their dresses, and they really fit everyone's personalities well."

The fittings came next, she said, and her dress was complete in March, in time for her official photo shoot, which showcased the dress' feet-long train.

"It was heavy. Definitely heavy," she said of the beaded work. "But it was a work of art. The beading and detail that went into it was incredible."

Long said she was unsure of the price tag that went along with the dress, and Guthrie said simply that "it was not inexpensive."

According to the official Fiesta website, the individual families and their dressmakers determine costs. Although many people estimate prices to hit the $10,000 mark or more, those are mere guesses.

Mixers and social events offered members of the court a chance to get to know one another, and the big event came April 24, with the Coronation of the Queen of the Order of the Alamo.

It was the first night the women were presented, she said, and the first chance to view the others' dresses. That night, with escort Travis Denton Steele Cox at her side, she made her grand debut.

Being the center of attention took a bit of getting used to, Long said.

"It was kind of strange at first," she said. "But it was a blast."

Two days later came San Antonio's Battle of Flowers Parade, where the women - decked out once again in their Fiesta finest - hit the streets on floats, waving to the crowds and soaking in the celebration atmosphere.

"We kind of lucked out with the weather," Long said. "Usually, it's so hot. But this year, it was really nice. You couldn't have asked for anything better."

The day's highlight, she said, was the chance to show off her shoes, a San Antonio tradition.

People in the crowds hold up signs and call out for the girls to reveal their foot finery.

Some girls donned fuzzy slippers, she said, while others opted for sneakers. Long went with a pair of boots.

Long had plenty of homegrown support in tow throughout the week, Guthrie said, noting about 60 people from Victoria made their way to the coronation, while another 40 ventured to the parade, and still others attended other gatherings.

Mom said the entire experience - helping her daughter along the way, attending events and watching her dazzle crowds - was exciting.

"As her mother, it's very tiring," she said. "But they have a lot of fun. We both got to meet a lot of people and make new friends."

Long agreed. She said she came across amazing people during her time in The Alamo City and already has plans to meet up with others from the court soon.

And, while her duties as duchess might now be at an end, she said the memories she gathered will remain with her.

"This experience, it was so great," she said. "Everyone in San Antonio was so welcoming, and I met so many great girls. It was incredible."

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