mum festival
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Photography by Stefanie Lynne Photography
History of the Tipp City Mum Festival

It might well have been a "Tomato Festival."  At least, that was a suggestion when the Tipp City newly-formed Chamber of Commerce was looking for some sort of symbol to represent the city.  Somehow, the scarlet fruit of the many green acres that the Timmers grew did not readily lend itself to "arrangement" or widespread ornamentation.

Chamber president Dick Stiles took up the suggestion of Otto Frings, who had just returned with his wife Isabel, from their first view of the Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan.  His suggestion was "if Holland can have a festival honoring the tulip, why not a mum (chrysanthemum) festival in Tipp City?"

It was true that Spring Hill Nurseries was growing, selling, and shipping this particular horticultural product of theirs - the garden chrysanthemum - at such a rate that it was easy, not much later, for Tipp City to adopt the name, "Mum Capital of the World."

Frings' suggestion was adopted and he found himself in 1957 appointed to head a planning committee.  The original decision, after Isabel and Otto Frings visited other festivals, was made by Isabel, who became the next Chamber president.  This called, after many meetings, for a festival to be held in 1958, probably in October.

Despite many meetings later and gradually ironing out some of the snags, it was decided to postpone the first such event until 1959.  This was under the direction of John Benham and Tom Kyle Jr. as co-chairmen.

"Mum's the Word on October 3rd" read six-foot letters on the water tower in midtown that fall.  It is said that the "largest crowd ever assembled in Tipp City" (up to that time) came to see the first parade, which had nine bands and 61 antique cars.  Each band nominated candidates for queen, with Janet Treon of Miami East being the first queen chosen.  She was crowned on the steps of the Monroe Township Building at Third and Main Streets.

The gradual evolution of queen nomination would take a whole story, in itself, to the present day.  Candidates go through a two-day process leading up to the Queen's Pageant.

The queen rides with her court, all beautifully gowned on a special float, a feature added in 1960, the first year the float appeared.  Every year since, with the exception of 1969, the queen and her court have ridden on their float -- sometimes with rain gear hiding their beautiful gowns.

In 1969, Tipp City High School's first queen, Ann Rousculp Lorms, had to peer out from a closed car, the rain was so heavy.  John and Joe Patten ("the designing twins") created the first queen's float.

"Mums and Music," as a float theme, established another first in 1962.  This was also the year that incorporation became necessary as the festival grew beyond the parade, Main Street flower show, and decorations of potted mums.

Dr. William Gabel became the first president and gradually through the years by-laws have been established, with two major revisions made in them, which still regulate the way in which the organization — officers, responsibilities, committee heads, meetings, and other details are handled.

This year there are committees that oversee activities from the Queen's Pageant, the parade, the Run for the Mums, increased emphasis on children's activities, a larger entertainment program, the Friday night activities, including Little Miss and Mr. Mum competition, continually expanding arts and crafts show, plus food concessions and a Motorcycle Ride.

To continue some early history, when Dick Breckett was president in 1963, the overall theme was established for the parade and flower show (the latter is no more).  A "Home Beautification" traveling trophy, donated by A.O. Smith (now Regal Corp.), was established for the best display of mums.  The floats were separated in classifications for judging, and judging of the flower show on Friday evening, instead of Mum Day, was established.

The latter continued through 1973, but no committee was available after that.  However, the increased amount of arts and crafts has replaced this with more emphasis on park activities, as well as establishment of a flea market in 1976 to help fill the void.

The weather was one of the big headaches in the earlier years.  Bill MacLeod gets the credit for describing the date of the "Big Parade" as being "The second rainy Saturday in October."

The original weekend had been set to coordinate with the annual band competition, which the music department at Tippecanoe High School hosted.

Better weather has prevailed since changing the Mum Festival weekend to September!

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