Fridays mean high school football across most of Texas. And this time of year also means fall homecoming celebrations.
But if you didn’t grow up in Texas, one homecoming tradition here might seem pretty odd.
On a warm evening in Dripping Springs, the Tigers are hosting the Marble Falls Mustangs. There are a few obvious signs that the big homecoming game is about to start: the crowd is even larger than usual, there’s a crowning ceremony going on at the 50-yard line and traditions are on full display.
“The parade, the spirit, the pep rally, the mums,” says Bonnie Walker, a seventh generation Dripping Springs alum.
Did you catch that last one? Mums.
Walker says mums have been a homecoming tradition here as long as she can remember.
“Well back in the day, they were a real flower that died by the end of the night and now they’re big, beautiful silk arrangements that have feathers and rhinestones and streamers and every trinkets you can ever imagine. Bells – and whistles!”
She’s not exaggerating. Walking around the stadium before the game, it definitely sounds like more people are talking about mums than football. I overheard eighth-graders Kaitlyn Bottles and Juliana Ussia telling this story.
“One of my friends’ dad was talking about how his sister made a garter and then they didn’t need it so he turned it into a mum with fruit snacks on the bottom of it. Just in case you got hungry!” they said.
So, traditionally, the mum is what the girl wears and the boy wears a garter – they tried to explain it a little better.
“It shows school spirit and it shows who you’re going with and that kind of stuff,” Ussia says.
And some of these mums are extravagant. Brittany Zuehlke is a senior at Dripping Springs.
“This mum was given to me by my boyfriend, Ross, and I truly didn’t expect it,” Zuehlke says. “It’s three flowers put into one, it’s basically three mums together, it lights up, it’s long – it’s almost touching the ground and I love it. I wasn’t expecting it and it was a good way to end my senior year.”
“A lot of the mums are super personalized, so mine has an ‘H’ on it for my name and a lot of people have their sport or what they do on it or what they’re passionate about,” junior Hannah Matthews says.
“My mum has some bells, it has some music notes on it because I’m in choir. It’s really fun,” Mallory Bush, also a junior, says.
Juniors Hannah Matthews and Mallory Bush say their group of friends got together to make their own mums. If you buy them, they can be pricey.
“I know that we have some little girl mums that the girls that spend about $40 and I know a few of the seniors – they were $250,” Walker says.
Michelle Alanis knows all about this.
“It started off with me still in high school,”Alanis says. “We had just moved to Texas and had no idea what mums were. So me and my sister decided to make my own and I had a lot of people just aweing over it and how amazing it was and how beautiful.”
So they started a business. Stephanie’s Mums is based out of Austin and has a storefront in the Rio Grande Valley.
“From the end of August to the beginning of November, it’s strictly just mums. We eat, breathe mums,” she says.
Alanis says the business has really grown over the past ten years and they’ve now shipped all over the U.S. but the bread and butter of their business is still in Texas.
Back in Dripping Springs, the game is underway but mums are still on the minds of many – including Senior Brittany Zuehlke – who has now been wearing her shield-like mum for hours on end.
“All day. I barely took it off because it’s special to me so I can’t take it off. A little bit – it’s hurting my neck. But it’s worth it in the end,” she says.
She says she’ll keep the mum forever as a memento of senior homecoming.