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Mums: A tradition the size of Texas

Profile image for Lucinda Breeding
Lucinda Breeding

You won’t catch Sherry Bedinger describing homecoming mums as “gaudy.”

“They’re pretty in their own way,” said Bedinger, who is at the helm of the mum fundraiser for the Denton High School Gridiron Booster Club.

“They are big, though,” said Bedinger, who has led about five volunteers through a two-part mum effort. The mum committee has made mum kits, a cheaper alternative for students who want to make their own one-of-a-kind mum (if they add their own flair). They’ve also made about 40 mums for students who don’t want to take on  a possibly unwieldy crafting task.

The not-so-humble mum: A brief history

Our sister paper The Dallas Morning News plumbed the paper’s archives for some memories about how a humble corsage inspired by pre-World War II starlets grew into a “mum-strocity” (their words, not ours) for GuideLive.com.

The tradition appears to have begun when chrysanthemums — an Asian plant with big, happy blooms that open to reveal radiant rows of lush petals — became a traditional fall flower by the 1930s. Movie stars wore them, and  florists started promoting mums as football game corsages. (Remember when women wore hats and gloves to football games?)

The homecoming mum arrangements grew in size during the 1950s and '60s. 

Since then, they have gone from a corsage to an oversize lapel ornament and — at present — something along the lines of a Viking shield-maiden’s buckler .

Teenage girls customize their mums, adding bells, LED lights that blink, devices that play music and stuffed animals. Some Texas teachers require girls to tape the bells so that classrooms aren’t noisy with the tinkling of 20-odd mums on homecoming. Most senior mums are so huge that girls have to wear them around their necks. 

With mums, size matters

At Denton High, the size of the mum means something.

A single mum — with just one silk mum bloom — is a freshman mum. A double mum is for sophomores, and a triple mum is for juniors.

The biggest of the patch — a quad mum — is for seniors, Bedinger said.

Underclassmen can choose from mums that are purple, gold and white. Bedinger said the seniors have a choice, too.

“The seniors can pick purple, gold and white, or all white,” she said. “And the majority pick the gold and white.”

Bedinger said the booster club started the mum fundraiser last year as a way to bring in some money to the booster club — there’s been talk of buying a second drone to shoot aerial photos during the games.

Bedinger said her children used to attend Denton Calvary Academy, and volunteers made mums for the private school as a fundraiser. When Bedinger’s son, Brooks, transferred to Denton High, she thought a mum fundraiser might appeal to the students and raise money for the program. Brooks Bedinger, a junior, is on the Broncos varsity football team.

“I got in touch with the folks who did the fundraiser at Calvary and we started our own last year,” Bedinger said. “Word is just starting to get out that we’re doing this. We’ve easily doubled what we made last year.”

She said a couple hundred yards of ribbon can go into the making of the biggest mums. 

“You use wide, medium and narrow ribbons on each one,” Bedinger said. “So you’re probably looking at about 180 yards of ribbon. Well, more like 200 yards of ribbon to make a senior mum, because there is ribbon on the back of it.”

School spirit comes with a cost

Texas teens can spend up to $400 on a mum if they shop online, and some high schoolers buy them from a florist.

The booster club has had a mum station set up at Denton High from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — through each lunch period — for the last three weeks. Students could order a kit to make a mum themselves, or put in a order for a prepared mum. 

Homecoming for Denton High is on Friday, and Bedinger handed out the last of the mums in front of the school on Wednesday. Underclassmen spent $75 for their mums, and seniors could buy a kit for $120 or a completed mum for $250.

“It is cheaper for them to buy their supplies from us,” Beddinger said. “You can spend a lot getting one made, and even if you go to someplace like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby and get the supplies, it can be expensive. We’ve had so many girls come up and say, ‘Oh, I wish I’d bought my stuff from you, it’s so much cheaper.’”

At Braswell High School, students in Shannon McCuistion’s floral design class have been making “BeComing mums” because the school, which opened its doors in 2016-17, hasn’t had an alumni  homecoming yet. BeComing is on Oct. 19.

“BeComing is a wonderful idea started by our faculty and administration to still celebrate the traditional activities that one would have during homecoming week,” McCuistion said. “Homecoming mums and garters have become a large tradition in Texas throughout the years.”

McCuistion’s floral design class prepares students for a career in the floral industry, with this year’s students planning to get a Texas State Floral Association certification. The students are making mums for the girls and garters for the guys. 

Bedinger’s group also is making homecoming garters for the boys to wear around the upper arm during the game. Some teens forgo the traditional mum exchange, where boys give the girls a mum and the girls put the garter around the boys' arms. 

“We have an order form that students can fill out and we will build whatever they like,” McCuistion said of the Braswell High class. “We also donate the mums and garters that we learn on and build to our LifeSkills department, so those students can feel included in the BeComing activities.”

McCuistion said the school's effort to create a festive fall event has been stirring up excitement.

“The more spirit and tradition that we have, the more excited the students and faculty become,” she said. “We have an incredible student section — the 'jungle' — at the games, and our football boys are working incredibly hard. Our excitement builds each week and brings together a wonderful supportive community to the Braswell Zone.”

Bedinger has fun with Texas' fall tradition.

“Mums are huge in Texas and they’re so much fun,” she said. “Next year is my son’s last one on the team, and I hope someone takes over the mum fundraiser from us.”

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.

FEATURED IMAGE: Sherry Bedinger, the chair of the Denton High School mum fundraiser, delivered and distributed the handmade mums she and other committee members made in front of the high school. , Wednesday, September 20, 2017, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC.