Making Way For The Queen

With the snap of the scissors at Thursday morning's ribbon cutting ceremony in Tyler, the Texas Rose Festival is in full bloom. A reflection of months of preparation for 2004 Queen Lauren French Sanford, who never thought she'd hold that title.

"I remember looking up to the queen and being in awe of the older girls when I was young," says Lauren smiling.

Raised in Tyler, Queen Lauren has taken a short break from classes at Texas A & M to fulfill her royal duties. Duties, she says, extends outside of the Rose Capital. "I explain it to my sorority sisters and they say 'You're in the rose festival?' and I say 'Yes' and they ask 'What's your position?' and I say 'I'm queen' and they say 'Oh! What's your talent?' because they think it's a pageant!"

"It's something you never forget," says a nostalgic Maymerle Brown. The 1955 festival is forever etched in her mind. It's the year she was queen and is still recognized by residents nearly 50 years later. "I usually tell them now that they just have a good memory because it's been 49 years ago!"

But just like the queens of Rose Festivals past, Queen Lauren has been practicing vigorously for tonight's coronation. She'll have to walk and bow in a dress weighing around 140 pounds. Lauren says, "It's a full elaborate thing. It will take 10 minutes to do but come (to the Queen's Coronation) this afternoon tonight or tomorrow and you'll be able to see it."

While this young woman cherishes her moment as queen, she's setting the stage for other little girls to walk in her footsteps.

Christine Nelson, reporting.