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Homecoming Mums: Inside A Larger-Than-Life Texas Tradition

Christina Ulsh
Beth Scheetz runs Varsity Mums out of her home in Coppell

All of America has homecoming football games, parades, pep rallies and dances, but no place has a tradition quite like the Texas homecoming mum.

This is no demure flower with a couple of ribbons. It’s a full-body shield of plastic flowers and sparkly ribbons and teddy bears with graduation caps.

And, this time of year, Texas students try to outdo each other with the biggest, wildest mum creations. They are practically works of art.

Bethany Tallon has gotten a homecoming mum from her boyfriend Morgan Scheetz for two years in a row. Each mum -- short for chrysanthemum -- has fake flowers ringed with bows, and trailed by yards and yards of red, black and white ribbons, in the Coppell High School colors. Sparkly stick-on letters spell her name.  

“We wear them on the Friday to classes all day, lots of pictures with your friends, and we go to pep rallies,” Bethany explains.

“It’s just an awesome tradition that I love."

When Morgan gives Bethany her senior mum next week, it will be four flowers, two teddy bears, trinkets representing her high school activities, and dozens of ribbons. It also lights up.

Credit Christina Ulsh
Ribbons, braids, and bows at Varsity Mums.

These mums aren't cheap.

“Homecoming is pretty expensive," Morgan says. "You spend $50 for tickets, $8 for the football game, and the mums can be $300."

In exchange, Bethany will give him a garter to wear on his arm. It looks like a mini-mum.

Morgan says most of the school will wear a mum or garter when Coppell plays Richland High School Friday night.

“We usually play a football team that we’re going to win against, so it’s not depressing for everybody,” Morgan said.

Last year, Morgan’s mother, Beth Scheetz, made the mum for Bethany -- and for 150 other high school students. Making mums is her business. She runs “Varsity Mums” out of her home.

“People compliment our mums all the time, saying they’re still pretty, they don’t have the kitchen sink in them,” Scheetz says. 

She remembers a time a couple decades ago when kids exchanged real flowers for high school dances.

Looking back, that seems so quaint.

Credit Christina Ulsh
A senior mum with four flowers and two bears, in white and silver.

Every fall, Scheetz's dining room is transformed into a creating factory with flowers, bells, bears, and ribbons stacked in bins and hanging from the walls. Finished mums, waiting to be picked up, festoon the banister all the way up to the second floor.

Collecting all the trinkets and pre-printed ribbons "is a year-round gathering process,” Scheetz says. 

Now that it's homecoming season, parents and kids now call her constantly to order mums for the big day. The basic mum starts at $95. Many ask for specialty ribbons, wooden letters -- and feather boas.

“Hopefully they don’t get so big that you can’t get through the door,” Scheetz says.

If you haven’t been in high school for a while, mums are heavy. They're getting heavier. Rather than being pinned to a dress, a mum now hangs like a medal around a girl’s neck, and the ribbons brush her shoes.

Some girls make their own, and some are made by crafty grandmothers -- and even crafty boyfriends.

Credit Christina Ulsh
Beth Scheetz shows options to two high schoolers looking for mums.

“I don’t think it’s a fading trend, I think it’s here to stay,” Scheetz says.

After next Friday night, Bethany Tallon’s senior mum will go on a hook on her bedroom wall, and hang next to her other smaller mums from previous years. She’ll start college in the fall, and will soon have friends and concerns outside of Coppell High School.

Right now that feels a long way off, while she waits for her mum’s big reveal.

Learn more

Watch this documentary about Texas homecoming mums.

MUM-A-MIA! The History of a Texas Tradition (2007) from Jennifer Horst on Vimeo.

Learn how to make your own football mums.

Dianna Douglas has produced NPR's signature news pieces from across the nation and around the world. In the spring of 2010 she spent five weeks embedded with the US Army in Kandahar. Her work with the Special Forces in Meiwan Province, the Military Police in Kandahar City, and the recently-arrived 101st Airborne Division in Zhari document the small victories and overwhelming challenges of the American mission in Afghanistan.