It’s almost springtime here in the Deep South, and my beau and I spent a day at the Bellingrath Home and Gardens in Theodore, Alabama, just outside of Mobile.
We made this day excursion several times over the past couple of years, in the summer and in the autumn. Each visit was unique in its own way since the seasons bring different looks to the grounds, whether it is the seasonal blooms, the native insects, birds, or animals.
Our most recent trip this week was extraordinary. The azaleas and many of the flowers are blooming, and the famous Mobile Azalea Trail Maids were making their appearance at Bellingrath. When I was seven years old, I read about them in a book. Since then, I wanted to see them and the azaleas in their fullest blooming glory.
We met four of them, and each was the pinnacle of femininity and beauty – not only on the surface, but truly beautiful in manners and personality. These ambassadors for the City of Mobile help promote the city and its splendor, particularly during the Festival of Flowers highlighting blooming azaleas. At one time, these ladies were out only for a few days a year; now their duties are year-round.
Competition to become a Maid is strong, and each year, interested Mobile senior high school students compete. The young ladies must have a strong 3.0 grade average, participate in extracurricular and community programs, and go through an interview before being chosen.
Once chosen, they must have their antebellum-style gowns designed and sewn. There are strict parameters on the styles of their dresses; though there is room for originality and personalization, they must conform to the program’s bounds. Their gowns and accompanying undergarments can cost upwards of $3,000 each, and are made of organza and taffeta. I found an article by Mary Gormandy White you might find interesting about how these gowns are created.
An interesting item I discovered during my research of the Trail Maids is that the queen is the only one who wears a pink ensemble.
During this week, I will be sharing photographs and my thoughts on our trip to Bellingrath Gardens. If it isn’t springtime weather yet where you live, I hope my photographs and stories bring spring a little earlier to you and bring you some enjoyment, too.
©2016 Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.