The rose has been a symbol of the Tyler Junior College Apache Belles since their inception in 1947.
In fact, the precision dance team was originally known as the Apache Roses.
Yellow roses adorn their uniforms, their logo, their travel bags and even the mural in their rehearsal studio on the TJC main campus.
Over the course of their 70-year history, the Apache Belles have been involved with the Texas Rose Festival, with performances in the annual Rose Parade and in the Queen’s Coronation.
Today, that connection extended even further as freshman Apache Belle Amanda Elaine Hiles was named the 85th Texas Rose Queen.
Apache Belles Director Jasilyn Schaefer said, “Amanda is the first TJC student ever to be named Rose Queen, and I can’t think of a more perfect choice to represent our college and the city of Tyler.”
Amanda was formally announced as Rose Queen during a press conference and gala on Thursday, Jan. 11.
However, her identity as queen had actually been a closely guarded secret kept under wraps since early November.
On the morning of Thursday, Nov. 2, Texas Rose Festival President Brad Curtis – along with a small entourage of Rose Festival officials, members of the Hiles family and a huge bouquet of roses – made a surprise visit to the TJC main campus to drop in on an Apache Belles rehearsal.
“Ladies, my name is Brad Curtis,” he said to the group, “and next year I have the privilege of being president of the Texas Rose Festival. One of the jobs of the president of the Texas Rose Festival is to select a queen. It’s probably the most important job of the president, and it’s a tough job because the candidate doesn’t just need to be from Tyler, she needs to be a proud Tylerite who loves her city.”
With that, Curtis called up a very surprised Amanda and asked, “Would you be my queen?”
Amanda gave an immediate yes, the room erupted in applause and the newly chosen Rose Queen disappeared into a group hug from her fellow Apache Belles.
According to Amanda’s mother, Stacey Hiles, it was important to share the moment with the Apache Belles.
“We are honored and so humbled to be a part of the Texas Rose Festival,” Stacey said, “and we couldn’t do this without her Apache Belle family. These girls are like sisters, and it was such a special moment that we wanted to include them.”
The Texas Rose Festival has been a longtime tradition in Amanda’s family.
Amanda said, “My mother was a lady in waiting, my aunt was queen, I was a train bearer when I was little, my older brother was an escort, and last year my sister was a lady in waiting. Our whole family has been involved in the Rose Festival for many years.”
While Amanda knows her reign as Rose Queen will involve a jam-packed schedule, she’s also aware that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. At the height of her duties as queen next fall, she will also be a sophomore Apache Belle, with numerous performances scattered throughout the year.
“It will be really busy, but I will just have to prioritize and know my schedule ahead of time and work really hard and figure it out,” Amanda said. “It’s such a huge honor to be asked to be Rose Queen. I had no idea this would ever happen, but it’s so exciting.”
Amanda’s Rose Festival escort will be Jace Evans, son of Apache Belles Artistic Director/Choreographer Christy Evans and her husband, Eric Evans.
Along with the Apache Band, the Apache Belles are celebrating their 70th year as TJC’s most well-known, well-traveled ambassadors, delighting audiences around the world with their precision high kicks. They have traveled the globe to perform for U.S. presidents and audiences in Austria, China, France, Ireland and Mexico, and for U.S. troops stationed in Germany, Hawaii, Japan and South Korea.