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Welcome To Texas: Homecoming Mums

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - It's high school homecoming season and that means pep rallies, football games and -- in Texas -- homecoming mums. If you've ever caught yourself wondering what on Earth those high schoolers are wearing, we may just have some answers for you.

Today's homecoming mums are giant and gaudy, but there's no doubt they're as much a part of Texas as high school football.

Nancy Kline knows all about the tradition. She and her family own Smith's Balloon Works and Homecoming Headquarters in east Fort Worth. The store has been around since 1953, and she remembers the days when the chrysanthemum corsages sold by florists gave way to the kind of thing we see today.

"They were the fresh ones that you wore, and gradually they got away from that because they wouldn't hold up," Kline said of the old corsages. "They'd turn brown, so people started doing the silk ones more and more."

Nancy's son, Jim, grew up in the store that he now manages. He remembers vividly, during the fall of 1978, when his parents decided to try something new. "It was on this endcap," Kline remembered as he walked us to the front of the store. "This was the extent of what the mum selection was in 1978. It wasn't these stuffed animals. It was just the schools -- I think it was four schools in our area."

Now, they offer supplies for around 100 schools from as far south as Waco all the way up to the Red River -- and even a little bit beyond.

And they have witnessed the evolution from relatively simple mums that girls wore a generation ago to the gargantuan mums worn by the girls of today. "They start out small with peewee, and in junior high they get bigger, and it's kind of a progression all the way to high school where it's 'go big or go home,'" laughed Kline.

Mums today -- and even the garters that are now worn by boys -- reflect each owner's individual personality. And the cost of all those ribbons and chains, cowbells, feather boas and other trinkets can add up quickly. Whether you make one yourself or have it done for you, expect to pay hundreds of dollars.

However, Nancy said, for the kids, it is money well-spent. "They save them and put them on their walls," she added. "They're very proud of them."

They're the kind of thing you won't see anywhere else but Texas. "Something's got to come from Texas," said Nancy. "A lot of things come from California or New York and come this way. So, I think it's a Texas tradition, is what it is."

It's a tradition that may only get bigger from here.

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