Nancy Hightower had the honor of not only crowing the 20th Crape Myrtle Queen but her dearest friend, Winnie O’Donnell, ahead of the annual festival and parade.
On June 28, influential women in the Waxahachie community gathered in the iconic Crape Myrtle room at the Waxahachie Civic Center for the Crape Myrtle Queen’s Tea. The event was complete with extravagant floral arrangements, elaborate hats and every hue of pink.
Ladies mingled, photographed selfies and got acquainted with others they’ve never met. Bonney Ramsey, the 2004 queen and chair of the Crape Myrtle Festival and Parade Counsel, took the lectern and shared the history of the annual event and how Waxahachie established the title as the Crape Myrtle Capital of Texas.
Hightower then gave a brief speech and read the poem marking the end of her service and the passing of the title and crown. The suspense grew, and eyes peered around the room, waiting for a reaction.
With a gentle smile, Hightower announced O’Donnell.
O’Donnell ironically was already seated next to the queen’s table. When her name was called O'Donnell immediately looked to her friend sitting on her right with a look of surprise. With her hand on her heart, she stood up from her chair and joined the rest of the Crape Myrtle Queens.
Front and center, O’Donnell thanked everyone, and the queens surrounded her with hugs. Hightower was slightly emotional when she crowned her friend while the other queens wrapped a hot pink boa around her.
The initiation was official.
It was a struggle for Hightower not to disclose to O’Donnell that she would be the 2018 queen. Their friendship began in the 1980s after a game of tennis.
Hightower believed O’Donnell was the best candidate “because she is a hard worker and is involved in so much around town and knows Waxahachie and her husband is from here. She just simply deserves it for as hard as she worked.”
And to hand off the crown and announce the recognition, Hightower said, “It feels really great.”
Hightower has been involved in organizations across Waxahachie and pointed out three essential groups that influenced the impact.
Her involvement in the community is how Hightower has impacted her community and embodied the spirit of the Crape Myrtle Queen.
“The Baylor Hospital board was very important to me as well as CASA and the Ellis County Museum. Those are probably the most important," Hightower elaborated.
It’s the extensive history of Waxahachie that she is proud of and is an advocate for preserving the past. Hightower stressed the importance of the youth and those who are involved with CASA. When she spoke on the significance of Baylor Scott and White Medical Center — Waxahachie, she said, “Well, we couldn’t live very long without them, and they’ve helped me too. It’s been really great to serve on that board and see the workings of the hospital.”
O’Donnell has the same mindset of how her involvement in serving leadership roles on every board she was part of creating a substantial impact in Waxahachie.
When asked about her involvement in the community, she chuckled, “Well, I go way back.”
She was the first female to serve on the hospital board — for 20 years — back when it was called Baylor at Waxahachie. She was also the first lady of Waxahachie and was recognized as the citizen of the year. In every organization O’Donnell joined, she always served in a leadership role as the chairperson.
She started her career in Waxahachie teaching music within Waxahachie ISD. She is the children’s music director at the Presbyterian church and also instructs the church choir of all ages.
“I’ve never dreamed — I was so overwhelmed. I was just so shocked," O'Donnell expressed when she heard her name.
She continued, “I felt like I was going to cry; there are so many outstanding women.”
“It’s always nice seeing everyone dressed up and in the hats," O'Donnell relayed. "I think this year we had more interesting hats than usual and getting to be here with my friends. I have served on committees and boards with most of the ladies here.”
For O'Donnell, it is an honor to be recognized and is humbled by the experience.
HISTORY OF CRAPE MYRTLE QUEEN
The Crape Myrtle Counsel, the City of Waxahachie and the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce annually present the two-day Crape Myrtle Festival on July 3—4.
Ramsey shared how Farmers Limited initiated the idea of being the crape myrtle capital. The inspirational individual to head the legislation to be the crape myrtle capital of Texas was the late Neil Blankenbeckler, the 2004 Crape Myrtle Queen. She collaborated with the previous Texas State Rep. Jim Pitts, his wife and many more went down to Austin where Shirley Williams— the 2005 queen — spoke about the Waxahachie honor to be the Crape Myrtle Capital of Texas.
“McKinney wanted it, and so did Paris,” Ramsey relayed. “Well, we not only received the designation, we got it in perpetuity, which means no one else can be the crape myrtle capital in Texas. Our city will have that designation forever.”
The celebration is essential the Ramsey and other symbolic women in Waxahachie.
“I think this event has grown and so much fun for women to dress up for one hour — wear hats, wear pink, they love it and celebrate an awesome, new queen,” Ramsey concluded.
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450