updated 7:00 PM UTC, May 27, 2020

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Changes announced for Dogwood events

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BY CHRIS EDWARDS
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WOODVILLE – Organizers of the annual Tyler County Dogwood Festival have announced a few updates pertaining to the postponed June 13 event.

“There will be some other changes due to social distancing and protocols that we are having to take,” according to a news release from the festival’s publicity committee. Each part of the event, which will consist of the parade, historical play and coronation, has been altered due to the ongoing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Queen’s Weekend Parade, which will begin at 10 a.m., with line-up at 9 a.m., will not feature candy, beads or promotional items thrown by participants. The organizers state that social distancing will still be in effect for both parade participants and spectators. They are stating that there are to be no congregations of spectators in locations such as the courthouse and Woodville United Methodist Church.

Additionally, although the Western Weekend is not part of this year’s festival, the organizers are encouraging that parade’s participants to take part in the Queen’s Weekend Parade.

Another major change to this year’s parade activity is that there will be no vendors set up downtown to sell food and various knickknacks. “The City will be contacting any food vendors that had purchased permits for the event and refunding any fees paid,” according to the news release. 

The City of Woodville has temporarily suspended issuing temporary or annual vendor permits due to the pandemic, but all vendors who obtained annual permits prior to the pandemic response will be notified regarding setup restrictions and guidelines for June 13.

The historical play and Queen’s coronation, both of which are traditional live events taking place at the Dogwood Ampitheater the evening after the parade, will also be produced in a different fashion. The play will be pre-recorded and streamed on Facebook through the Tyler County Hospital Facebook page.

The coronation will take place live but will also be streamed on the TCH Facebook page. It is closed to the public, and each member of the court will receive an allotted amount of tickets for their families.

For tickets that have already been sold to the event, organizers say they will be honored, but no additional tickets will be sold.

In other Dogwood Festival news, be sure and check out week three of our ongoing series of special commemorative sections leading up to the festival, inside this issue. This week we highlighted the Ladies in Waiting, and also, we dug into our photo archives again for some more random snapshots from Dogwood Festival history.

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Abbott announces new phase of reopening

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BY CHRIS EDWARDS
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AUSTIN – On Monday Governor Greg Abbott announced the next phase of business reopenings in the ongoing plan to reopen the state.

Abbott said as of Monday, under the second phase of the plan, restaurants can increase their occupancies to 50%, and additional services and activities that remained closed during the first phase may open as long as restricted occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols are observed. Also, the expanded occupancies will be limited to areas that have shown no flare-ups in COVID-19 cases since the first phase of the plan was announced earlier in the month.

In a news conference on Monday afternoon to outline the new phase, Abbott said the percentage of positive tests for the virus has continued to drop and added that the availability of testing has increased statewide.

Some of the businesses and services that were closed through phase one, but now able to open as of Monday are childcare centers, massage and personal-care centers and youth clubs. 

Additionally, on Friday, Abbott said bars/nightclubs, tattoo parlors, craft breweries, water parks and indoor entertainment venues will be allowed to reopen at 25% occupancy. In his new order, Abbott reminded Texans to maintain safe distancing among parties. The 25% capacity on the venues allowed to open Friday does not include the outdoor areas, said Abbott.

Abbott made mention of certain counties that have experienced surges in cases and will be delayed until May 29 in the new reopenings. Those counties include El Paso, Randall, Potter, Moore and Deaf Smith. 

Abbott said surge response teams are actively working to contain the outbreaks in those areas, with increased testing.

In Tyler County, the total number of confirmed cases stands at 11. According to the county’s office of emergency management, the most recent case is that of a 56-year-old Warren man. Out of the 11 reported cases, to date, seven have recovered and four are still active. At the statewide level, there were 47,784 total reported cases and 1,336 deaths, according to the most recent data from the Department of State Health Services, with 222 of the 254 counties reporting.

During his news conference, Abbott touted a large number of recovered cases from the virus, and in a tweet, stated that Texas ranks third in the nation for the number of recoveries, which is at 28,371 at press time. 

Although the number of cases has risen, the number of tests administered has done the same, averaging more than 25,000 per day. Abbott said that the numbers are moving in a positive trend, but the timetable of the phased process has not been without critics. Some legislators have questioned whether or not Abbott has acted too hastily. 

Gene Wu, a state representative for District 137, tweeted that Abbott is taking “a gamble” with the reopening and added “If he’s wrong, and we’re right – lots of people will be dead.”

Others, like Rep. James White noted that the governor is following data points pointing toward decreasing rates, and that vulnerable Texans are continued to be protected. White published a post to Facebook on Monday night with the message “Texas is opening for business. The people demand their economic freedom and data determines it.”

Another round of reopenings is scheduled for Saturday, May 31 with professional sporting events (minus in-person spectators) and day youth camps among them.

Here is a list of some of the reopenings by date:

Childcare Centers (May 18)

Massage and Personal-Care Centers (May 18)

Youth Clubs (May 18)

Rodeo and Equestrian Events (May 22)

Bowling Alleys, Bingo Halls, Simulcast Racing, and Skating Rinks (May 22)

Bars (May 22)

Aquariums and Natural Caverns (May 22)

Zoos (May 29)

Day Youth Camps (May 31)

Overnight Youth Camps (May 31)

Youth Sports (May 31)

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Commencement exercises to take place

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By Chris Edwards
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AUSTIN – Last week the Texas Education Agency issued guidance to Texas schools as to how to carry out graduation ceremonies during what TEA Commissioner Mike Morath called “a very strange time for public education.” 

With the phased reopening under Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders, public schools are remaining closed throughout the 2019-20 school year, with students receiving at-home instruction. However, TEA’s guidance allows for in-person commencement exercises, provided that it takes place in a rural county that is designated as such in Abbott’s report on reopening the state. The guidance memorandum gives the period of May 15 through 31 for outdoor ceremonies for these counties. Outdoor ceremonies, according to TEA, are allowed in all Texas counties on or after June 1. 

Tyler County is one such county with the rural designation, and all five of the county’s schools have announced plans to go forward with in-person graduation exercises. 

“Graduation ceremonies mark a major milestone for students and their families,” said Morath. “All educators are committed first and foremost to ensuring the health and safety of our students.”

As services reopen in the continued effort to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, TEA advised all districts to consult with legal counsel about any planned activities. In addition to outdoor in-person ceremonies, TEA provided three other recommended graduation pathways: completely virtual ceremonies; hybrid ceremonies and vehicle ceremonies.

The hybrid ceremonies, by TEA’s definition, consist of a compilation of videos of students being recognized in person as they celebrate graduation in small groups. 

Vehicle ceremonies would have students and their families waiting in their vehicles while graduates are recognized one at a time with their families alongside them. “Ensuring public health and safety remains the focus for all involved,” a TEA news release stated.

Here are the plans, as they stand at press time, with the five schools in the county:

Chester High School – Chester ISD is planning a traditional indoor ceremony for June 20 at 6 p.m. in the Julius P. Johnson Gymnasium. However, according to the district, if guidelines are unchanged by the scheduled date, the ceremony will move to outdoors.

Colmesneil High School – For CHS’s class of 2020, the ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 23 at Taylor Field. 

All seniors will receive eight wristbands to distribute to their family and friends for admittance to the ceremony. It will be broadcast live on Facebook.

Spurger High School – Spurger ISD is hosting its graduation on the Warren ISD football field at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 30. In a letter from the district, it notes that make-up dates of May 31 or June 1 are planned in case of inclement weather.

Each Spurger senior will be provided with 10 wristbands to distribute to whomever they choose. Additionally, every person with a wristband at the event must, by state law, fill out a questionnaire to be allowed entry, and personnel will check each person’s temperature upon entering the stadium.

Warren High School – Warren’s class of 2020 will walk across the stage on the school’s football field at 8 p.m. om Friday, May 29. According to Warren HS Principal Jimbo Swinney, the district is working diligently to develop and organize the plans and procedures for the event, and more logistics are coming for the graduating seniors.

“I know that each of you have had your senior year turned upside down; however, with this latest approval for graduation, we are going to do our best to make this a very special evening,” said Swinney.

Woodville High School – Woodville will hold its high school graduation on the original planned date of Friday, May 29 at 8 p.m. at Eagle Stadium. 

A news release from WISD on the district website states that there will be guidelines to follow and that more information from the district is forthcoming.

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Flores named ‘Ms. East Texas’

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By Chris Edwards
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Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council Chairperson Cecilia FloresAlabama-Coushatta Tribal Council Chairperson Cecilia FloresWOODVILLE – The operating directors of the annual Dogwood Festival have named Cecilia Flores as ‘Ms. East Texas’ for this year’s festival season.

Flores, who serves as the Tribal Council Chairperson for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, said she is dedicated to providing opportunities for the region’s residents to gain cultural knowledge, economic prosperity and an improved quality of life for both the tribe and its neighbors.

She is a United States Air Force veteran. She served from 1981-86 on American and German bases. After her USAF discharge, she earned a degree in Environmental Science from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. She has worked in the field of environmental protection for more than 25 years.

In addition to her role as Tribal Council Chairperson, Flores has worked with the tribe’s armed services veterans’ programs to help acknowledge and honor tribal members who have served in the military.

The naming of the Mr. or Ms. East Texas award recipient has been a Dogwood Festival tradition since 1967, when O.R. Crawford, the general manager of Northwestern Timber Company, was named the first Mr. East Texas.

Past recipients through the years have included such notables as Arthur Temple, Gov. Price Daniel, Rep. Charles Wilson and Dr. James “Red” Duke.

According to the directors, the award is presented to an East Texan who best exemplifies “the spirit and quality of leadership which advances, shapes and gives direction to the growth and progress of East Texas.”

District Judge Delinda Gibbs Walker was named Ms. East Texas for 2019. Flores joins another tribal member who was honored with the award, the late Chief Oscola Clayton M. Sylestine, who was named Mr. East Texas in 2009.

This year’s rescheduled Dogwood Festival will take place on Saturday, June 13. According to operating director Leann Monk, all systems are a “go” for the traditional Queen’s Weekend activities, including the historical play, Kingsmen’s Ball and coronation of the Dogwood Queen.

In other Dogwood-related news, this week begins the Booster’s series of special commemorative sections dedicated to the festival. Be sure and check out the inaugural installment, which spotlights the princesses, children of the court and trainbearers inside this issue.

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