Summertime in Kilgore means actors, craftspeople, stage designers, costume designers and more will soon arrive in the City of Stars to begin preparation for the Texas Shakespeare Festival, a production of East Texas' only professional theater company.

In its 36th season this year, the festival's return to Kilgore will be especially welcome, as last year's festival was canceled amid safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

But before the TSF actors take the stage, there is another Shakespeare attraction you can visit at Kilgore College.

“A garden filled with flowers, shrubs, herbs and trees mentioned in William Shakespeare’s plays is a new addition to the East Texas area,” reads a press release from the garden's dedication in 1996.

“Appropriately named the Texas Shakespeare Garden, it is located just north of the Anne Dean Turk Fine Arts Center on the Kilgore College Campus. Kilgore Improvement and Beautification Association member Nelda Lewis provided the original inspiration for the garden. Ms. Lewis researched the project for two years, making sure it is as authentic as possible, and she also gave the first donation to the project. The Kilgore Improvement and Beautification Association has donated the garden to Kilgore College and dedicated it to Texas Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Raymond Caldwell.”

The garden on the KC campus is patterned after the original Shakespeare Garden in England, designed in the 1920s. It is open daily and there is no admission fee.

KIBA continues to maintain and upkeep the garden, which features a variety of plants, herbs and colorful flowers mentioned in the works of the Bard, who mentioned some 175 plants and herbs in his writings.

“This garden began in the mind of KIBA founder Nelda Lewis, Mayor Mickey Smith, and Raymond Caldwell, the director of the Texas Shakespeare Festival on Kilgore College campus,” according to KIBA.

“The garden has many flowers for the visitors to enjoy, and are all authentic to the Bard’s own garden in Stratford-on-Avon. It is an 84-foot by 125-foot fenced-in garden. The Shakespeare Garden honors Raymond Caldwell and is in memory of the late Nelda Lewis.”

The building and planting of the garden took 3 years and was dedicated in May 1996. The Shakespeare Garden committee at the time were Nelda Lewis, Wanda Bittick, Carol Hinton and Martha Rorscach.

Sights in the garden include a sundial, bust of William Shakespeare and benches where guests can rest while admiring the many blooming plants and flowers.

Each flower includes a marker which gives the flower's name and a Shakespearean quote about that flower for information.

Some of the herbs included in the garden are mint, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, fennel, wild onion and garlic, according to KIBA. Some of the flowers include daffodils, daisies, day lilies and roses, as well as a fig tree, cedar tree and a dancing bear covered with fig ivy.

Tours and visitors are always welcome and can contact the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce for tours at (903) 984-5022.

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