Friday, March 4, 2011

The North Carolina Azalea Festival: a Southern Tradition

My family is from the coastal Wilmington, NC area. Each year since 1948, the city hosts the North Carolina Azalea Festival to celebrate spring and the abundant beauty of azaleas blooming all over the state. This event is so important to North Carolina, the United States Congress honored the festival’s long and important tradition during one of its sessions in 2008.

Source: Wilmington Downtown

As part of festival events, an annual pageant is held in which twenty-one young ladies compete for the title of the N.C. Azalea Festival Princess. The 2011 N.C. Azalea Festival Princess Scholarship Pageant is takes place this Saturday night.

Source: StarNews Online

My niece Rachel is one of this year’s contestants. If crowned Princess, Rachel will receive the Beverly Anne Jurgensen Scholarship Award. If chosen as a member of the four-person court, she will still receive a college scholarship. As she will be attending one of our state universities this fall, scholarship money is foremost in Rachel’s mind.

© Carolyn Needham, All Rights Reserved

Part of the selection process involves an interview both before and during the pageant. Here is Rachel trying on her interview outfit.

© Carolyn Needham, All Rights Reserved

This photo depicts her pageant dress.

© Carolyn Needham, All Rights Reserved

During the festival, the Cape Fear Garden Club organizes a tour of the beautiful gardens to be found in Wilmington. Azalea Belles are chosen to act as hostesses in featured gardens and serve as ambassadors for the City of Wilmington during the festival. Each Belle wears a hoop-skirted antebellum dress to represent southern hospitality and reflect the beauty of the azalea plants being honored. Rachel was an Azalea Belle last year.

Although I cannot be in Wilmington to participate in the Azalea Festival events or witness tomorrow night’s pageant, I can hardly wait for my sister’s call to let us know how Rachel fares. No matter the outcome, we love Rachel dearly.


Lorrie said...

She's beautiful! I hope Rachel becomes an Azalea Belle.

Shauna said...

I'd tell her good luck, but she's a Rapp woman - of course she'll do great, with her head and her pinkies held high! ;)

Yummers! said...

Rachel is lovely, as are your photos of her in her beautiful dresses. My favorite is the 'interview suit'. That is a great color on her. Hope she wins!!

Lena said...

Well, my, she's a very lovely girl, with a beautiful smile. I wish her every success.