North Carolina Azalea Festival

2017 Invited Guests

Chaplain, Major General Dondi E. Costin

Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Dondi E. Costin is the Chief of Chaplains, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. As a member of the special staff of the Chief of Staff, he establishes guidance and provides advice on all matters pertaining to the religious and moral welfare of Air Force personnel. He is responsible for establishing effective programs to meet the religious needs of Air Force members and their dependents.  As  Chief of Chaplains, he is the senior pastor for more than  664,000  active-duty,   Guard,  Reserve,   and

civilian forces serving in the U.S. and overseas. He leads an Air Force Chaplain Corps of approximately 2,000 chaplains and chaplain assistants from the active duty and Air Reserve components. As a member of the Armed Forces Chaplain Board, he and his colleagues advise the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on religious, ethical and quality-of-life concerns.


Chaplain Costin is a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, and was commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation from the United States Air Force Academy in 1986. He then served as a squadron-level scientific analyst evaluating air-to-ground precision guided munitions, chief of scientific analysis on a major command headquarters staff, and assistant professor of aerospace studies. He completed a competitive category transfer into the Air Force Chaplain Corps in 1996.


His assignments include Protestant Chaplain, Eglin AFB, Florida; Langley AFB, Virginia; Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas; Protestant Chaplain, 37th Training Wing, Lackland AFB, Texasl;  RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom; Student, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama; Senior Protestant Chaplain, Pope AFB, North Carolina; Staff Chaplain, Fort Dix, New Jersey; Chief, Chaplain Corps Resource Board, Maxwell AFB, Alabama; Student, Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama; Wing Chaplain, Spangdahlem AB, Germany; Command Chaplain, U.S. Air Forces Central, Southwest Asia and Pacific Air Forces.


A graduate of The United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia; Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, Virginia; Squadron Officer School, Maxwell AFB, Alabama; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama; The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky; The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky; Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama

Emily Loftiss

Georgia born Emily Loftiss is the "Queen of Everyday Glam!" A former pageant queen and Radio City Rockette, with a love for fake eyelashes and rhinestones. Emily's stand out, charming southern personality mixed with her love of fashion has sent her on a wild ride from fashion weeks to national television. As a Style and Beauty expert on Emily has appeared on "The Steve Harvey Show," "The Doctors," "The Insider", "The Real", "Hollywood Today Live," regular contributor on "Good Day LA," Boris and NicoleMTV's "Made" and part of OK!TV's and Celebrity Page Style Team. With an international readership from over 170 countries of her popular blog "Loftiss Says",  Emily has been a featured contributor on Huffington PostAOLBeauty,, Brides, and Red Carpet 101. You can watch Emily weekly on her Facebook Live show "Everyday Glam with Emily Loftiss."

She was named "the IT girl" by Rivera Magazine and Henri Bendel, and "One to Watch" by Southern Living Magazine, spokesperson with brands as MacysTrina TurkOld NavyRoC Skincare, Birchbox and Instyler. Emily's passion though, is helping real women on a budget feel just as glamorous as the celebrities she styles for Hollywood's Red Carpets. She's passionate about helping women of all sizes navigate trends, find a good tailor and play up their best assets! Emily recently moved from Orange County, CA to Boston, MA with her handsome husband and feline child Lady June Dion. #RollTide

Jordyn Wieber

American gymnast Jordyn Wieber was born on July 12, 1995 in DeWitt, Michigan. This teenage gymnastics phenom caught the world’s attention by becoming the 2011 American Cup Champion, beating out the reigning world all-around champion at the time. She went on to become the best gymnast in the world when she won the all-around at the 2011 World Championships and was undefeated in six major gymnastics competitions in 2011 and 2012. A key member of the “Fierce Five”, Jordyn helped the U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team capture the team gold medal at the London Olympic Games in 2012.

Jordyn is currently a full-time student and remains involved in gymnastics through her various partnerships with youth camps each year, and her participation in the 2016 Kellogg’s Post-Olympic Tour. An iconic figure to young women worldwide, Jordyn is still one of the top names in gymnastics with an incredibly passionate social media following.



Career Highlights

  • 2016 Kellogg’s Post-Olympic USA Tour 2012 Olympic Team Gold Medalist
  • 2012 Visa Championships All-Around Champion
  • 2012 Pacific Rim All-Around, Team, & Floor Champion 2012 American Cup All-Around Champion
  • 2011 World All-Around & Team Champion
  • 2011 Visa Championships All-Around, Bars, & Floor Champion 2011 American Cup All-Around Champion
  • 2010 Pacific Rim Team Champion
  • 2010 Cover Girl Classic All-Around, Vault, & Bars Champion 2010 Pacific Rim All-Around, Team, Bars, Beam, & Floor Champion
  • 2009 American Cup All-Around, Vault, Bars, & Beam Champion 2008 Visa Championships All-Around, Vault, & Bars

McKenzie Jade Faggart, Miss North Carolina 2016

McKenzie Jade Faggart, Miss North Carolina 2016, is a native of Concord. She has been involved with the Miss America Organization since the age of 16 and was North Carolina's Outstanding Teen in 2011. McKenzie also finished in the Top 12 at Miss America's Outstanding Teen and was named the People's Choice.

During her senior year of high school, McKenzie was severely bullied. She created "The SAFE Project" to share her story and help others. Her SAFE campaign against bullying, is an acronym in which she encourages everyone to Support one another, Accept differences and individuality, Forgive wrong doings or ask for forgiveness, and Evolve into a better self, stronger than before. McKenzie developed "Masterclasses with McKenzie," and travels to dance studios statewide to share her platform.



Sean Ruttkay, North Carolina Azalea Festival Official Artist

Father, surfer, and artist, are some of the labels that come to mind when describing Sean D. Ruttkay. However, it was the label of “dyslexic” in the first grade that Ruttkay was first given. “Early in my school years teachers and the community did not think that a person with my level of dyslexia could make it to college,” says Ruttkay. “But growing up with swimming and later finding surfing and surf culture, I believe I was able to work through these barriers and build the life that I had hoped for. And I owe it all to the power of water.”

This desire to be with water and the ocean motivated Ruttkay to graduate both high school and and then from college at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Teaching Degree in Special Education with an academic focus on students with dyslexia. But at this point Ruttkay decided to pivot. So after graduating in 2005, Ruttkay decided to pursue a new, creative path in life, one that was true to his hydro based spirit. He started Elemental Digital Art (EDA Surf) with the mission of spreading the visual power of water to the built environment through art installations. Since 2005 Ruttkay, through his brand EDA Surf, has shipped, and installed thousands of holistic water art pieces.  Residential, corporate, and healthcare spaces, from Singapore to Washington, D.C. have found value in Ruttkay’s ability to transform both interior and exterior, with grand mood-stimulating installations. Today Sean Ruttkay lives and works with his wife Cornelia, daughter Nealie (4) and son Dax (2) in Wilmington, North Carolina.


Paris Berelc

Paris was born & raised in the suburbs of Milwaukee WI. She's a mixture of French Canadian, European and Asian (Filipino). Paris started in dance at the age of 4 then competed in gymnastics for 9 years. She started a modeling career when she was 9 with Ford Models Chicago then begun an acting career a few years later.

Mighty Med is the first TV series Paris booked shortly after she came to LA. After two seasons, Disney decided to combine Mighty Med with Lab Rats: Elite Force where Paris reprised her role as Skylar Storm. In between shows, Paris was casted as Molly on a Disney Original Movie, Invisible Sister.