North Carolina Azalea Festival

Loading Events

« All Events

High School Writing Contest

April 11 - April 15

The North Carolina Azalea Festival introduced a new contest in 2017, the High School Writing Contest, in an effort to reach out to more youth in the greater Wilmington area.   High School students from New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick counties are invited to submit either a descriptive essay or poem using the prompt:  “Which traditions of the North Carolina Azalea Festival mean the most to you or the Wilmington, North Carolina community?”  Many thoughtful, interesting, and creative entries are received and judged by a team lead by local and well-renowned author, and a member of the 1958 Azalea Festival Queen’s Court, Nan Graham.  Winners and finalists are selected from each category and receive prizes from the Azalea Festival, the Lower Cape Fear Coin Club, and presenting sponsor Coastal Children’s Services.



Applications for the 2018 High School Writing Contest are currently being accepted.  Completed pieces, along with application information, are due by January 12, 2018.  Pieces should be emailed to 


High School Writing Contest Application


2017 Winners

Karleigh Kolander, Poetry Division Winner with Sarah Newton, Essay Division Winner

Karleigh Kolander, the Poetry Division winner with her entry entitled Bloom, is a long-time Azalea Festival fan, having attended many festival events with family and friends over the years.  Her favorites are the Celebrity Meet and Greets.  She is a freshman at Laney High School, who not only loves to write, but also loves to draw, dance, and act.  She has entered numerous art competitions and has appeared as an extra in several movies filmed here in Wilmington.  She enjoys running, listening to music, and hanging out with her two hilarious cats Isabella and Sabrina.  She plans to attend a four-year university or specialty art school after high school and pursue a career in the film industry as an illustrator, writer, and/or director.

Sarah Newton, the Essay Division winner with her entry entitled A Second in the Sun, is also a long-time Azalea Festival fan.  She is a junior at Topsail High School who says her favorite subjects are Science, English, especially the classes that are more interactive, and Drama.  In her spare time, she plays clarinet in the UNCW Youth Orchestra, volunteers at the CF Raptor Center, and hangs out at home with her dogs, chickens, and cockatiel Whistler.  She would love to attend NYU or Columbia after high school to study screen and/or creative writing and drama. With her impressive 4.85 GPA, her chances of admission look pretty good.

2017 Finalists

Poetry Finalists

  • Cameron Jefferson and Ava John, The Festival of Flowers, Laney High School, 12th grade
  • Callista Scholer, The Azalea Festival, Hoggard High School, 11th grade
  • Jonah Stevens, The Prose of the Festival, Topsail High School, 10th grade

Essay Finalists

  • Abigail Batt, Wilmington, North Carolina Azalea Festival, Laney High School, 10th grade
  • Caroline Flax, The North Carolina Azalea Festival, Hoggard High School, 10th grade
  • Jason Parada Lopez, The Azalea Festival, New Hanover High School, 10th grade

A Second in the Sun
Sarah Newton, Topsail High School (11th)

The sky was grey, and the rain that drizzled down on the crowd only added to the freezing air. It was the perfect day for a parade.

Several days of fun had already passed leaving every child including myself bleary-eyed and fatigued, yet anticipation rippled through the crowd as the long-awaited procession drew nearer. The crowds had begun gathering by seven that morning, every person itching to find the best spot. I was one of the luckier few who had been blessed with a front row seat merely feet from the Grandstand; it had become my family’s personal spot years before.

My eyes spotted people hanging from the balconies of the buildings around me as they attempted to spot the parade that had not begun. A child scurried past my feet as the rain hardened, arms stretched towards the shelter his mother’s umbrella provided. I caught site of a slightly wet pom-pom falling to the ground without the boy noticing, and I shot up from my chair to assist, retrieving the fallen toy and returning it to its owner. My reward was a soft grin before I retreated back to my chair.

I watched as flashes of color cut through the thickening mist. Umbrellas of all shapes and sizes surrounded me, and I raised my own umbrella to add its navy blue to the rainbow that had appeared. I watched strangers tapping their neighbors, begging for an escape from the shower that plagued us. Words were exchanged and friendships were formed. Fellow parents shook hands as their kids danced around together, elderly couple watched children race past their feet, and teens scooted towards familiar faces of old friends.

Then the sirens sounded, and every single person took a breath, silence settling around us like a thin blanket. The vendors stopped shouting and children fell uncharacteristically silent; for just a moment, time stood still. Balcony dwellers reanimated first, and cries from below soon followed as the police department led the parade. The spectacle was mere seconds compared to the build-up. Each float passed all too quickly, but they all provided the crowd with the same awe. And then it was over, but the feeling remained. Despite the physical divides between each of us, for a few moments, the sun reappeared. Class systems, ethnicity, rivalries, and everything that separated mankind dissolved. And in those moments, we were united.

Karleigh Kolander, Laney High School (9th)

People gather left and right,
Children smile with pure delight.
The NC Azalea Festival has come to town,
Artwork, azaleas and music abound.

Concerts, banquets and beautiful homes,
Funnel cakes, lemonade and ice cream cones.
Vendors showcase jewelry, paintings and much more,
Elegant garden parties are filled with Azalea Belles and flowers galore.

As many fill the crowded streets,
Some stand in line for celebrity greets.
Locals and visitors stroll the riverfront downtown,
Others watch the parade to see the Azalea Queen wearing her new crown.

Our Wilmington community and volunteers shine bright,
The festival by the sea is quite a sight.
Even when the festival has come to its last hour,
Our community continues to bloom like a beautiful flower.


April 11
April 15
Event Category:


Coastal Children’s Services