CAPE FEAR GARDEN CLUB AZALEA BELLES
The Azalea Belles ﬁrst appeared as greeters in the gardens during the Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour in 1969. Mrs. Harley Vance, then president of the Cape Fear Garden Club, is credited with introducing this idea. Seven young ladies, ﬁve of whom were daughters of club members, donned dresses worn to a southern ball and made by Mrs. Augusta Counts. When the girls sat in the gardens that year, the concept of the Cape Fear Garden Club, Inc. Azalea Belles was born.
Today the Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Belle Mission Statement reads “The Cape Fear Garden Club, Inc. Azalea Belles © serve as ambassadors for the Cape Fear Garden Club©, Inc., the North Carolina Azalea Festival, and the City of Wilmington. This is a diverse group of young women dressed in colorful gowns that complement the blooms and surrounding landscapes of Wilmington, greet visitors to the Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour©, and participate in other events related to the North Carolina Azalea Festival.”
Azalea Belles must be sponsored by a member of the Cape Fear Garden Club. Priority is given to daughters and granddaughters of club members, followed by high school seniors and juniors who attend school in New Hanover County. The Belles have grown from that original seven to one hundred and forty in 2018. Most of the dresses worn today are supplied by three approved dressmakers: Alma Fennell, Kay Counts Godwin, and Debbie Scheu. The Azalea Belle Committee is chaired by Cape Fear Garden Club members: Karen Smith, Linda McCall, Heda Waldrep, Beth Trice, Stephanie Harris, and Debbie Hopper.