Hugh Morton, along with Dr. Houston Moore, was an original founder of the Azalea Festival and was an avid supporter of Wilmington. He served as a newsreel cameraman in World War II and was the President of the North Carolina Press Photographers Association in 1949. Morton also promoted conservationism and demonstrated this through his continual work to preserve Grandfather Mountain along with the 4,000 acres of land he had inherited. Hugh also was instrumental in bringing the USS North Carolina Battleship to Wilmington.
David Harriss was a member of the Southeastern North Carolina Beach Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and the second President of the Azalea Festival.
Hal Love was a member of the New Hanover Board of County Commissioners, President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Treasurer for the Jaycees, and a member of the Rotary Club.
E. L. White
E. L. White was a businessman and former Mayor of Wilmington. He was a member of the Festival council for eight years, a member of the State Highway Commission, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and President of the Rotary Club in 1958.
Allen Jones served in the US Navy during World War II. After the war, Jones had a growing radio career starting in Virginia and then moving to Wilmington to work for WGNI. Later on, he worked for the Tobacco Radio Network and Capital Broadcasting in Raleigh. Jones also helped to bring the USS North Carolina Battleship to Wilmington, was a member of the Wilmington Lions Club, and served on the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce and Wilmington Merchants Association. Jones believed that the success of the festival came from the hard work and support of many people.
Rye B. Page
Rye B. Page served in the US Army during World War II. After the war, he joined his family in the newspaper business and eventually bought the business in 1955. In 1972, Page sold the Wilmington property to the New York Times, retired, and moved to Florida. While in Wilmington, he was very active in his community being a member of various clubs, being a member on multiple boards such as the Board of Managers of James Walker Memorial Hospital, and being the President of the Azalea Festival and Comm. Of 100. During his reign as Azalea Festival President, the souvenir booklets were first introduced.
Edward L. Ward
Edward Ward was President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, received the outstanding young man of the year award in 1953, and was a member of the Wilmington Kiwanis Club. He believed that the greatest reward from the festival was working with volunteers who put it all together.
Louis Latham was the 8th President of the Azalea Festival. Sara Shane was the Azalea Queen and Libby Beck (Cameron) was the Princess that year. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and was the chairmen of the Agricultural Committee of the Committee of 100.
William S. Rehder
William Rehder was the 9th President of the Azalea Festival. His Queen that year was Polly Bergen and the Azalea Festival Princess was Mary Frances All (Forrester). He was a member of the Wilmington Civitan Club and received the Civitan Award of the Year for his civic service during his time with the festival.
W.G. Broadfoot, Jr.
W.G. Broadfoot, Jr. worked for Pan American Airways in New York until serving in the Army Air Corps. He was a P-38 fighter pilot and received many awards including Distinguished Flying Cross, British Distinguished Flying Cross, Chinese Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star and Air Medal. After returning from the Air Force, he created his own business, Building Management, Inc. Broadfoot is responsible for bringing ABC television to Wilmington and was a partner in developing The Bowling Center. He was the former mayor of Rattlesnake Channel Community, a member of the Rotary Club, served on the State Ports Authority, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. His most vivid recollection was of the 10th Azalea Queen, Kathryn Grayson.
Frederick Willetts, Jr.
After serving in World War II, Frederick Willetts, Jr. started working at Cooperative Savings and Loan Association, eventually becoming the President of the Cooperative. He was one of the founders of Cape Fear Academy. He opened the first branch office of a Savings and Loan in 1954 in Jacksonville and in 1991 he became the Chairmen of the Board of Directors for the company. He also served on the Board of Commissioners, the Board of the Committee of 100, the Wilmington Redevelopment Commission, and was a member of the Rotary Club.
Walker Taylor, Jr.
Walker Taylor Jr. served as a merchant officer in the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II and as a US Naval Officer in the Korean War. He was heavily involved within his community and church, and was the Director of the Brigade Boys and Girls Club. Taylor also became the oldest person in the US to earn their CPCU designation.
Robert A. Little
Robert A. Little was a marine veteran. He was very activity in the community as President of the Wilmington Printing Co., President of Printing Industries of the Carolinas, President of the Health Sciences Foundation Inc., a member of the Printing Industries of America advisory board, a member of the Ash Kahn society, a member of the Wilmington Rotary Club, and a Board Member of the North Carolina National Bank. He loved being able to see the festival expand and improve over the years.
E.S. Capps was the Mayor while serving as the 14th Azalea Festival President. He was a member of the Wilmington City Council, President of the Wilmington Kiwanis Club, Arab Shrine Club, and the Propeller Club. He was the director of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Executive Committee of the Committee of 100. He believed that the Azalea Festival gives the city an opportunity to show itself at its very best.
Allan T. Strange
Allan Strange served in General Patton’s 3rd Army and Army Reserves. He was very active and involved in his community. He was the President of the Wilmington Civitan Club, United Way, NC Society of the Cincinnati, Cape Fear Country Club, and the United Insurance Agency. He was a Board Member of Oakdale Cemetery, on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce, Secretary of the Carolina Yacht Club, and Chairman of Wilmington-New Hanover Insurance Advisory Committee. He described his Azalea Festival Presidency as being exhausting, but stimulating, exciting, and inspiring at the same time.
L. Bradford Tillery
L. Bradford Tillery served in the US Navy as a gunnery officer in World War II. He began a legal career in 1950 and served as County Attorney for New Hanover County until he was elected as District Court Judge in 1968. He was appointed as Judge of Superior Court in 1970 and was named Senior Resident Judge for the Fifth Judicial District. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1988 and served as an emergency judge throughout his retirement. For Tillery, the thrill of the festival was seeing how everything came together as a success.
W. A. Raney owned and operated Raney Chevrolet Company with his father until 1968. He was the Co-Founder of Coastal Motors and the first recipient of Wilmington Civitan Good Citizenship Award. He was very active in the community, being the President of the Wilmington Civitan Club, Lt. Governor of NC District of Civitan International, United Way, American Red Cross, and the Cornelia Nixon Davis Nursing Home. He was also the Director of Oakdale Cemetery, Babies Hospital, Family Service Society, and Brigade Boys & Girls Club among numerous other activities. During his time as president, he remembered how loved Queen Abby Dalton was.
G. Stanley Rehder
G. Stanley Rehder served in World War II, saving eight GI’s when their ship was torpedoed. He volunteered with the Azalea Festival for 45 years beginning with the first Azalea Festival in 1948. He was widely known as “The Flytrap Man” for his advocacy for the region’s carnivorous plants. He was on many shows including NBC’s “Today Show,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “That’s Incredible,” and on UNC-TV’s “North Carolina People” where he discussed carnivorous plants. In the 1970’s he launched Stanley Rehder Reality, while still continually lobbying for greater protection of the plants he loved. He described his time of Presidency as “utter confusion and utter pleasure.”
Lloyd W. Moore
Lloyd Moore was a Wilmington businessman and civic leader. He served as President of the Carolina Savings Bank from 1967 until he retired in 1979. He was the President of the North Carolina Association of Realtors, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and the Wilmington Civitan Club. He was President and Treasurer of the North Carolina League of Savings Association and was Vice Chairmen of the New Hanover County Social Services Board.
John Van B. Metts
John Van B. Metts was born in Wilmington and served in the Coast Guard during World War II. He was very involved in his community and was elected as a New Hanover County Commissioner in 1960-1964 and 1966-1970. He was New Hanover County Chairman in 1970.
B.E. “Bill” Huffine worked in the housing and construction industry before moving to Wilmington where he was a real estate and business broker. He was very active in his community where he was the President of the Wilmington Board of Realtors, President of the North Carolina Trial Association, and a member of the Advisory Committee of the North Carolina Wildlife Commission.
F. P. Fensel was the 22nd President of the Azalea Festival. He was President of the Wilmington Kiwanis Club, Chairman of the UNCW Board of Trustees, Chairman of the New Hanover Regional Hospital Board, a Board Member of the Chamber of Commerce, and a Board Member of the Committee of 100.
William H. Sutton
William H. Sutton served in the US Coast Guard during World War II. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Commerce. He was the Owner and President of Sutton Council Furniture Company. Over the years he was recognized for his business and community involvement. Sutton loved that the Festival involved the wonderful cooperation of the committees and the public.
Frank Ballard was a Wilmington architect and a partner in the firm Ballard, McKim, and Sawyer. He was President of the North Carolina State University Alumni Association and the Wilmington Junior Chamber of Commerce. He was also an officer in the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
John C. Hall
John Hall served in the Navy attached to the US Marine Corps in World War II in the Pacific Theatre. Before retiring from Wheless-Hall Ltd. in 1989, he was involved in the restoration of Elizabeth Bridgers Mansion and was a partner of Graystone Galleries Interiors from 1972-1976. He was also part owner of Willetts Insurance Agency from 1951-1972. He was very active in clubs within the community including the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Surf Club, Carolina Yacht Club, and Cape Fear Country Club.
Franklin Elmore was an insurance executive and owner of C.B. Parmele and Co. He was the Secretary-Treasurer of Shell Island Corp. and Parmele Inc. His was involved in many clubs within the community including the Cape Fear Club, Cape Fear Country Club, Carolina Yacht Club, Surf Club, the Elk L’Ariosa, and St. John’s Lodge AF and AM. He was also a President of Wilmington Association of Independent Insurance Agents.
W. Allen Cobb
W. Allen Cobb served in the US Army in Panama, France, and Germany during World War II and in the National Guard from 1948 to 1965. He began a legal career working for US Representative Harold Cooley in Washington, D.C. In 1947 he moved to Wilmington and practiced private law. He was the town attorney for Wrightsville Beach for 5 years and in 1967 was appointed as District Attorney until retiring. After retiring, he continued to practice law part-time.
William R. Burns
W.R. Burns was the Manager at the JC Penny’s store. He came to Wilmington from New York City where he worked in the Sales and Planning Division for JC Penny’s. He was a President of the Greater Wilmington Merchants Association and served on the Board of Wilmington-New Hanover Planning Commission. He was involved in the Cape Fear Club and Cape Fear Country Club.
Thurman W. Sallade
Thurman W. Sallade was the President of the 29th Azalea Festival. Rita McLaughlin was the Azalea Queen that year and Rossie Dean Herring (Bowen) was the Azalea Princess. The Parade during his Presidency had five commanders of veteran’s organizations serving as the Parade marshals. It was a wonderful tribute to the veteran’s organizations.
Terry is a native Wilmingtonian and works in the metal recycling business. Terry has seen the festival develop over the years and continues to participate in festival activities each year. Many of his greatest friends are people we worked with in the festival. Terry has too many wonderful memories to pick a favorite, but the most beautiful set was Sam Garner’s recreation of the Lumina Ballroom band shell for the queen’s coronation.
Russell Clark served in the US Army from 1953-1955 where he was stationed in Japan. He was an oil jobber for 49 years and for most of those years he was the General Manager with Springer-Eubank Oil Company. He also worked for L & T General Enterprises where he was an Office Manager. Clark was very involved in his community, being the Co-Chairmen of New Hanover County Human Relations Week in 1975, the President of Cape Fear Club in 2005, and serving on the UNC Educational Foundation Board of Directors in 2001.
Paul Burton is a Wilmington New Hanover High School graduate of the class of 1953. He graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Civil Engineering, and started his own company, Burton Steel Co., in 1975. He has a loving wife Jane and beautiful daughter Ashley.
F.P. Fensel, Jr.
F.P. Fensel, Jr. was President of the Azalea Festival in 1979. He was also president of the Cape Fear Sertoma Club, Chairman Committee of 100, Chairman of the Cameron Art Museum, Board member of the United Way, Board member of the Chamber of Commerce, Chair of UNCW Endowment Board, member of the UNCW Board of Visitors, Board member of the Bellamy Mansion, past member of the Wilmington Rotary Club, Bando America advisory Board Member, and sat on the Parker Hannifin Advisory Board.
Donald Britt has been a downtown resident for 40 years with a deep interest in preservation and restoration of our built environment. He has served as President of the following organizations: Historic Wilmington Foundation, Wilmington Downtown, Inc., Wilmington Rotary Club, The Carousel Center, and WHQR. His best memory of his Presidential year is asking Hugh Morton, the festival’s first President, to go with him to the airport to meet Bob Hope’s plane. Mr. Morton and Mr. Britt walked out to the plane and Bob Hope came down the steps. His first words were “Hi Hugh, how’s your golf game.” Needless to say Mr. Britt was impressed. As part of the arrival ceremony, Sheriff Radewicz made Mr. Hope an honorary inmate of the New Hanover County jail. A picture of Bob Hope wearing his “mugshot plate” was on the front page of the Star News the next day. It was a great start to the festival for that year!
Ed Ward, Jr.
In 1948, Ed Ward’s father was President of the Jaycees, and appointed Hugh Morton (who had missed the meeting!) as the first President of the Azalea Festival. Five years later, Edward Ward (Sr.) was made President. Twenty-seven years later, Ed Ward, Jr. became President. The entire family, including Mrs. Ward (Sr), worked on the festival for many years. Mrs. Ward worked in the office, and Ed Ward, Jr. worked on most of the activities as a teen and as an adult. It truly was a family affair for the Ward family!
James Carter remembers riding on the Sunset Park Skating Rink float with his family in the 1957 Azalea Festival Parade, never occurring to him that one day he would be the President of the festival! He thanks Don Britt for getting him a job as a bartender at the Airlie Luncheon in 1975 (still his most favorite festival job)! James moved on to catering with Bill Bridges and later became Chairman. His main duty was to “guard” the supplies in the Hospitality Room. James stood on the tall shoulders of all the fine presidents who came before him, and thanks his officers for making his Presidential year-1983-a great one! Favorite memories include riding in the Winnebago, Pat Sajack (the emcee that year), Airlie Luncheons, Bob Hope, the Beach Boys, and meeting a very young Michael Jordan. James wants to thank the men and women in every position who have worked so hard through the years since his Presidency who continue this beautiful tradition. His thinks it is wonderful to see what the Azalea Festival has become today. James is a proud NHHS Wildcat (1967) and graduate of Wake Forest University (1971) and Wake Forest Law School (1974). He is married to Markay, and has two children and two grandchildren. He enjoys traveling, sailing, golfing, hiking, and spending time with family and friends.
William N. Rose
William “Bill” Rose grew up in Wallace, NC and marched with his High School Band in the Festival Parade when he was in the 9th grade-sometime around 1958. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, Bill became a Naval Officer serving several years aboard a ship in the Pacific and a year in Viet Nam with the River Patrol Forces in 1968. Bill remained in the Naval Reserves and later retired as a Commander after 20 years. Mr, Rose came to Wilmington with a mortgage company in the early 70’s and then joined Carolina Savings and Loan where he first got involved with the Festival on the catering committee, later chairing it, then becoming an officer and President in 1984. He remained with the Bank for 25 years, becoming its President before its merger with BB & T. After a few years with them, Bill started a second career as a Commercial Real Estate Broker which has continued until this day. Bill is probably the most proud of the concerts during his year as President, they had two concerts of Barbara Mandrel back to back, the first time that was ever done, and a complete sell out show of Johnny Mathis, the first time that was ever done. These successful concerts put the Festival on sound financial footing for several years to come.
Frederick Willetts, III
Frederick Willetts III was President of Wilmington Downtown, Chairman of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Wilmington Industrial Development, Chairman/CEO of Cooperative Bank, Chairman of NC Bankers Association, Vice Chairman of American Bankers Association, Director of Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, past member of the Federal Reserve Board Advisory Council, and was named Citizen of the Year by Civitans and the Jaycees. Frederick is also a member of the Wilmington Rotary Club. During the 1980’s he led the Festival to help fund adding air conditioning to Trask Coliseum at UNC- Wilmington.
H.E. Miller, Jr.
Gene is an Engineering Graduate of NC State University, completed the UNC Chapel Hill Executive Program, a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, a Founder of Cape Fear Academy, and a retired officer, US Army Reserve. His career was in Construction, Development, and Real Estate. Gene is a Registered Engineer, a Registered Surveyor, a Licensed Contractor, and a Real Estate agent. He was proud to be Chairman of the Committee of 100, President of the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, and of course, President of the North Carolina Azalea Festival at Wilmington. Gene served two terms on Governor Hunt’s Economic Development Board, and served on the Executive Committee of the North Carolina Citizen’s for Business and Industry. Mr. Miller organized the eleven-county Southeastern North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission and served as its chair for ten years. He served as State Chairman of the umbrella organization for the seven partnerships. Gene served three terms on the Economic Investment Committee of North Carolina’s JDIG program with a budget for incentives of $150 million over 10 years. He served on the Cameron School of Business’ Business Council and the Executive Advisory board. Gene has also served on many civic, professional, and social boards of directors. Gene was awarded the Silver Beaver by the BSA, and also awarded the honor of the “Order of the Long Leaf Pine”.
Doug Echols was a real estate developer. He loved Wilmington and worked to preserve and grow the area. He was a large supporter of The Boy Scouts of America and the Humane Society. During his time as Azalea Festival President, he and a team started the Street Fair in order to encourage people to stay downtown after the Parade had finished.
David Ward is a native Wilmingtonian and attended these fine schools: N.H.H.S., W.F, NCS, ECU, and UNCW. He has served as a judge for Miss N.C. Pageants and Miss American State Pageants. David has served with the Food Bank of N.C., and the Girls and Boys Home. He has a loving wife Joan, five daughters, four granddaughters, and one grandson. Davis worked on the Azalea Festive Committee for 24 years.
William H. Cameron
Bill feels fortunate to have grown up in Wilmington and been here his entire life with the exception of college and graduate school. He returned to Wilmington in 1979 after graduating and practiced law for 3 years. He then worked as Chief Operating Officer of Atlantic Telecasting Corporation until it was sold in 1986. Since then Bill has worked with Cameron Company, LLC and Cameron Management, Inc in real estate development, property management, and other private equity ventures. Throughout his time in Wilmington he has enjoyed being involved in different organizations outside the Azalea Festival, including serving his alma mater UNC Chapel Hill, UNCW, St Andrews Covenant Presbyterian Church, Bible Study Fellowship, YMCA, Committee of 100, and others. He is married to Mary Jo Cameron and they have 5 grown children and 3 grandchildren. Bill’s favorite Azalea Festival memory is easily the many wonderful people he has had the opportunity to meet and work with during his tenure with the festival. He has made so many new friends whose friendships continue to this day that he would not have encountered but for the Azalea Festival.
Rodney E. Everhart
Rodney grew up in Carolina Beach surfing in the 60’s and started working in the car business after high school. His first job with the North Carolina Azalea Festival was transportation and he was the driver for Andy Williams in the early 80’s. Andy invited Rodney to fly with him in his private plane to the Masters final round and Doug Sanders met them at the airport. He cherishes all the memories of the Festival and friends!! Rodney is retired and living in Kitty Hawk OBX.
Lee was born and raised in Ashland, Ky. He attended Wake Forest University, where he met his bride of over 50 years, Bettielou Schutt, a native of Wilmington, who was attending Salem College at the time. After a stint in the US Army, Bettielou and Lee settled in Wilmington and have been here ever since. Lee enjoyed a long career as a CPA and most recently has been a commercial real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services. Lee was first introduced to the workings of the Azalea Festival by Bill Rose when he asked Bettielou and Mr. Weddle to escort one of the celebrities during the 1984 Festival. Lee has been hooked ever since! Later Lee served as President of the 1991 Azalea Festival. Festival memories are a treasured part of Lee’s life. Perhaps the most treasured are the friendships and relationships that have become an integral part of his life. A camaraderie that’s hard to explain – what a blessing!
Beverly A. Jurgensen
Beverly A. Jurgensen began her career working in the family business, Jurgensen Motor Transfer. She was Director of Human Resources with the Wilmington Star News for twenty-eight years and was the Employee Relations Manager for the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group for three and a half years. She was the first female member of the Lower Cape Fear Personnel Association and their first female President. She was also heavily involved in the community, being a part of the City of Wilmington Advisory Board, Employment Security Advisory Board, American Red Cross, and Hanover Seaside Club. She was also the first female Azalea Festival President.
James B. Stokley, Jr.
James B. Stokley, Jr. was President of the Azalea Festival in 1993- and there are so many memories he cherished! One of his favorites was the trip up the Cape Fear River on The Henrietta Riverboat with Azalea Festival Queen – Kelly Ripa. They also had the first Alan Jackson concert that year and it was every bit as successful as the most recent one in 2015.
Hank Miller is President of Miller Realty Associates Inc., M&N Equipment Rentals Inc., and serves as a Senior Vice President for Cape Fear Commercial, LLC. Prior to joining Cape Fear Commercial, Mr. Miller was Chairman of Miller Building Corporation. During his tenure as Chairman, the Company was consistently ranked in the NC Top 100 privately held companies with over 250 million in annual revenues with building activity in twenty-three states. A native of Wilmington, Mr. Miller attended North Carolina State University and received a B.S. in Business Management from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He serves as a member of the Board of Alderman for the Town of Wrightsville Beach, member of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Board of Trustees, member of the Wilmington Urban Area Transportation Advisory Committee, member of the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS Government Affairs Committee, ex officio member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, Assistant Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Cape Fear Council of Boy Scouts and as Past President of the Board of Directors of the Thalian Association.. He has served as Chairman of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Foundation Board, Board Member of the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees, the Leadership Team of the Partners for Economic Inclusion, Town of Wrightsville Beach Planning Board, Past-President of the Board of Directors of Cape Fear Academy, Co-chairman of the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla and is a Past President of the North Carolina Azalea Festival (1994). He has also served as a member of the Southeastern North Carolina Economic Development Commission, member of the Board of Directors of the Charlotte Partnership and North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry. He lives in Wrightsville Beach with his wife Maggie (Andrews) and their sons Henry IV and Mac. Most people remember that Frank Sinatra headlined the Festival; those involved and some others might remember that Mr. Sinatra fell at a concert in Richmond 14 days earlier. The Festival had sold out the concert in 1993 in the fall and had sold it out in the round. Once he fell the Festival was told he would perform in the thrust, assuming he was able to make it. The Festival announced the situation and offered refunds (Mr. Miller believes) for those behind the stage and between the stage manager and office manager the Festival re-seated the coliseum without re-seating and re-ticketing the patrons. On the day of the show Mr. Miller went to check things out; the orchestra was performing a sound check and things looked okay but Hank could tell when he saw the stage manager that it wasn’t good. At that time he learned the production manager thought “the Boss wasn’t going to make it.” Mr. Miller kept this to himself; but when the Official Party got to the coliseum around 7 pm; Sinatra still wasn’t there. Finally, at 7:30 Mr. Sinatra got to the coliseum and Hank was able to meet him backstage with his best friend Louie Burney, Jr. The show went on to a sellout crowd who never new any different. It was a night Mr. Miller will remember forever.
Helen’s first involvement in the Azalea Festival was in high school as part of the Azalea Festival Youth Committee. Later she was asked to be Chairman of Children’s Events which were held at Greenfield Lake in 1980. The program was so well received that Doug Echols, an Azalea Festival officer at that time, proposed the festivities be expanded and moved to the riverfront in 1981. His vision saw the creation of a new event, the “Street Fair.” As the first Chairman of the Street Fair, the program grew into a three-day event which included not only children’s events but arts and crafts, entertainment, celebrities, cartoon characters, fireworks, visiting ships and over 10 stages all free to the public. Helen became Assistant Treasurer of the Azalea Festival in 1990 and worked her way through all of the officer positions until she became President in 1995. If you look closely at the print the year she was President you’ll see the initials of her family. Always active in the community she has served as Chair of Marine Expo, Chair of St. Thomas Celebration of the Arts, Chair of the Wilmington- New Hanover County Naval Affairs Committee, Chair of U.S. Olympic Festival Torch Run, President of Friends of the Battleship North Carolina, is a member of the inaugural group of Ladies of the Cape Fear in 2011. In January 1999, Queen Elizabeth appointed Mrs. Lewis an Honorary Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). She is the General Manager of Independence Mall.
Michael W. Creed holds a BS and MS in civil engineering from North Carolina State University. He completed the Executive Program at UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business and he has a PhD in City & Regional Planning also from UNC Chapel Hill. He is co-founder of McKim & Creed, Inc., an engineering and technology company with 20 offices across six states. Creed serves as chairman of the McKim & Creed Board of Directors. He also serves on the NC State Engineering Foundation Board and the Industry Advisory Council for ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology programs. He is currently developing townhouses in the TND Village of Cheshire located in Black Mountain, NC. Michael’s fondest memories of the Festival were the great feelings of accomplishment when everything went perfectly as planned and the sun shone brightly for Airlie Luncheon on Friday and the Parade on Saturday. It was always fun to re-hash each day’s events in the hospitality suite at the end of the day. His most cherished memories center around all the wonderful friends he made while directly involved with the Festival and all the new friends he’s made with the new officers over the years.
Uldis Birzenieks was an Executive Vice President at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. He also was a Commissioner for New Hanover County, was on the Board of Trustees for New Hanover Regional Medical Center, and was on the Board of the Seahawk Club for over 20 years and is still an honorary member. Birzenieks remembers all of the excitement over Frank Sinatra being lead entertainment during one of the festivals. This time was also nerve wracking because before the festival, Sinatra had passed out during a concert in Richmond, VA and it was unsure if he would be able to perform at the festival. Another fond memory he had was of the Princess the year of his Presidency, Liz Harris (now Carroll). He thought she was a wonderful Princess, spoke very well before the Senate in Raleigh, and was elated she was President of the Festival in 2015.
W.A. Cobb, Jr.
In 1998, W. Allen Cobb, Jr. was the 51st President of the Azalea Festival. His father, W. Allen Cobb, was the 27th president (1974), which makes him one of the few father-son legacies. He is currently the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge for the Fifth Superior Court District (New Hanover and Pender counties), having served for over 25 years. Judge Cobb was President of the NC Conference of Superior Court Judges and Vice President of the NC Bar Association. He is currently a member of the NC Courts Commission. He was President of the Wilmington Executives Club and President of the Cape Fear Council, Boy Scouts of America. He received the BSA Silver Beaver Award. Judge Cobb has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Cape Fear Community College, the UNC Chapel Hill General Alumni Association, the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Visitors, the UNC Chapel Hill Morehead-Cain Foundation Scholars Program regional selection committee, and the UNC Wilmington Board of Visitors. Judge Cobb is married to Debra C. Cobb, and has a son who is married with two daughters. Judge Cobb has hundreds of Azalea Festival memories. None compare, however, to the many lifelong friendships he acquired with the volunteers during his twenty plus years with the festival.
Bill Rudisill has been the co-owner of several Hilton branded hotels for last 15 years. Currently he sits on the Brigade Boys & Girls Club Board, Cape Fear Country Club Board, and is Chair of New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation. Bill’s most memorable story of the 1999 Azalea Festival was trying to get James Taylor as one of the Festival concerts. Taylor accused Rudisill of stalking him jokingly, worked hard from every angle to sign him, calling his office directly, contacting the Bob Cherry family of Chapel Hill who were best friends of the Taylor family growing up in Chapel Hill. One Cherry daughter was in the same band as James, practicing every Sunday in the basement. In the end, James just could not work out his travel and band schedule and he left me a personal voice mail on my office phone. I kept listening to his voice mail, saving it to hear over and over, and then one day, the voice mail disappeared off phone! To this day, James has never appeared at the Azalea Festival!
Emily Longley was the President the North Carolina Azalea Festival in 2000. She was the President of the Longley Supply Company. Emily was also very involved within her community being a Chairmen of the Chamber of Commerce, on the Board of the Coastal Horizons Center, on the UNCW Foundation Board, and on the Board of WCFHBA Association. Her favorite memory was having the first outdoor concert for the Azalea Festival!
David was born in Wilmington and graduated from UNC-Wilmington in 1982, after which he continued to give back to his alma mater by serving as President of the UNCW Seahawk Club. David’s love for the festival began as a kid when he was a clown in the Parade! He started volunteering for the festival in high school and served on several committees including transportation, back stage concert security, communications, Parade and Parade Chairman before he was elected to the board in 1995. He served as President in 2001 after 24 years of volunteering. His favorite festival moment by far was in 2004; he and his wife were escorts, and David won a dance contest and was serenaded on stage in Trask Coliseum by Jessica Simpson.
Paula Lentz Corbett
Paula has lived in Wilmington for over 40 years and has been married to Albert, a native Wilmingtonian, for over 10 years. Collectively they had five children and have four beautiful grandchildren. Paula is founder and CEO of Eastcoast Research, a company which conducts consumer research for fortune 500 companies around the United States in North Carolina. She felt it a privilege to volunteer for the North Carolina Azalea Festival for 22 years and serve as the 2002 President “The Year of 9/11”. It was an honor and pleasure to work with over 1200 volunteers to continue the wonderful tradition during one of the most tragic times in American History. The theme was “A Salute to America’s Heroes”. Hero celebrities were Jerry Reilly, New York Firefighter, who saved thousands of lives in the Twin Towers on 9/11; General Richard Williams, who was in the Pentagon on the day of the attack; Colonial Curtis Brown, American Astronaut, and Azalea Festival Queen Valerie Wildman, actor and National Domestic Violence spokesperson. She remembers it being quite the year!
Wanda’s first Azalea Festival volunteer position was working on the Reviewing Stand. She eventually moved on to the Major Sponsor committee, then became an officer. Wanda’s best festival memory is that in her role as New Hanover County Attorney, when she was involved in the purchase of Airlie Gardens by the county from the Corbett family. It was an expensive purchase, but the Board of Commissioners saw the value to the citizens of preserving this historic garden. Wanda’s name is on the dedication plaque, and she looks at it at every Garden Party Airlie Luncheon. She is so proud that she had a part in continuing this wonderful southern tradition! Wanda is still the Attorney for New Hanover County. She has a wonderful husband, Ron, and a wonderful daughter, Alyx.
Prior to her 2004 presidency, Lisa Ballantine ran the day to day Azalea Festival operations from her law office, providing legal services, accounting, and administrative support, and has chaired many committees. Lisa married Patrick Ballantine in 1991, and they have two children, a daughter, Wilker (2016 NCAF Princess Court Member), and a son, Augie. Lisa earned her BA in Speech Communications in 1988 from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and studied French abroad at Miami’s Luxembourg Campus. She earned her JD law degree in 1991 from the University of Dayton School of Law, where she served on the Law Review. Lisa now works for Ballantine Company, Inc., a government relations firm headed by her husband, former NC Senator Patrick Ballantine. Lisa was recognized as a “Lady of the Cape Fear” in 2012 for her many contributions to the community. One of Lisa’s fondest Azalea Festival memories was visiting Henry Rehder at his home 2 years before her presidency to discuss the Festival dates being considered. Henry Rehder was an expert horticulturalist involved with the Azalea Festival from its inception. The Official Azalea Festival Queen’s Portrait was taken in Henry’s garden every year. During Lisa’s visit, they sipped tea from fine china, Henry referenced the Farmers Almanac, and he determined the proposed dates were aligned with the bloom cycle of azaleas. With his blessing, the dates of the 57th NC Azalea Festival were confirmed. Unfortunately, Henry Rehder passed away before the 2004 Azalea Festival, but his family graciously allowed Queen Azalea to be photographed in his yard continuing, the 57-year long tradition.
Mr. Richardson was President of the North Carolina Azalea Festival in 2005. Mr. Richardson and his wife, Amy, are natives of Wilmington and graduates of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In 1998, Mr. Richardson obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the Campbell University, Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law and has been practicing law in Wilmington ever since. Mr. Richardson’s firm is a general practice with concentrations in civil litigation and multiple areas of law including corporate/business, real property, land use and zoning, personal injury, lender liability, municipal, condemnation, labor and employment, and appeals to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Mr. Richardson has been recognized by his peers as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” in Litigation from 2013 to the present. Picking a favorite Festival memory is difficult because there were so many. He really enjoyed working with all of the Board members, volunteers, office personnel, and Past Presidents and developing such special relationships with so many good people in this community of ours. The Azalea Festival is a labor of love and he will always cherish his time given to it.
Penelope Spicer-Sidbury is a senior public career official, wife and mother of two beautiful daughters. Mrs. Sidbury has worked in City government for about 28 years in the areas of economic development and planning, and as an executive assistant to the Mayor and City Council. She is Wilmington’s first Black City Clerk and has held this appointment for 24 years. Mrs. Sidbury is an active participant in her church, where she serves as a Sunday schoolteacher, stewardess, Treasurer and Secretary, and enjoys singing in the choir. Mrs. Sidbury is also very active in the community. She is the first African American to serve on the North Carolina Azalea Festival Executive Committee and served as the Festival’s 59th president. She is a member of the Wilmington Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc., a board member of the YWCA (serving as Chairman), and an active member of the North Carolina Association of Municipal Clerks and the International Municipal Clerks Association. She also volunteers as Williston Middle School’s cheerleading coach.
Charlie Rivenbark served as the 60th president of the North Carolina Azalea Festival. He is a Wilmington native, born the same year as the first Azalea Festival in 1948. He was a Festival volunteer starting in the late 70s and worked on about six different committees, but mainly the Parade for about 25 years. In 2001 he became an officer and had some of the best years of his life as he rose through the ranks to become President. The Azalea Festival family starts at the bottom and works up; not the other way around! He always marveled at the dedication and passion that the volunteers have for the festival and their particular committees and how they overcame a full menu of problems, that always seem to arise at the last minute, so that no one would ever notice. In his opinion, this is why it so important to tap into that vast sea of experience and dedication when considering and selecting future officers. Some of his most vivid memories are the old Worker’s Party held on Saturday night, the VERY good times had in the motor home when amateur drivers motored around the city with all of the escorts, and of course, the Fro part of the trip to Raleigh every year to see the Governor. He will always remember when his Queen, Amy Pietz, had her official photo taken on the steps of the Kenan House.
Dana was born in New Bern, North Carolina and started working on festival events in 1978, serving as President in 2008. She is the Executive Director of the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce. Dana has a lot of great memories of the festival but perhaps the one that sticks out the most is her headline entertainment, Sugarland and Little Big Town, cancelling the night before they were to perform. The Festival booking agent immediately rebooked them to appear in September. The joke was that Dana didn’t want to give up her Presidency! So while the next President, Sherman Criner, started planning his year in June of that year, Dana was still finishing up her year in September. Also, Dana’s Patrons’ Party was held at Orton Plantation, which most people thought that was too far to go. It was a beautiful place to have the party. It even means more to Dana now that Orton Plantation is closed to the public.
Sherman Lee Criner
Sherman Lee Criner was born in Raleigh, NC in 1966. He graduated North Carolina State University in 1988 and graduated Campbell University in 1993 with a Masters in Business Administration graduate degree and a Juris Doctorate degree. Sherman is a licensed & practicing attorney/mediator in North Carolina & South Carolina. He has served & held numerous leadership positions on civic, non-profit, business & governmental organizations. Sherman began volunteering for the North Carolina Azalea Festival on numerous committees before being selected as an officer and having the tremendous honor of serving as the President in 2009. Sherman’s fondest memories were sharing all the traditions of the Azalea Festival activities with his 3 children: Meredith, Elizabeth & Sherman. Sherman was blessed to serve with, learn from and become friends with so many volunteers who graciously donate their time and talents every year to make Wilmington Bloom!
Erica Mearns was the 63rd Azalea Festival President. A graduate from NC State University with a minor in Spanish, she has served as a translator and industrial health and safety consultant before joining Intracoastal Realty, where she is currently a realtor. Erica attended her first Azalea Festival committee meeting at 6 weeks old and went on to serve as President of the Azalea Festival Youth Committee as well. She has never missed a Garden Party since birth. She has many favorite festival memories throughout the years. Among her favorites were moving into the Hilton each year and attending events with her Godmother, Beverly Jurgensen, the first female president of the North Carolina Azalea Festival. Erica continues to remain involved with a number of organizations within the community, in addition to serving once again as the Festival’s Private Schedule and Transportation Chair. Erica is married to Dr. John Mearns. Together they have two beautiful girls, Alexis and Claire.
Hank Estep served as the 2011 Azalea Festival President. He is a principal agent for Griffin Estep Benefit Group. Hank is married to wife Lisa, who serves on the New Hanover County School Board. They have five beautiful children. Hank’s favorite memory is riding with Ricky Meeks in the Parade!
Dr. Charles R. Kays
Chuck Kays has served on many boards; serving eight years on the New Hanover County Airport Authority, Board of Directors of Honor Flight and flight physician, President of the New Hanover County Medical Society, and Chairman Department of Surgery at NHRMC. He received the Governor’s appointment to Cape Fear Community College and American Cancer Society’s “Silent Angel” award for work with breast cancer patients. He was the 65th President of the festival. Chuck has been married for over 25 years to Carol and they have two incredible daughters, Gracie and Lilly. His fondest memory is of how his family participated with him. His oldest daughter Gracie was president of the Azalea Festival Youth Committee the year he was President, and his youngest daughter participated in the festival as the unofficial festival mascot….later to become Azalea Festival Princess in 2016!
Donna S. Cameron
During her 21 years in Wilmington, NC, Donna had the distinct privilege of beginning her career with the University of North Carolina in Wilmington in the Advancement Office where she managed several projects, such as the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships. She later served as the Director of Development at UNCW. Following this incredible opportunity, she had the honor to work for three financial services institutions in a variety of sales/leadership/relationship development/team and employee development roles. Her community involvement has made such an impact on Donna personally as well as on her entire family. She had the opportunity to serve in multiple volunteer roles for several incredible organizations such as the Junior League, Good Friends of Wilmington, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, all of her children’s schools and at their church, St. Andrew’s Covenant Presbyterian. It was Donna’s honor to serve as the 66th President of the 2013 North Carolina Azalea Festival. The festival “family” of volunteers became family for all of the Cameron’s! Her favorite memory was watching the “evolution” of the new outdoor concert venue and the passion of all involved to make such a positive impact on the community!
Stephen E. Coble
Stephen E. Coble received his bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Elon College and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Appalachian State University. Steve worked as an Assistant Town Administrator for the Town of Biltmore Forest and then received his Juris Doctor from the University of Dayton. Steve has been a civil litigator in Wilmington since 2003, most recently as the managing attorney for Coble Law Firm, PC on Wrightsville Avenue. Steve, his wife Ashley, and their two daughters Drew and Katie, are active throughout the community. As a volunteer, Steve worked with four different Festival Committees: Sanitation, Circus, Workers’ Party and the Parade. Steve is still involved in the Festival as a Festival liaison to the North Carolina Azalea Festival Foundation. Steve’s fondest Festival memory occurred on Saturday morning of the festival when he was the Parade Chair. After months of preparation, Steve stood at the top of the 3rd street bridge and looked down the empty road and saw the masses of people twenty heads deep on each side. It was at that moment that Steve realized how lucky he was to be a part of something that impacted so many different people in a positive way.
Liz Carroll was the President of the 2015 North Carolina Azalea Festival. Liz grew up in Wilmington and had the honor of also serving as the 1997 Azalea Festival Princess. Liz is the owner of Liz Carroll Interior Design, and lives in Wilmington with her husband, Robby, and three children, Burton, Harris and Drew. While there are too many favorite memories to count, one of her favorites was being able to host the 1st Azalea Festival Queen, Jacqueline White Anderson, as a celebrity guest 68 years after she was the original Queen.
After attending New Hanover High, North Carolina School of Science and Math, NCSU College of Engineering and Wake Forest School of Law, Robby opened Collins & Collins Law in 2000 with his brother Andy joining in 2002. Robby is married to Morghan Getty Collins and has one son, Tre, who was born in 2012 while Robby was on the Festival board. Robby has served as board member for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, NC/SC Border Commission, and Trustees for Cape Fear Community College. The Festival has given more to him than he could ever repay through all of the wonderful and unique Wilmingtonians he has had the opportunity to meet and become friends with over the last 25 years. Collins & Collins has proudly supported the festival parade by bringing the Elmo balloon every year since the huge inflatables first appeared in the parade in 2015.
Justin B. Wolfe
Justin is a financial advisor and has lived in Wilmington since 1999. Justin has been a volunteer and Patron level sponsor of the Azalea Festival since 2008. He has served as committee chair for Patron’s Relations, Major Sponsor Relations, the Governor’s Press Conference, and Co-Chair of the Parade for Floats. Justin and his wife Missy have also escorted several celebrity guests throughout the Festival’s full spectrum of events. In 2013, Justin was elected to the Azalea Festival board which is widely remembered as the team which advanced the festival concerts to an outdoor venue. In 2017, Justin guided the conversion of the organization from a 501c4 to a 501c3.
Dr. Stephen Meinhold
Dr. Stephen Meinhold is a Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has lived in Wilmington 20+ years and has served on the Festival committee for five years as the Economic Impact Study Committee Chair, Past Presidents’ Party Chair, and Major Sponsor Chair before joining the Board of Directors. Other Volunteer Work includes Good hephard Center, Lakeside Partners, and the United Way
Jean A. Lawler
Jean Lawler, native to Wilmington, is the Advertising Director at Wilmington International Airport (ILM). She has served 56 years on the North Carolina Azalea Festival Committee since her start in 1960. Her volunteer committees have included Souvenir Book, Concerts, and others. Her community involvement includes her role as Vice President of Wilmington WW11 Home Front Coalition, AIRLIE Board Member, Past President of the Seahawk Club, and the Cape Fear Community College Wilson Center Performance Hall Advisory Committee. Jean is also involved with Pleasure Island Parrot Heads which supports Step up for Soldiers, Toys for Tots, and several other charities.
Johnathan D. Hedge
Our President this year is a native of Wilmington who throughout a 28-year business marketing career with one of our communities wonderful family-owned companies, has had the privilege to work with alongside countless community organizations and community leaders within our state, and although he officially retired two years ago to develop his family's own agri-business venture and is now proud to be called a family farmer. He remains firmly dedicated to serving his community through volunteerism, support, and development. In his words "we all have an obligation to help enrich our communities in whatever way we can". He credits his strength and determination to succeed to his father and his heart and compassion to his mother both of whom he is deeply grateful to call his parents. Among his many accomplishments he feels his top achievements was convincing his wonderful wife Jennifer to marry him, and his three children he is so very proud of Garrett, Wyatt, and Peyton (who he calls Memphis).