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High School Writing Contest

January 28

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 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 local team of writers. Winners and finalists are selected from each category and receive various prizes from the Azalea Festival and outside the community.

High School Writing Contest Entry Form

2020 Winners:

Essay Division:

1st Place – Madison Aloia, 10th grader at Jones Senior High in Trenton, NC,

“Azalea Heritage”

Madison’s essay is remarkable in that she has never been to the Azalea Festival yet was able to recount the Festival’s story through research and interviews with past Festival goers.  She plays on her school’s volleyball team and was recently selected to be a Governor’s Page.  She is an officer of her local Future Farmers of America Club and plans to major in agricultural engineering when graduates high school.


2nd Place – Ashley Gorsett, 11th grader at Wilmington Christian Academy in Wilmington, NC, “Azalea Connection”

Ashley rode in the Azalea Festival parade as a young child and that experience left a lasting impression on her.  She sees the Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Belles as an iconic part of our community and aspires to be one next year. She plans to attend college after graduation and study in the math and science field.  She enjoys watching old movies and learning from her grandfather how to make Brunswick Stew the old-fashioned way in a large iron kettle on an open fire.  Fun Fact:  William Shakespeare is her 16th cousin twice removed!


3rd Place – Mairead Benson, 10th grader at Hoggard High School in Wilmington, NC, “Azalea Charm”

Mairead likes all her subjects in school but particularly enjoys English and World History, which is why she often incorporates personal experience into her writing.  She was selected to NC’s Governor’s School this summer in the singing category.  In her spare time, she plays golf, goes to the beach, and spends time on the family sail boat.  She is active in the Eastern Carolina Episcopal Diocese Youth Council, the Lower Cape Fear Deanery, and her local church – acolyting, lay reading, planning Vacation Bible School, and participating in the EYC.


Poetry Division:

1st Place – Jaysen Cook, 10th grader at Laney High School, “The Azalea Festival”

Jaysen’s family moved to Wilmington when he was 3 years, and they have gone to the Azalea Festival many of those years.  His favorite subjects at school are the sciences and visual arts because he likes seeing the world from many different perspectives.  When not in school, he draws and reads, mostly science fiction and adventure books, and he participates on Laney’s SEA-Perch robotics team.


2nd Place – Brooke Sommer, 10th grader at Laney High School, “Home”

Brooke enjoys studying the sciences in school and is thinking of studying dermatology in college.  She plays on the Laney women’s basketball team as well as on a local AAU team.  Her after-school activities include the STEM Club, Key Club, and Spirit Club.  When not in school, she enjoys going to the beach, shopping, and hanging out with her friends.  Fun Fact:  Brooke was an extra in an episode of Secrets and Lies when it was filmed in Wilmington.


3rd Place – Ava Rollins, 9th grader at Laney High School, “Azalea Festival”

Ava has only been to the Azalea Festival once but definitely feels its presence in the community every spring.  She plays travel volleyball and beach volleyball outside of school.  In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies.


Azalea Heritage

Madison Aloia

10th grade

Jones Senior High School

In a historic downtown, flowers of many shades of pink fill the streets. Flowers ranging from white to the most eye-catching pink nature could possibly make. A sense of pride and ancestry fill the air to all who call this place home while it excites those visiting. The beauty of the town, handmade by those who adore it, fills the streets and busy sidewalks. Little children with wonder-filled eyes look up with admiration to the floats that they flock to see. Little girls stare in awe in hopes of being an Azalea Belle when they grow up. In a diverse state, filled with long kept traditions and an alluring geography, everyone able gathers to watch and celebrate. A unified community admires a beautiful symbol as well as carrying out traditions put in place by generations past. This is a festival dedicated to keeping southern hospitality and community honor alive for future generations. The sweet and calming smell of petite, pink flowers fill the air whilst the sense of hope fills each individual’s heart. The historic charm allures those not native and the heritage unites locals. This is a time-honored tradition meant to keep a historic town alive as well as celebrate past achievements. This is the Azalea Festival.


The Azalea Festival

Jaysen Cook                            

10th grade

E.A. Laney Senior High School

The sweet smells waft through the streets,

The music pounds, the sound and different beats,

Chatter can be heard from the crowd,

The sound of rejoice loud and proud,


The flowers bright and beautiful,

The vendors and entertainment anything but dull,

The Festival brings those from afar,

To Wilmington, our shining star.





Past Winners:

2019 Essay Winner- Abby Stone, Wilmington Christian Academy

2019 Poetry Winner- Madison Morrison, Wilmington Christian Academy

2018: Essay Winner – Hilary Batista, Ashley High School

2018: Poetry Winner – Katherine Neilson, Laney High School

2017: Essay Winner – Sarah Newton, Topsail High School

2017: Poetry Winner – Karleigh Kolander, Laney High School



January 28
Event Category:


Coastal Children’s Services