North Carolina Azalea Festival

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High School Writing Contest Presented by Wrightsville Beach Magazine

April 3 - April 7


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 community.

High School Writing Application

2018 Winners

Hilary Batista, a 9th grader from Ashley High School in Wilmington, NC.  Her essay, “Our Azaleas,” describes a family’s garden and experience watching the annual parade together.  Hilary’s favorite subject in school is history because she likes learning about and exploring other cultures.  She is an avid reader, especially enjoying realistic fiction, and a passionate writer, writing every day. She has already self-published a book for teen readers, “Winning or Losing.”  Hilary says that reading and writing transport you to another place and time and open your mind and your horizon to so much more. Hilary plays violin in the Ashley High School Orchestra and also enjoys playing the piano and running with her friends. As of now, she plans to go to college to study business.

Katherine Neilson, the Poetry Division winner is an 11th grade student at Laney High School in Wilmington, NC.   Her poem, titled “A Wilmington Tradition,” touches on many fun family Azalea Festival activities. Katherine’s favorite subject in school is Language Arts.  She plans to study business in college and hopes one day to become an English professor and open her own business that hires college students to tutor younger children.  When she is not working in the O2 Fitness Childcare Center, she enjoys reading mystery books, watching old movies, and painting. Another favorite pastime is playing with her five cats and two dogs and hanging out and taking drives with her family, where they revel in the beauty of our community and she takes pictures and plans her next painting, poem, or story.

2018 Finalists

Poetry Runner-up

  • Caroline Flax, “NC Azalea Belles,” Hoggard High School, 11th grade

Essay Runner-up

  • Samantha Meisel, “Memories of the Azalea Festival,” Hoggard High School, 12th grade

Our Azaleas
Hilary Batista
Ashley High School, 9th grade

Pitter-Patter. Pitter-Patter.  I awoke to the gentle beat of rain on my window and smiled.

Today’s the day!  Tiptoeing down the hallway, I picked up my rain coat and quickly tumbled outside to the garden, like a toddler when they spot a mouthwatering piece of candy. The day was beautiful. Other than the light drops of rain cascading down, the sun was bright, the grass was green, and everything seemed perfect. It was just like a picture from a fairy tale.

My eyes scanned our garden, until I spotted the Azaleas. Our Azaleas. The flowers were small, yet colorful, like an intricate painting strewn across the yard. I grinned as I remembered
when we had first planted the shrubs a few months back, and now they were gorgeously in full bloom.

Creeaakkkk.  The sound of a door opening stirred me from my thoughts. I smiled as I saw my mom, dad, and little brother standing in front of me.

“What are you doing out here in the rain?” my dad chuckled.

I laughed. My brother raced over to where I was and took a look at the Azaleas, answering my dad’s question. Wow, his eyes seemed to say. My parents walked over to where we were, and we all took in their beauty. Finally, I asked the question that I knew was on all of our minds.  “Is it time yet?” A pause, then another chuckle.  “Yes, it is.”

* * * * *

A few hours later and we were at the parade. Vendors walked the streets, selling goodies and mouthwatering yummies. Children and adults alike walked around, joy on their faces as
they saw old friends and were embraced by relatives. Residents poured out of their windows to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. Suddenly, woos, cheers, and clapter erupted in the area. I turned
just as the procession began and joined in the sea of people oohing at the colorful floats and music, maybe even spotting a celebrity or two!

I took a deep breath. The parade was more than a parade to me. It was a time where everyone came together. A time where our community put on its best show, and we all gave back
to each other, where all the cultures that flourish in our city stand out. A time where children are given hope as they look at the Azalea Belles and princesses and imagine themselves there one
day, while adults beam remembering themselves as kids long ago, watching the parade too!

Suddenly everyone became quiet. You could hear little kids whispering and pointing,

“Mommy is that her? I wanna be like that! Is that really her? She looks like a princess!”  Could that really be her? I craned my neck up to see.

As I caught sight of the Queen, I saw the Azaleas on her float. They were beautiful! They bloomed with a sense of pride. Colorful and small, yet with a lot to say. Astonishing. Just like our Wilmington.


A Wilmington Tradition
Katherine Neilsen
Laney High School, 11th grade

Wilmington is in bloom;
Springtime is here
The Azalea Festival is coming;
Hear the people cheer.
The street vendors are out;
Get an ice cold lemonade.
It’s a Carolina tradition;
To watch the big parade.

Azaleas are everywhere;
Coral and white.
Not a single bush is bare;
It’s quite the sight.
Busy bees are buzzing;
Birds are flying.
Breathe in the spring air;
Everyone is smiling.

Girls in the garden;
Wearing colorful gowns.
Their hair all pinned up,
They’re the belles of the town.
They walk with grace;
And wear a smile.
Stop and look;
At their southern style.

The market is open;
The streets are filled.
Get ready to buy;
Aren’t you thrilled?
Anything from art to jewels;
There’s a great selection.
So, stop by a booth;
And check out the collection.

Excitement in the air;
As the stage lights up.
People anticipating the affair;
Ready for the lineup.
They bought their tickets;
To see the concert.
Their favorite singers.
Wearing their band shirts.

With a pop and a boom;
Bright colors fill the sky.
Kids look in wonder;
As the lights go by.
When they finally end;
People start to go.
Remembering fondly;
The fireworks glow.


Past Winners:

2018: Essay Winner – Ashley 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



April 3
April 7
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