Wow, Azalea Festival Week was over one month ago and yet I am still suffering from ongoing “Festival Fever.” For those of you who are curious about what exactly Azalea Festival week consists of, I am about to share! However, there are so many people I need to thank so of course I am going to do that first!
God: Where would I be without you! Once again I am so thankful for you constructing such an awesome plan for my life that consists of the Azalea Festival and the Festival Family. I have made memories I will never forget and friendships that will last a lifetime.
Mom, Dad, and Gracie: I would never be where I am today without all three of you. Thank you for always being by my side and helping me conquer the world. I especially want to thank you for letting my whole court stay at our house all week and always making sure we had enough food to feed an army. I am so grateful for all three of you who have supported me through it all. I love you.
The NCAF Board of Directors and Office Staff: Thank you so much for working 24/7 365 days a year to put this spectacular week together for the rest of the community. It takes extreme dedication and careful planning to put on this five day event that showcases Wilmington to its fullest potential while generating approximately 50 million dollars for our community. You all did such a wonderful job and I am so grateful to have gotten to share it with you!
The Volunteers: There are over a thousand volunteers who work diligently year round to help the Azalea Festival go off without a hitch. I want to thank every single one of you for the time you have put into the Festival. As a fellow volunteer, the fundraising chair of the Azalea Festival Youth Committee, I know the reason you volunteer is because you love to make the festival exciting and amazing for everyone else. Thank you once again for all your hard work, and I hope you continued to be involved in years to come.
Amy and Kande: Thank you for always making sure my crown was straight I was wearing lipstick. You let Leah, Wilker, Micaela, Grayson, and I jam out in the car and were just as crazy with us. Thank your for being our personal photographers and dealing with all of us all week.
Isabella Grape: Thank you so much to Isabella Grape for clothing me for the Azalea Festival Spring Soiree. You made sure I looked professional and classy while welcoming all the guests!
Camille’s of Wilmington: I can never thank you all enough. From helping me find the perfect pageant dress to getting wedges dyed hot pink to match my Garden Party dress, you have been with me through it all. Thank you for dressing me to perfection Festival Week, and helping me truly resemble a princess.
Paula Jones Almond: Thank you for waking up at 3 A.M. ALL WEEK to be my personal hair and makeup stylist. My court and I are so thankful for you transforming us from tired teenagers to a princess and her court. You never complained even when we sang and danced along to High School Musical 2 for three hours.
Leah, Wilker, Micaela, and Grayson: I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am to God for giving me all four of you. Friends who make up dances together, get up at 3 AM together, and take on Azalea Festival week together, stay together. I know that we have a bond that will never be broken and I love you all more than you know.
Now for Azalea Festival Week…
Wednesday, April 6:
The Queen’s Coronation: Anna Kooiman of Fox News was Queen Azalea this year and she did a fantastic job. The Queen’s Coronation took place at Port City Marina and the event was planned perfectly. The band was amazing; Beth Stovall, Miss North Carolina 2014, sang the National Anthem; Governor Pat McCrory crowned Queen Anna; the Azalea Belles were beautiful; and the weather was perfect! I also want to give a special shout-out to LJ Ballard for being an awesome escort.
Thursday, April 7:
The School Visit to Ogden Elementary was our first stop. The little girls had made headbands with paper flowers on them, and the boys had made their own bow ties. The students sang and danced and Queen Anna got them to chant “I can do anything.” This is one of my favorite events, and I was so glad I got to see it this year from the perspective of the Azalea Festival Princess.
The Celebrity Reception was the second stop. Cape Fear Country Club welcomes us back every year and always serves the most amazing shrimp and grits. I love this event because I get the chance to really get to know all of the celebrities and hear their amazing stories.
The Children’s Hospital Visit is such a touching event because we get to bring the Azalea Festival to the patients. It is wonderful getting to talk and play with the children and introduce them into the Festival Family. This event was started in 2012 when my father was the Azalea Festival President so it was so special to me to get to experience it again with him.
The Brigade Boys & Girls Club Visit is the last stop before heading back to headquarters, the Hilton Wilmington Riverside. It has been a long day, but the energy at the Brigade Boys & Girls Club is always fantastic. We get to do arts and crafts, play ping pong, and dance in the gym. It is a great end to a great day!
The Avett Brothers came back once again to perform at the North Carolina Azalea Festival and we were so grateful to have them. They bring in such a great crowd and their music is amazing!
Friday, April 8
The Ribbon Cutting is a tradition that kicks off the Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour. The Cape Fear Garden Club does a wonderful job each year planning this event with the Citadel Cadets and the Azalea Belles. The Cape Fear Garden Club even has a cookie committee who makes thousands of cookies each year for everyone to enjoy. I would like to recognize all the members of the Cape Fear Garden Club for sponsoring the Azalea Belles and contributing to the Festival.
The Airlie Luncheon Garden Party is often described as the social event of the year. I absolutely adore this event because the Summerall Guards come for the day and do their performance. I learned this year that the choreography for the march has never been written down, and it is passed down by word of mouth. After the performance, I get to eat BBQ, socialize, and take pictures with Airlie Gardens as my beautiful backdrop.
The Snoop Dog Concert was so upbeat! I love that the Azalea Festival is able to have performers from all different genres of music. We even had Chase Rice come on Saturday night as a third performer!
Saturday, April 9
The Parade is something that I have watched since I was four years old from the Parade Reviewing Stand at Thalian Hall. This year was truly spectacular because not only did I get to be in the Parade, but I also got to stand on a float and wave. The funniest thing was that my court and I wore fuzzy socks instead of shoes for more stability (and warmth because it was quite chilly).
The USS North Carolina Battleship 75th Anniversary Celebration happened this year at the same time as the Azalea Festival. Marines came in from places from all over the state to talk to us about their service. They even served cake!
The Patrons’ Party is a special event that honors all the sponsors of the Azalea Festival. Without the generous contributions of the Patrons, the whole Azalea Festival would not be possible. I want to give a special thank you to all of you who purchased Patrons’ Packages and took part in the Azalea Festival.
Sunday, April 10th
The Azalea Festival Princess Brunch is a tradition. Every year the princess has a brunch to thank the Azalea Festival Youth Committee for all their hard work. This year my family and I hosted the brunch at the Surf Club at Wrightsville Beach and they did an excellent job. I once again want to thank AFYC and their advisor, Mrs. Sharon Evans for working year round to raise money to put on the pageant, planning the pageant, and being so kind through it all.
The Azalea Festival is definitely the best week out of my year, and this one specifically will always hold a special place in my heart. Thanks to all of you who made it possible. I want to encourage everyone to become involved in the Azalea Festival and give back to our community.
Your 2016 Azalea Festival Princess, Lilly Kays
- The Rhododendron Festival, June 17-18 (I get to dance the Cotton Eyed Joe!)
- Miss North Carolina Pageant and Cardinal Ball, June 25