April 3-7, 2024



Invited Guests
April 2023

Trot Nixon -
MLB Baseball Player

Frances Weller -
WECT Anchor

Margaret Weller Stargell - Willie Stargell Foundation

Harold Davis -
U.S. Army Korean War Veteran

Adm. Daryl Caudle -
U.S. Navy

Karolyn Martin-
Miss North Carolina 2023

Ana Brown -
2023 Official Artist

2023 Queens Court

Anna Claire Musick

Miss Metrolina

Elizabeth O’Brien

Miss Central Carolina

Jordan Garrick

Miss Piedmont

Tori Kaitlyn Gross

Miss Randolph County

Taylor Loyd

Miss Statesville

Kate White

Miss Thomasville

Hannah Welborne-Lewis

Miss Sandhills

Rachel Townsend

Miss Fayetteville

2023 Keydet Escorts

Garrett Petruskie

Jack Mion

Kyle Neirman

Nick Cabell

Peyton Simpson

Sam McCrary

Thomas Champion

Thomas Marlow

Guests to Note

Each year the Azalea Festival highlights a few individuals as Official Invited Guests.
Stars, celebrities, and heroes alike – from afar and right here locally – are honored during Festival events.  

The Festival has hosted the following notable guests (this is just a small sampling!):
Barbara Alyn Woods, Kevin Frazier, President Ronald Reagan, Adrian Wood
Also…Michael Jordan, Kerri Walsh Jennings, Chad Michael Murray, Hilarie Burton, and more! 

Trot Nixon - MLB Baseball Player

Trot Nixon is beloved in Boston because in 2004 he helped break the “Curse of the Bambino,” leading the Red Sox to their first World Series Championship in nearly a century. But his athletics career began, blossomed and returned to his beach-bound roots of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Born in Durham, Christopher Trotman Nixon grew up terrorizing opponents on the diamonds and gridirons of the coast. His senior year, he led New Hanover to a state’s Eastern finals in football by breaking the school passing records set by fellow North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inductees Roman Gabriel and Sonny Jurgensen.

He led his baseball team to the 1993 AAAA state championship by hitting 12 homers and driving in a state-record 56 runs at the plate and posting a 12-0 record and a 0.40 earned run average as a pitcher. The Red Sox made him the No. 7 overall pick of the MLB draft, while NC State signed him to an athletics scholarship as a quarterback.

At the last possible moment, he chose to follow his baseball dreams, a decision he never regretted as he rounded the bases on a 12-year major league career that included 137 home runs and 555 RBIs with three different organizations.

Nixon is most identified with the Red Sox, after working his way through the minor league system as its top prospect, debuting in 1996 and becoming the team’s Opening Day right fielder in 1999. Appreciated by fans for his always-scrappy play, Nixon settled into his role and was named the team’s co-Rookie of the Year that season.

As the Red Sox fought hard to erase their famous curse, Nixon came back from an injury to provide clutch performances in the playoff run. In the four-game sweep of St. Louis in the World Series, he posted a .357 batting average, including three doubles, and drove in the decisive runs in two of the four wins.

In 42 career postseason games, Nixon hit .283 with six home runs and 25 RBIs.

After retiring in March 2009, Nixon and his wife Kathryn returned to Wilmington where he enjoys watching sons Chase and Luke play multiple sports. Chase is a sophmore baseball player at N.C. State and his brother Luke will be joining him there to play ball as a freshman in the fall.

Known for giving back to his community, Trot generously volunteers his time and talent to countless orgamizations, including the Miracle League.  An athlete of strong faith and family connections, Nixon returned to Boston for the 2018 American League Division Series to throw out the first pitch and raise money for North Carolina families affected by Hurricane Florence.

Trot was Inducted into the Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and then inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2020.

Frances Weller - WECT Anchor

Frances Weller is a proud Wilmington native, award-winning journalist, and community advocate. She recently celebrated 40 years at WECT and is a leader of the most trusted news team in Southeastern North Carolina.

She began her journalism career at WECT not long after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, joining the news team she grew up watching.

Despite winning countless professional awards as well as the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian award, Fran’s greatest joy is her community involvement. Through her two passion projects, Fran’s Fans and Weller’s Wheels, she has kept the elderly cool each summer by gathering fan donations and she has made countless Christmases brighter for local children through her bike collection drive.

She’s also the public relations chair for the Willie Stargell Celebrity Invitational, an annual event that raises money for local people living with kidney disease. Her twin sister, Margaret, was married to former Pittsburgh Pirates slugger and Hall of Fame member Willie Stargell who died from kidney failure in 2001.

Fran says she can’t imagine life without WECT and has no plans of retiring.

Margaret Weller Stargell - Willie Stargell Foundation

Margaret Weller-Stargell, a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, is a graduate of North Carolina State University. She has been employed at Coastal   Horizons Center, Inc.  since 1985, where   she began   her   work   in counseling. In 1995, she became the Executive Director of the organization, and serves today as the corporation’s President and CEO. Coastal Horizons Center, Inc., nationally accredited through CARF, is Southeastern North Carolina’s largest private, non-profit human services organization providing behavioral health and primary health care services. Coastal Horizons Center is headquartered in Wilmington and serves 57 counties in North Carolina.

Mrs. Weller-Stargell was a 2018 StarNews Media Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. In 2019 she was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by the State of North Carolina.  It is the highest award for state service granted by the Office of the Governor to individuals who have shown extraordinary service to the state.  She has served on several boards, including the Board of Trustees of New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC), as well as the North Carolina Medical Care Commission. In July of 2020 she was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental and Health Equity Task Force, on which she currently serves. Governor Cooper also appointed Mrs. Stargell to the North Carolina Council for Health Care Coverage in November of 2020.  She was appointed to serve as a member of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Waiver Advisory Committee (DWAC) and more recently served as Chair of this statewide board. She is a member of the Cape Fear Community College Foundation Board and Mrs. Stargell also currently serves as Vice President of Trillium Health Resource’s Provider Network Council.

Margaret Weller-Stargell is the President of the Willie Stargell Foundation, a private non-profit organization that raises money to assist those living with kidney disease. Mrs. Weller-Stargell is the widow of the late National Baseball Hall of Fame Member, Willie Stargell. Since its inception, the Willie Stargell Foundation has raised funds to fight kidney disease and improve patient care in honor of her late husband, who spent his 21-year career in Pittsburgh, with the Pittsburgh Pirates! The Willie Stargell Foundation’s mission is to honor the legacy of Willie Stargell by giving hope through research, patient care and treatment for those living with kidney disease. Mrs. Weller-Stargell is the twin sister of WECT News Anchor Frances Weller and the daughter of the late Fritz and Katherine Weller

Harold Davis - U.S. Army Korean War Veteran

Harold Davis was born in Roxboro, North Carolina and drafted into the U. S. Army in 1952 and was part of the 224th Regiment, which he saw heavy combat for 10 months during the Korean War.  He served twice as the State Vice Commander for the American Legion and was the North Carolina Legionnaire of the year (1985).  Additionally, Harold designed the New Hanover County War Memorial in Longleaf Park, commissioned an artist to paint portraits of three New Hanover County Medal of Honor Recipients, helped establish New Hanover County Veterans Service Officers and Chaired the New Hanover County Veterans Council.  For his continued service to the veteran community across the County, State, and Nation, he was chosen to attend the Korean War Memorial Dedication in Washington DC, has received the Governor of North Carolina Award for volunteer service, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the National Americanism Award and Commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel for his work to locate and identify POW/MIA remains through DNA testing and return them to families on a national level.

Adm. Daryl Caudle - U.S. Navy​

Admiral Daryl Caudle, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina and a 1985 graduate of North Carolina State University, is the current Commander of United States Fleet Forces Command, based in Norfolk, Virginia. He concurrently serves as: Commander, Naval Forces Northern Command; Commander, Naval Forces Strategic Command; and Commander, Task Force Atlantic.

He mans, trains, equips, certifies, and employs over 125 ships and submarines, 1000 aircraft, and 125,000 Sailors and government employees, executing an annual budget of 14 billion dollars, and is responsible for providing combat-ready forces forward to Numbered Fleets and Combatant Commanders around the globe in support of US national interests.

During past assignments, he was the commander, Submarine Forces; commander, Submarine Force Atlantic; commander, Task Force (CTF) 114, CTF 88, CTF 46; and commander, Allied Submarine Command.

Karolyn Martin - Miss North Carolina 2023​

As a military child, Karolyn Martin has lived all across the country, but North Carolina has always been home. In fact, out of the 12 schools she attended in her travels, 3 of them were located in
the Old North State.

Karolyn’s social impact initiative, #SelfKare: Eat to Success, aims to teach the community to eat in a way that fuels our minds and bodies to success while taking the focus off of weight and appearance.

Karolyn earned the job of Miss North Carolina 2022 on June 25, 2022. Since 2019, she has spoken to over 2,000 students about the importance of positive wellness, hosted two nationally attended wellness summits, and published her cookbook The Self Kare Kitchen: Dorm Meals for the Healthy College Student. Karolyn has earned $27,500 of scholarship through the Miss America Organization allowing her to pay off her student loans in full at the age of 22!

Karolyn Martin is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Appalachian State University’s Honors College in Boone, NC. In the future, she plans to pursue her J.D. and work as a lawyer in business, patents, and intellectual property helping women pursue their entrepreneurial goals.

Ana Brown - 2023 Official Artist

Ana Brown, a native of Wilmington, NC,  was given her gift of painting from her grandmother while growing up at Wrightsville Beach.  Whether painting murals, oil and acrylic on canvas, or mixed media, Ana finds creating art to be a blessing through all things life unfolds.

When not raising awareness for colorectal cancer with The Blue Ribbon Run founded for her sister, helping children with special healthcare needs at Welcome Home Angel, or designing with her parents at Sutton’s Rugs, Ana finds joy in creating original works of art inspired by the beautiful coast of Wrightsville Beach and all it has to offer.

Remembering her time as an Azalea Belle in high school at John T. Hoggard, Ana is grateful and extremely honored to have been chosen as the 2023 Azalea Festival Artist.

Ana can often be found at the beach with her amazing husband Mike, her family, and her talented dog Bleu finding oyster shells by the seashore for SeaJules and TwoOysters.