As a little girl, I remember dreaming of what it would be like to be a princess –the crown, the pretty dresses – but I think it was the position of influence that appealed to me the most. Little did I know, I’d have the opportunity to be a princess when I signed up to compete in the North Carolina Azalea Festival Scholarship Pageant Presented by BB&T. I entered with the hopes of making new friends and growing in my confidence, which was enough for me. The icing on the cake was the honor of being chosen as the 69th North Carolina Azalea Festival Princess. From the moment I was crowned, that “princess feeling” became a reality as I was chosen to represent the city I love. And while the dress and the crown made me feel special, it was the outpouring of love from my family, friends and my new Azalea Festival family that put me on top of the world. Fast forward to the first day of the 2017 North Carolina Azalea Festival, and that feeling was amplified even more. I’m writing this today to share just how amazing the week was for me and my court and to express how incredibly proud I am to represent our city as the 2017 Azalea Festival Princess.
The week started bright and early at the WECT studios, where my court and I spoke about how excited we were for the festivities to begin. Later that day, we welcomed our Queen Azalea, Kira Kazantsev, to our city with the Queen’s Coronation. Signing autographs for all of the young princesses who attended made my court and I feel like celebrities!
The next day was probably the busiest as we traveled all around Wilmington and visited some of our city’s best organizations and businesses. The first stop was Parsley Elementary School. As a former Parsley Patriot, this visit really touched my heart and left an everlasting memory in my mind. We were greeted by the entire student body smiling and waving as they lined the sidewalk dressed in their fine attire with their dapper bow-ties and adorable spring dresses. One of the sweet 5th grade students escorted me to my special spot on a riser, where a stack of personal greeting cards waited for me on my chair. The cards were filled with illustrations of me and personal messages, which made me tear up. I think my favorite part was watching the beautiful musical performances performed by every class. The extra effort Parsley’s faculty, staff, and students put into our visit made me feel so incredibly honored to be a former Parsley Patriot. It’s truly a memory I will never forget.
After Parsley, we quickly made our way to the Celebrity Reception, which was the event where our special guests at the festival were recognized. Our celebrities this year were so amazing, each bringing their friendliness and enthusiasm to every event.
After lunch we visited NHRMC and the Boys and Girls Club. At both locations, I had the opportunity to speak with the children in our community. I had such a nice time visiting with the patients at the hospital and I was inspired to see the strength each one of them had. At the Boys and Girls Club, I had fun building a pretty stellar cup-stacking castle with some of the boys and if I do say so myself… we tore up the dance floor and rocked it out while singing a few songs. All three of our visits that day centered around the children in our community, which reminded me that a child’s optimism is the key to our future.
That night, we attended the Cole Swindell concert, and my court and I were lucky enough to meet him!
The next day was the official start of the Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour! CFGC Azalea Belles lined the lawn and the smell of spring filled the air as our Queen Azalea cut the ribbon and kicked off the day. We then attended the Airlie Luncheon Garden Party Presented By Belk, where my court and I enjoyed watching the Citadel cadets perform. We also had the opportunity to socialize with our community and explore the beautiful Airlie Gardens!
Our day wrapped up with attending the Duran Duran concert, and yes, we got to meet them, too!
The next morning was a very early start, but totally worth it, as my court and I rode on a float in the Parade! It was good practice considering I’m going to be spending the rest of my reign representing our city in lots of parades and events! That morning was bittersweet, since it was one of the last events my court and I would share together. We had created such a strong bond and I didn’t want it to end!
Later that day, we made a special stop at the coin show. I’ve never attended an event like this which left me very pleasantly surprised! It was interesting to hear about the origin of some of the coins and we even got to pan for gold.
The week came to an end as I attended the Patrons’ Party Gala, which was amazing!! The event was so beautifully decorated and the food was delicious. My favorite part was dancing and singing along with the amazingly talented band. I was honored to speak with many of the Festival patrons and thank them for their support.
I can say I slept very well that night, considering I had been going nonstop since Wednesday! The Azalea Festival experience was one I will remember forever. There were so many people that made my experience so wonderful, but that’s for another time… my year is just beginning as the 2017 North Carolina Azalea Festival Princess, so be ready for more from me in the months to come. I hope everyone is having a wonderful spring and I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you!
Your 2017 North Carolina Azalea Festival Princess
Emma Grace Wright
Follow my travels on Instagram! @ncazaleaprincess