The North Carolina Azalea Festival is excited to announce the 74th Queen Azalea, the Azalea Festival Princess, and Invited Guests of the 2021 Azalea Festival.
Says Festival President, Deirdre McGlone-Webb, “It is exciting to highlight our invited guests, who all have ties to the wonderful city of Wilmington. While it will be a different experience, I am honored to serve as President and to be celebrating the 74th North Carolina Azalea Festival in smaller, more intimate and socially distanced venues this April. I am thankful for the City of Wilmington, all of our Sponsors, Board, Executive Director, Staff and Volunteers … without their ingenuity and partnership, this year’s events would not be possible. To my husband, family and friends much love for all of your support! So plan on being a part of this 2021 Festival Experience as we celebrate a complete line-up of Festival events that will carry us through August!”
Victoria Huggins is humbled and thrilled to return to her second home of Wilmington to serve as the 74th Queen Azalea! No stranger to the North Carolina Azalea Festival, Victoria returns as a former member of the Queen’s Court as Miss Wilmington 2016, Miss North Carolina 2017, and former emcee of both the Azalea Children’s Tea and Azalea Festival Princess Scholarship Pageant. As the first former Miss North Carolina to be chosen as Queen Azalea, she counts this opportunity as one of the greatest honors of her lifetime!
Now a resident of Vass, NC, Victoria joined the Houston Astros organization in January of 2019. As the Community and Media Relations Manager of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Class A Minor League Baseball Team), Victoria manages community presence and partnerships, serves as the founder and director of the team charity, and coordinates media requests. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Miss North Carolina Organization, Fayetteville Urban Ministries, and is a member of the prestigious MLB Women in Baseball LIFT Mentorship Program.
Victoria represented the Tar Heel State in 2017 as the 80th Miss North Carolina. Traveling over 30,000 miles with over 300 scheduled appearances, she served as a public speaker & philanthropist; from the floor of the legislature in Raleigh, to civic, educational, military, religious, and social groups across North Carolina. Her passion for Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and music therapy captured the attention of local and national leadership, in addition to being featured on FOX News and PEOPLE Magazine. At the 2018 Miss America Competition, Victoria received the Children’s Miracle Network Miracle Maker Award recognizing her efforts to raise over $30 thousand dollars to benefit her state CMN Hospitals.
Nurturing relationships that were cultivated as Miss North Carolina, Victoria continues to serve as a keynote speaker in Alzheimer’s and Dementia conferences across the state, including the launch of the North Carolina Brain Health Registry in conjunction with Duke University’s Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
Prior to her year of service as Miss North Carolina, Victoria was the Morning News Producer for WECT/WSFX in Wilmington, NC. For two years, Victoria worked third shift on “Carolina in the Morning”, juggling her responsibilities behind the scenes in the control booth and in front of the camera as a reporter. In 2016, cheered on in the audience by her WECT & FOX Wilmington crew, Victoria was crowned Miss Wilmington and passionately served as an ambassador to the Port City.
As a singer and actress, Victoria has been honored to grace stages and television screens nationwide through a variety of opportunities: from Screen Gems Studio in Wilmington as a Principal Actress in commercials, traveling as a requested motivational speaker and singer, to being in the Top 100 on “American Idol” at the age of 16, to the stage of McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center in Henderson starring as Belle in their sold-out production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” the Broadway Musical in 2018.
Victoria received her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication with a double minor in Music and Religion from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration online, utilizing her scholarships earned through the Miss America Organization.
Extending her Princess reign from 2020 is Brooke McIntyre, a senior from Coastal Christian High School. Brooke is the daughter of Daniel and Theresa McIntyre.
At Coastal Christian High School, Brooke received the Coach’s Award in track and placed All-State, All-Conference. She is involved in Beta Club, a competitive cheer team, and several community service groups. Recently, she went on a mission trip in Costa Rica. She currently models for NYMMG and Marilyn’s in Greensboro. What is most important to her is to follow where Christ leads, stay true to herself, and not be afraid to step out of her box and follow her dreams. She plans on going to Liberty University to pursue business entrepreneurship, spending a semester studying abroad, and continue modeling as much as she can.
Brooke’s Princess Court consists of: 1st Runner-Up from Isaac Bear Early College, Julia Narvaez Munguia, 2nd Runner-Up, from Ashley High School, Dargan Thompson, 3rd Runner-Up, from John T. Hoggard High School, Bailey Barefoot, and 4th Runner-Up, also from Coastal Christian High School, Stevie Henderson.
The Princess is the recipient of the Beverly Anne Jurgensen Scholarship Award in the amount of $6,250, named after the beloved Past President of the Azalea Festival. The Festival Princess is sponsored in her reign by Camille’s of Wilmington, Official Stylist of our Royalty, and Dr. Sarah E. Pless, Renaissance Dental Studio.
For Rachard McIntyre art is the most fulfilling part of his life. Since preschool, he has been drawing pictures of images which impressed him upon seeing them. As a toddler, growing up in Brooklyn, he drew the Manhattan Skyline of New York City. He developed a greater love for art by learning more about style and techniques in school art classes while also excelling in math and English.
Many of Rachard’s earlier drawings were of superheroes. He was particularly fond of the comic book and magazine characters created by Alex Ross the famous writer and illustrator for Marvel.
Today, Rachard has created hundreds of works of art using various methods of pencil sketching, watercolor, ink-well pen drawing, acrylic and oil paintings. “McIntyre has an impressive collection of exceptionally detailed pen and ink portraits but one of his most signature techniques is creating images out of words.” He researches people and events and then draws and shapes images using those words.
One of his favorite paintings is The Azalea. Rachard lives in Wilmington and every spring he is mesmerized by the beautiful blossoms of the plants lining the streets and resting in the landscaping of one of the most beautiful cities in North Carolina. Rachard used watercolor to recreate a stunningly beautiful bloom of a Pink Formosa azalea. Eventually, this painting caught the attention of Azalea Festival President, Deirdre McGlone-Webb, who commissioned Rachard to recreate the painting in word art. Thus “WORDS IN BLOOM” came to life on canvas.
Rachard is a graduate of Cape Fear Community College. His works of art have been on display at the Cameron Museum of Art in Wilmington, North Carolina, the University of Texas, the Wyche Gallery on the campus of Southeastern Community College, the Hart Witzen Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina, and at the Wilmington International Airport’s quarterly exhibit coordinated through the local Arts Council.
Rachard receives invitations to display his work at many local arts and cultural events in North Carolina. He looks forward to continuing to showcase his work in the state he calls home.
Alex Highsmith (Samuel Alexander) was born in Wilmington, NC on August 7, 1997. Alex was educated in the New Hanover County School system, graduating from Eugene Ashley High School in 2015. He excelled athletically at Ashley, playing football and baseball for 4 years and basketball during his senior year.
Although he was a unanimous 1st team all-conference linebacker as a senior, Alex received no Division 1 FBS scholarship offers. Alex was given the opportunity to walk-on to the football team at UNC-Charlotte in 2015. He played 4 years for Charlotte (2016-2019), earning an athletic scholarship in 2017. Alex was a 2 year starter, being named 1st Team All Conference in 2018 & 2019 and 3rd Team All American in 2019, becoming the school’s first AP All American.
Alex was drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers (pick 102). He began his rookie season as a starter on special teams and a significant contributor off the bench as an outside linebacker. Following a season ending knee injury to starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree, Alex was thrust into the starting lineup Week 13 against the Washington Football Team. He started the last 6 games for the Steelers. The highlights of his rookie season included an interception against the Baltimore Ravens and sacks against the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns. He was named to several NFL All Rookie Teams including Pro Football Focus and The Draft Network.
Alex is a devout Christian. He participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at UNCC and was a member of Elevation Church University City in Charlotte. He has founded the Alex Highsmith Family Foundation which will work to improve the lives of young people in Wilmington and Pittsburgh. Alex is the son of Sam and Pam Highsmith, two long time NHCS educators. He has one sister, Lauryn Highsmith, who is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill