Azalea Festival High School Writing Contest

by Staff
April 2019

Each year in addition to the robust week of beauty, big-box entertainment, a sense of community pride, parades and street fairs and a whole lot of Southern charm, the North Carolina Azalea Festival also brings the 2019 North Carolina Azalea Festival High School Writing Competition, this year sponsored by Wrightsville Beach Magazine.

Public, private and home-schooled high school students from grades 9-12 were asked to submit a descriptive essay or poem answering the question: "How does the North Carolina Azalea Festival contribute to or enhance our community of Wilmington, NC?" The entries featured here are the top three in each category: Essay and Poetry.


Essay Winner

Abby Stone

Wilmington Christian Academy 10th grade

Abby Stone is an 10th-grade honor student from Wilmington Christian Academy. Her essay was inspired by her 5th-grade self who was selected to ride on a float in the Azalea Festival Parade. She is a self-taught ukulele artist, painter, violin player and singer in her school choir.

Azalea Feel

The fragrances of vibrant, blooming azaleas and mouth-watering street food intermingle in the air, tempting all who stroll by. An alluring array of artwork captivates passersby, bright hues impossible to be skipped over. Crowds wander through the annual street fair in droves, enticed by the eye-catching booths before them. The buzz in the air only grows stronger and stronger as the time for the parade comes. Citizens pack themselves like sardines to get a look at the festive floats. Azalea Belles wave and smile at the onlookers, their dresses swaying in the breeze. Thousands of people gather together for the same cause: to celebrate the scenic Southern state of North Carolina, her mountains and beaches unrivaled. Communities from all across the Tar Heel State swell with pride, seeing the diversity of talent and culture within their beloved home. There is no state which quite matches the homey, welcoming feeling of Southern hospitality as this one. As the azalea flowers blossom and grow each year, so does this state. The azalea is known for its ability to survive, even when conditions are rough. Just as the flower, North Carolina, too, is resilient, determined, and unbreakable. She will never fall.


Poetry Winner

Madison Morrison

Wilmington Christian Academy 11th grade

Madison Morrison is a talkative, outspoken 11th-grade cheerleader at Wilmington Christian Academy. She volunteers at New Hanover Regional Medical Center and with the Pretty in Pink Foundation. She hopes to be a pediatric oncologist, inspired by the doctor who treated her mother for cancer many years ago.

Views from an Azalea

Buds, however hard they try,

Will always be young souls.

Petals soon unfold to display

My everlasting beauty.

My colors inclusive,

Stark white, like caps

On the ocean waves;

Fairest pink like cotton candy,

Nibbled by toddlers, oh so dear.

Brighter of pinks, adorning

The dress of a belle, as

Those adore her.

A festival dedicated to me.

My scent encapsulates

A renewed sense of spring.

The queen and her court,

Bejeweled with many of my trusses,

Are worthy of a king.

The touch of my petals

Often feel as velvet bundles,

That abound throughout

The festival grounds.

Find me spotlighted

In luscious gardens

And lining the streets of

Historic Wilmington.

Belles, like my blooms,

Young souls,

Youthful legacies with stories untold

As they are spotlighted

With me.


Poetry Runner-up

Mairead Benson

Hoggard High School 9th grade

Mairead Benson is a 9th-grader at Hoggard High School who loves to read, write, perform in Thalian Association Children's Theatre productions, travel and golf. She aspires to be a neurosurgeon or lawyer. She has been selected two years in a row to attend the prestigious and challenging Gen. Hugh Shelton Leadership Camp.

La Fleur est Belle

For one beautiful week a year in April,

People come to our town from all parts of the state

Because la fleur est belle.

Guys and gals dressed in their Southern best spend the day in Airlie Gardens,

Drinking, laughing, and enjoying the beautiful, spring day

Because la fleur est belle.

Southern belles and their military escorts stroll through charmingly kept gardens

Because la fleur est belle.

Stars like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Nelly perform for people young and old

Because la fleur est belle.

Young girls gather to watch the queen's coronation

"That'll be me one day ?" they say hopefully

Because la fleur est belle.

Children submit a masterpiece, created with the festival in mind, hoping they'll be the winner

Because la fleur est belle.

Local vendors line the downtown streets to show handmade treasures to enthusiastic shoppers

Because la fleur est belle.

High school junior girls meet with judges, showcase elegant evening gowns, and present themselves to a crowd of adoring fans and their fellow contestants

Because la fleur est belle.

Our queen, her court, the belles and their escorts visit a school, the hospital, and the Boys and Girls Club to spread the festival spirit

Because la fleur est belle.

The parties, the concerts, the competitions

"Why does this all happen?" you may ask yourself. Why?

Because la fleur est belle.

And it is there on that bush,

Flourishing petals of snow white and delicate pink.

And there in that painting,

Masterfully created by a local artist,

And held carefully in a little girl's hand,

Who watches the queen and her court in adoration.

For one week, it is everywhere,

Because la fleur est belle.

The flower is beautiful.

And that is why this all happens in our small, North Carolina town,

Because our azalea is beautiful.


Essay Runner-up

Maria Smith

Wilmington Christian Academy 11th grade

Maria Smith is an 11th-grader from Wilmington Christian Academy, the only youth member of the Cape Fear Camera Club and was a contributing photographer to the club's winning entry in a Wrightsville Beach Magazine photography contest. She plays guitar and plays on her high school soccer team.

Community Comes to Life

The sun rises and casts a golden glow upon the streets of downtown on seemingly an ordinary day, but that is not the case. Today is Saturday at the Azalea Festival. People bustle around in preparation for the parade. An eager crowd accumulates in anticipation. I quickly maneuver my way to the front, hoping for an unobscured view. Music faintly drifts throughout the flood of people, signaling the long-awaited parade. We clap and cheer as one. A band comes into view, their instruments glinting in the sunlight. Following them are the courageous veterans and police force. I can feel the rumbling of their motorcycles vibrate the ground. As they pass by, my eye catches the motion of dancing. Twirling gracefully in their gorgeous traditional dresses, the women move in sync. Clip Clop. Clip Clop. The hooves of the horses echo through the street. The crowd cheers as cars and people stroll down the street. Next to me, I hear a little girl say, "Look!" with excitement in her voice. I gaze down the street and spot what created such joy in her. The Azalea Belles are approaching us on a float magnificently decorated with azaleas. They wave with gloved hands to the roaring crowd. "Someday I will wear a pretty dress like them!" exclaimed the girl. The crowd disperses as the parade ends.

I wander through the streets enjoying the variety of art, crafts, and homemade food vendors. A gentle breeze carries the melodic sound of wind chimes as the hammocks lull their occupants into a daze. The sound of laughter draws me to a group of people playing games. Clang! Ding! A man smiles as the crowd applauds. He chooses a giant pink stuffed animal and hands it to his daughter. Hmmm...the Strength Tester game. I think I'll stick with the balloon darts. Pop! Yes! I win on my first try and walk away with a stuffed llama. The aroma of sweet and savory food causes my stomach to rumble and leads me to funnel cakes. I bite into the fluffy sugar- covered dessert. With my treat in one hand and my llama in the other, I stroll down the riverwalk to finish my day. I reflect on what makes the Azalea Festival so extraordinary. Although many share traditions with loved ones, I value the community's fellowship. Today, we come together and celebrate an event unique to Wilmington.

What makes the Azalea Festival special to you?


Essay Honorable mention

Gloria Macedo

Wilmington Christian Academy 11th grade

Azalea Petals

The welcoming warmth of my mother's hand, engulfing my own, slowly spreads to my arms, my legs, and finally my heart, as we both wander through the busy streets. I seem to turn my head at every unique sight, sound and smell I encounter. Amazing, I think to myself, one united festival that displays so many different people and talents. How fitting that it be called the Azalea Festival.

An azalea flower is comprised of several delicate petals that arrive in diverse colors. Each petal is part of a whole flower that reveals its beauty at its right time. As my gaze falls on the colorful, cultural and coordinated displays of artistry around me, I realize that each of us is an azalea petal. We are all unique, and we contribute to this community. All of the helping hands that came together to create a piece in the grand parade are petals in that flower of a float. Even the several supportive bystanders have their precious part in this uniting event.

The great attraction of an azalea plant is in the numerous flowers that each bush contains. Each delicate azalea petal is part of an exquisite flower which is part of a grand bush of blooming beauty. We are all united, regardless of age, background, or talent. Both the vivacious performances of Wilmington's youth and the numerous stands promoting programs run by the elderly are equally part of Wilmington's charm. The delectable cuisines offered by the busy street sides can be detected from miles away as my nose smells the best of family recipes to unique tastes of faraway lands. Groups of friends and family are scattered about downtown, enjoying the best Wilmington has to offer.

Azaleas are a great symbol for this city. The festival holds the uniqueness of each individual and displays it wondrously when we each do our share. We have all come together for the same purpose: celebrating Wilmington! Each of us has a part in this grand, thriving community, home of the Azalea Festival.


Poetry Honorable Mention

Mia Marino

Wilmington Christian Academy 10th grade

Pinks, Reds, and Whites

The sun has risen on the most beautiful of sights

Azaleas blooming, pinks, reds and whites

Such an abundance of them, they keep going

Oh, and look! Now the Belles are showing

Graceful and calm, they stroll across the walkway

Umbrellas dancing and smiling bright, not one in dismay

Above the elegant doves, stand tall the swiveled trees

Leaves swaying briskly with just one wisp of breeze

Pieces of shadowed sun pour through the giants

Creating silhouettes near the feet of the highest

The joyful faces of families now begin to appear

They are in such good cheer, it is most certainly clear

Floats drift along, colors and scenery lean so tall

Children sit await in awe as such beauty captivates them all

The day and its many wonders have been grand

Though nightfall approaches it will not be bland

Gather around, let us witness the most extraordinary of sights

Fireworks exploding, pinks, reds, and whites

 


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