BY Jenna Jones Lindsey Johnson Lia Kerner Richard Leder and Marimar McNaughton
In full bloom
The North Carolina Azalea Festival celebrates its 61st year
For 61 years the North Carolina Azalea Festival has been a great source of pride for the state. Since its inception in 1948 it has grown to become the largest festival of its kind. Each year it attracts more than 300 000 people of all ages to the Azalea Coast for a week of fellowship and celebration honoring Wilmington’s exceptional artwork history gardens homes and culture during five days of fun that include a parade a street fair a circus concerts pageantry and our beautiful southern city in full bloom. “We try to make the festival something that people of all ages can enjoy ” says Dana Fisher president of the Azalea Festival. “All the people that are coming in from out of town we want them to come back time and time again to the city we love.”
The North Carolina Azalea Festival brings people together from near and far. This April 9-13 new traditions will blossom while longstanding favorites will make them (and us) fall in love all over again.
To kick off a week of floral fun the opening ceremony will be held on Wednesday April 9 in Historic Downtown Wilmington overlooking the Cape Fear River where the Queen Azalea and her court will arrive on the Henrietta III Coronation Cruise. Festival officials will crown the queen and special guests will be introduced. In addition to other festival officials and dignitaries attending the Queen’s Coronation this year’s musical guests — two of country music’s finest bands Sugarland and Little Big Town — will be in attendance. Overlooking the North Carolina Battleship and hundreds of vibrant azaleas the opening ceremony will be the beginning of an unforgettable week.
April 11-13 is this year’s annual Azalea Garden Tour. The 2008 theme “Gardens from the River to the Sea ” spotlights some of the Cape Fear Region’s premier gardens. In its 55th year the Azalea Garden Tour gives guests the opportunity to explore 11 exceptional gardens from Historic Downtown Wilmington to Landfall. The tour opens on Friday April 11 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Governor Dudley Mansion home of North Carolina’s first elected governor Edward B. Dudley. Queen Azalea and her court will preside accompanied by more than 100 stunning Azalea Belles dressed in antebellum gowns. “People love the tour because they can get ideas on what they can do to beautify their own gardens ” says Cindy Godwin publicity chair of the Azalea Garden Tour. “It’s a great kickoff to spring.” Included in the tour this year is the Biblical Garden of First Presbyterian Church featuring plants and flowers mentioned in the Bible and a crepe myrtle planted by Woodrow Wilson’s mother. “It’s a real showcase ” says Godwin “everyone wants to come to Wilmington to see the azaleas.”
Another favorite event the Historic Wilmington Foundation Home Tour will begin with a ribbon cutting on Saturday April 12 at 12:30 p.m. at the home of Lynn and Rodney Turner. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo will do the honors. This year many of the homes are in the downtown or Forest Hills area. The home tour will highlight 11 of them many of which have been beautifully renovated. “We look for homes that have transformed and are getting a lot of attention for it ” says Amiée Jones events and membership coordinator for the Historic Wilmington Foundation. “The home tour is exciting because people are curious. They love to hear about the history and get design ideas.” The tour will take place on Saturday April 12 and Sunday April 13 from 1- 6 p.m.
On Saturday morning April 12 the Azalea Festival Parade will feature more than 150 entries including six marching bands and a steady stream of floats. All of the floats will have themes ranging from “Azalea Earth ” a celebration of our community’s effort to go green to “Birth of Spring ” which will present Wilmington in the many hues of this splendid season. Entrants will be asked to place azaleas on their floats during the parade and then plant them in the community after the festival. “There’s going to be hundreds of azaleas planted throughout the community by parade participants ” says Steve Cobel parade chairman. “We’re asking people to go home and plant them in their yards to beautify our wonderful city.” — Lindsey Johnson
Belles of the ball
The tradition of the Azalea belles
In 1969 Mrs.Harley Vance then-president of Cape Fear Garden Club started with seven beauties. Now with more than 125 girls Azalea Belles has become something that Azalea Festival spectators have come to love and expect. Each year Belles are showcased as hostesses for the annual Azalea Festival Garden Tour adorned in lively antebellum gowns. “People love to see the old traditional dresses of the South ” says Ginger Longino of the Azalea Festival Committee. “It adds such color and I think it’s wonderful to see all the young women supporting the community. Not only do they represent the Cape Fear Garden Club and the Azalea Festival but the town of Wilmington.”
Typically precedence in choosing belles is given to daughters and granddaughters of Cape Fear Garden Club members. Then once all those spots are filled priority is given to high school seniors juniors and sophomores respectively. Belles must reside in New Hanover County. Though this year’s Azalea Belles are already chosen if you have a budding belle in your family and would like to see her participate in next year’s Azalea Festival contact Ginger Longino at (910) 619-1449. — Lindsey Johnson
• Juried Art Show
• Horse Show
• Coin Show
• Princess Pageant
• Port City Gospel Explosion
• Shag Contest
• Garden Tour
• Home Tour
• Azalea Parade
• Queen’s Coronation
• Cole Bros. Circus
Schedules for all Azalea Festival events are available by calling the Azalea Festival office at (910) 794-4650 or visit www.ncazaleafestival.org.
Drop a line
Fishing tournaments combine for one great cause
On April 23-26 Cape Fear Blue Water Fishing Club will hold the Wrightsville Beach Marina Spring Challenge. The fishing tournament hosted at the Wrightsville Beach Marina will be a combination of the 18th annual Cape Fear Blue Water Open fishing tournament and the Wrightsville Beach Marina Spring Challenge. Competitors will come from all over the country to contend for 1st and 2nd place spots in the categories of: largest dolphin wahoo and tuna as well as prizes for billfish release and lady angler. The tournament funds will go to support Eckerd Youth Alternatives (EYA) a program that provides camps to promote the well-being of high-risk youth. “We’re combining two of the best fishing tournaments in southeastern North Carolina ” says Captain Rich Walter president of the Cape Fear Blue Water Fishing Club. “I’m excited for this to be a really successful tournament.” For more information contact Captain Rich Walter at (910) 256-6666 or (910) 686-6876. —Lindsey Johnson
SunTrust Silent Auction and Fashion Show
Fashion shows are often a time to see the newest trends and socialize with friends but the seventh annual SunTrust Silent Auction and Fashion Show at Landfall is so much more than that. On Wednesday April 9 a silent auction will begin the popular event and be followed by a light lunch and then the high-energy fashion show. The cost is $250 for a table of eight or $35 for a single ticket. The proceeds go directly to the Child Advocacy and Parenting Place Exchange Club Center which helps prevent child abuse and neglect and strengthens families through education in-home intervention and community awareness. For tickets contact Karen McKinnon at (910) 791-1057 ext. 26. —Lindsey Johnson
Wrightsville Beach’s Ocean Rescue Squad gears up for a new season
Toss aside the stereotypes of poorly fitted red swimsuits white-sunscreened noses and shiny whistles dangling carelessly from the fingers of some aloof daydreaming teenager. Lifeguards are there for a reason. Just last year Wrightsville Beach lifeguards made 194 rescues on Wrightsville Beach!
It’s impossible not to notice the 28 able-bodied lifeguards which make up the fire department’s Ocean Rescue Squad. From 13 stands along the beach strand: Lifeguards patrol from Memorial Day to Labor Day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. The team is made up of men and women from a vast variety of experience levels and backgrounds. Ocean Rescue Director Dave Baker identifies his squad as “one of the most diversified and talented.” Ages range from 18 to late 40s and primarily include college students local teachers and retired individuals.
Tryouts take place the last Saturday in April and the first Sunday in May. Then mid-May those who make it begin rigorous training including physical medical and lifesaving techniques which continues for two weeks. The physical training involves intense running swimming and repetitive skill-building exercises to get them in “the shape they need to be in ” says Baker. “So if you actually have to do a rescue that’s going be easy compared to what you’ve done.” While the training is intense and exhausting it also molds lifeguards into the unswerving protectors of the beach they need to be.
Lifeguards hit the beach the Friday before Memorial Day and come together as a team to protect the thousands of Wrightsville Beach swimmers and sunbathers. “It’s really something you have to witness ” Baker remarks. While they officially “man the stands” from the end of May until September lifeguards have a presence on the beach until October 31. Daily responsibilities include patrolling the beach making rescues recovering lost children and responding to medical calls but Baker outlines the job’s biggest challenge as “understanding the inherent danger in what we do there will be days we can’t save everybody.” Baker equips his team with the ability to come out of such a situation knowing they’ve done everything they could to ensure that that person would have been saved if at all possible. Ultimately it’s the mind-set that team members can go to sleep at night knowing they went as far as they could go and then one step further.
“We make a difference ” Baker says. He and his squad acknowledge that they are entrusted with people’s lives each day they climb into the stands. Not only do lifeguards have to have the ability to perform rescues and enforce surf zone regulations but they also must know how to communicate with everyday locals as well as people who may be on the beach for the first time. When you combine the varying people skills possessed by the average beach-goer with an array of health problems that any given person may bring to the beach surviving a day’s work is no easy feat. “We can’t be beat on the East Coast ” Baker adds with pride. And with their dedication and skill — both exemplified in their average of more than 200 rescues per year — we won’t argue. — Lia Kerner
Beyond the ribbon
Lump to Laughter breast cancer ministry
Almost everyone knows someone who’s been affected by breast cancer. Lump to Laughter breast cancer ministry is a local group that strives to help women who are going through or have survived breast cancer. “You can get through it. You just have to have faith and hope ” says Connie Hill one of the founders of the ministry. Connie along with co-founder Renee Ballard started Lump to Laughter after the two women survived their battle against breast cancer together. Their stories are on the group’s Web site along with many other resources for women who are fighting or who have beaten breast cancer. This online community has provided support for many women some as far away as New York. “Most of the people that go through breast cancer have trouble with support groups in general so we offer support online ” says Connie Hill. “When women are ready to step out and meet with others who have been through the same thing we have ‘Tuesdays with Grace.’” On alternating Tuesdays there are brunch dinner workshops prayer and support group gatherings. For more information about “Tuesdays with Grace ” or to make a donation visit www.lumptolaughter.org. —Jessica Haywood
Music and dancing at Thalian Hall
Back by popular demand Thalian Hall is hosting its second presentation of “In the Mood ” a night of music and dancing from the 1940s on April 19 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. With big-band performances of some of the hippest vocalists of their time — Frank Sinatra Benny Shaw and the Andrews Sisters to name a few — “In the Mood” takes audiences on a journey back to a time of petticoats and zoot suits. “It’s great fun ” says Judy Greenhut box office manager at Thalian Hall. “Lots of singing and dancing. You can’t beat the music!” Tickets for the show are $25. Contact the Thalian Hall box office at 800-523-2820 for more information. —Lindsey Johnson
ILM hosts the Coastal Carolina Airshow
The Coastal Carolina Airshow is set to take off on April 19-20 at Wilmington International Airport. This year’s air show will feature the United States Air Force jet team the Thunderbirds and also in its 44th year the U.S. Army Golden Knights 90 soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg N.C. considered to be the “world’s best parachute team.” The show will be four and a half hours of parachute teams acrobatic teams jet cars and precision acts. While the show soars WWII jet planes will be on display for adults while kids are invited to tackle the climbing wall and entertain themselves with an array of toy planes. “There’s going to be lots of noise lots of smoke ” says Ron Gumm air show coordinator. “It’s really exciting to watch them perform.” Tickets for the show are $10 in advance at all BB&T banks or $15 at the gate. Gates open at 8 a.m. Spectators are encouraged to come early and spend the day. Contact Ron Gumm at (910) 341-4333 or visit www.coastalcarolinaairshow.com for more information. —Lindsey Johnson
16th annual Coastal Classic Celebrity Golf Tournament
The New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation will be hosting its 16th annual Coastal Classic Celebrity Golf Tournament April 26-27. This star-studded weekend will feature celebrities such as actor Nick Searcy (Fried Green Tomatoes) and celebrity golfer Thad Daber. Daber a four-time World One Club Champion is the Guinness-World-Record-holder for shooting the lowest score using only one golf club. On Friday night the foundation will host its “Pairings Party ” in which teams of celebrities and spectators will participate in drawings. On Saturday the tournament will take place at the Pete Dye Golf Course in Landfall and a dinner party will be held that evening to honor all of the special guests giving them an opportunity to showcase and share their talents with the community. To close the competition on Sunday an awards ceremony will be held to announce the celebrity winner. This year the tournament is dedicated to Karl F. Davis WECT general manager and longtime supporter of the tournament. “It’s an amazing three days of golf celebration and local involvement ” says Aline Lasseter executive director of the foundation. “It’s a wonderful way to get the community excited for a good cause.” Tickets are $20 for spectators and are available at First Citizens Bank. All proceeds go to benefit the Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Contact Aline Lasseter at (910) 815-5002 or visit www.nhhn.org for more information. —Lindsey Johnson
Harbor Island Garden Club’s 3rd annual tour of homes
Wrightsville Beach’s best kept secret Harbor Way Gardens is an island oasis; its entrance hidden at the intersection of US Highways 74 and 76 where the Causeway and Salisbury Street come together at the top of the Loop. Tucked behind a screen of native wax myrtle and pine trees the garden and its new addition the children’s garden — with its pint-sized playhouse child-sized garden tools hopscotch court and fanciful wooden flowers painted by Wrightsville Beach Elementary School’s Rooty Rascals — is a breath of fresh air for families with young children destined for a shady retreat. The garden is the showplace of the Harbor Island Garden Club and once again the staging area for the club’s third annual tour of homes on Friday April 25.
This year guests will park at town hall and pick up or purchase their tickets and a map for the self-guided tour that will feature some of Wrightsville’s freshest homes and gardens.
The lovely shingle-style Salisbury Street home of Chris and Rhesa Stone on the point overlooking Lees Cut; the recently renovated historic-contemporary Banks Channel home of alderman Lisa Weeks on North Channel Avenue; and the home and container garden of John and Jean Sandlin on South Harbor Island are among those to be opened for the daylong event. Also on the self-guided tour are the gardens of Denny and Sheila McCuiston and those of Durwood Sykes; and at Seapath Estates Wylene McDonald will open her yard to visitors.
The $25 ticket price supports the club’s green thumb mission – to preserve and beautify the beach. To reserve contact club president Linda Brown at (910) 256-8472 or E-mail her at [email protected]. —Marimar McNaughton
4 Paws with a cause
Canine Relay for Life
On Saturday April 19 local dogs will take on an agenda far more serious than missing chew toys: cancer. Statistics show that the U.S. counted more than 559 312 cancer-related deaths in 2005 and pups and dogs all over the Port City are putting their paws up to show they’ve had enough. To do more than just bark about it breeds of all shapes and sizes will spend an afternoon at Halyburton Park to support their owners and the ACS in New Hanover County’s first-ever Canine Relay for Life.
Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. followed by the walk at 10:05. The fee is $10 per dog which includes a T-shirt for owners and a bandana and treat package for the canines. Dogs are encouraged to use their best begging skills to gain contributions from their owners friends and family. The 12 “top dogs” that raise the most money will be featured in the 2009 Canine Relay for Life Calendar. All funds raised will go to support the American Cancer Society. This fun-filled event serves the noble purpose of “giving the dogs a chance to walk and raise money for their humans ” says event organizer Dianne Jones. So leash-up head out to the park and get some exercise for a great cause. And while you’re at it — don’t forget to have a photo taken of you with your canine in front of the “We Let the Dogs Out ” event banner. For more information or to join a canine team visit www.newhanoverrelay.org or call Dianne Jones at (910) 392-0333. —Lia Kerner
Noted historian (and regular WBM contributing writer) Susan Taylor Block’s Then and Now: Wilmington allows readers to take a step back in time and look at some of the Cape Fear’s most cherished locations. The book features photographs of landmarks like Orton Plantation juxtaposing a picture of the plantation then — with Col. Kenneth Murchison standing in front — and now preserved and expanded by Murchison’s great-great-grandson. “I was very excited when Arcadia approached me about writing Then and Now: Wilmington ” says Block. “I did a lot of my research downtown and in Chapel Hill and Wilmington interviewing some of the old-timers getting information from them and pictures of what used to be here. It’s interesting to see all the buildings that have been lost and that have been preserved.”
Friends of Oakdale Cemetery has announced the DVD release of its new documentary Oakdale Cemetery: Where Angels and Mortals Meet. Oakdale cemetery was founded in 1855 when cemeteries were becoming established in the United States and is the first rural cemetery in North Carolina. Oakdale Cemetery: Where Angels and Mortals Meet was produced by Donald Koonce a native of Wilmington. The documentary showcases the beauty of Oakdale Cemetery and gives an exciting history lesson of one of Wilmington’s most prized historical settings. The DVD can be purchased at the Oakdale Cemetery Office at 520 N. 15th Street or at www.oakdalecemetery.org. The price is $13 for members of the Friends of Oakdale Cemetery and $15 for nonmembers. For more information contact Janet Seapker at (910) 762-6301. —Lindsey Johnson
For the birds
Cruise of the Lower Cape Fear Bird Islands
Battery Island the 100-acre Audubon sanctuary at the mouth of the Cape Fear River near the town of Southport is the state’s largest gathering place of wading birds. A significant number of North Carolina herons egrets and ibises nest here and rear their young. It is in fact a globally recognized site for white ibises. To celebrate and support this local landmark the Cape Fear Garden Club is once again hosting its Cruise of the Lower Cape Fear Bird Islands on April 20. Retired Professor Emeritus of UNCW’s biological sciences Dr. James Parnell; deputy director of Audubon North Carolina Walker Golder; and commentator author naturalist and education director for Audubon North Carolina Andy Wood will all discuss wildlife seen on the cruise. Seating is limited and all proceeds go to support Battery Island under the care of the Audubon Society. Tickets to board the Starship Cruise boat at the Southport Marina are $35 per person and can be purchased from P.O. Box 414 Wrightsville Beach North Carolina 28480 or from Backyard Wild Southport. For additional information visit www.capefeargardenclub.org. — Richard Leder
The historic Wilmington commissioning of the USS North Carolina — Virginia-class nuclear powered submarine
Throughout the centuries battles on land and by sea have been fought to maintain the prestige honor and freedom of this country.
On May 3 Wilmington will get to witness firsthand the honor and prestige that define our country’s servicemen and women as well as the advances made by the U.S. Navy at the commissioning ceremony of the newest Virginia-class nuclear powered fast attack submarine the USS North Carolina (SSN 777).
Captain David Scheu of the Battleship USS North Carolina notes that a commissioning ceremony for this area is a rare event. Even in the case of our resident battleship an event like this did not occur. “That was not an option with the battleship because back in those days she was commissioned like most of the ships in World War II in her building yard in Brooklyn.” Captain Scheu explains that the Navy has recently started trying to get the ships into their home states for their commissioning services because it means a great deal to both the city and the state.
Both Louise McColl and Captain Scheu co-chairs of the commissioning committee attribute the location of the commissioning event to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and U.S. Sen. Mike McIntyre (D-NC). “At just about the same time Bill started writing letters and working to get the commissioning event from here Mike was working up in Washington doing the same thing ” says McColl. It was because of their combined efforts that this historic event will be held right here in the Port City.
The submarine is the fifth ship to be named North Carolina and is the fourth Virginia-class submarine following the USS Virginia the USS Texas and the USS Hawaii. She was constructed in Newport News Virginia at the Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock facility. More than 1 000 of the men and women working at that facility are from North Carolina and a large number of them worked directly on the submarine.
Though the submarine was named by the Secretary of the Navy Dr. Donald Winter in 2000 on April 21 2007 the submarine’s christening or naming ceremony took place at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock. As is tradition the ship’s sponsor (either the wife of an admiral or a former or current First Lady chosen by the Secretary of State) Linda Anne Rich Bowman broke a bottle of bubbly over the bow of the ship declaring it officially the USS North Carolina and making it ready for its launching event held about two weeks later. “It is the Secretary of the Navy’s responsibility to name all of the ships ” Scheu says “and in this particular case not only does he get to name the ship he gets to name the sponsor the location the date time and principal speaker ” who for this extraordinary event chose himself the Secretary of the Navy Dr. Donald Winter to be the speaker.
Approximately 5 000 people are expected to attend the commissioning ceremony and as McColl says “This will probably be the most historical event held in North Carolina that Wilmington has ever seen.” — Jenna Jones
The USS North Carolina (SSN 777) is part of the elite Virginia-class attack submarines. She is constructed in an identical fashion to her four class predecessors.
• Length: 377 feet
• Beam: 34 feet
• Displacement: 7 800 tons
• Speed: 24-plus knots
• Depth: 800-plus feet
• Weapon Launchers: Four 21-inch torpedo tubes and 12 vertical launch tubes
• Tomahawk land-attack missiles (TLAM) MK 48 advanced capability torpedo unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV) and advanced mobile naval mines
• Special Warfare: Dry deck shelter advanced SEAL delivery system and nine-man lockout trunk
• Sonars: Spherical active/passive arrays high-frequency bow and sail arrays as well as towed arrays
While the exact schedule of a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine may be tricky to pin down Louise McColl co-chair of the commissioning committee can at least offer a list of the events planned thus far.
“When she gets here we will have an arrival ceremony at the state ports ” McColl says. “And all day Tuesday and Wednesday the crew will be out in the community doing a lot of civic work.” The crew is scheduled to visit an array of civic organizations such as the hospital the Cape Fear Literacy Council The Senior Center Cape Fear Community College and the Rachel Freeman School of Engineering and will also be participating in a project for Hands on Wilmington. On Wednesday night the commissioning committee is set to tour the submarine as a “thank you” from the commander of the ship and Thursday night the Mayor’s Celebration will be held at Thalian Hall for local VIPs and crew members. The Sponsor’s Party will honor the sponsor of the boat Linda Bowman on Friday afternoon at Ron and Cindy Pickett’s home the Dudley Mansion. From there the commander will take Bowman and her guests on a tour of the submarine and that night there will be a Captain of the Submarine and Chairman of the Committee Party. This event is for the major VIPs flying in from all over the country. A large fireworks display will immediately follow.
The actual commissioning ceremony will be held on Saturday. This starts at 11:15 a.m. and will end after the post ceremony at 1:30 p.m.
In an effort to continue the overall Wilmington experience the commissioning committee is planning to take all of the crew members and their families to the opening night of the Hammerheads’ soccer season after the ceremony.
The event-filled week will be capped off with a Sunday morning prayer breakfast for some of the crew members and commissioning committee members held by Senator McIntyre on the fantail of the Battleship. — Jenna Jones
Meet the commander
Commander Mark Davis will serve as the submarine’s commanding officer. Commander Davis is set to be promoted to the rank of Captain by the time the commissioning ceremony takes place. He will have ultimate authority over the submarine and will be assisted by both the executive officer and the chief of the boat. After completing a four-year enlisted tour as a Navy Seabee Davis received his commission through the NROTC program.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering as the outstanding student in his department from San Diego University and in 2001 was Force Nuclear Power Officer for 22 months.
Davis assumed command of the attack submarine USS Montpelier (SSN 765) and later became the Commanding Officer of PCU North Carolina (SSN 777).
Commander Davis wears multiple medals including the Meritorious Service Medal (with two stars) the Navy Commendation Medal (with four stars) and the Navy Achievement Medal (with two stars). — Jenna Jones
What’s In a Name?
The USS North Carolina (SSS 777) is the fifth in a line of elite military vessels named for the state.
• 1824-1866: Ship-of-the-line North Carolina. A 74-gun warship which acted as the flagship of Commodore John Rodgers. It traveled across the Mediterranean and later to South America.
• 1863-1864: Ironclad CSS North Carolina. Though eventually sunk off the coast of Southport before that she was the guard ship at the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
• 1908-1920: Armored Cruiser USS North Carolina (ACR-12). She served to bring back the bodies of the sailors who died in Havana Harbor during the explosion of the battleship Maine. She is also said to have aided in the birth of naval aviation as she was the first ship to catapult-launch an aircraft while underway. She was also constructed in the same shipyard Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock as the USS North Carolina (SSS 777).
• 1941-1947: Battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55). She was commissioned in April 1941 and was built by the US for service in World War II. She was the first of 10 “fast” battleships and operated mostly in the Pacific Theatre. Awarded 15 battle stars she was the most decorated battleship of the second world war and is now at rest across the Cape Fear River from Historic Downtown Wilmington. — Jenna Jones