Mairead likes all her subjects in school but particularly enjoys English and World History. She was selected to the
Governor’s School of North Carolina this summer in the choral music category. In her spare time, she plays golf, goes
to the beach and spends time on the family sailboat. She is active in the Eastern Carolina Episcopal Diocese Youth
Council, the Lower Cape Fear Deanery, and in her local church through acolyting, lay reading, planning Vacation
Bible School, and participating in the EYC.
ESSAY HONORABLE MENTION
JOHN T. HOGGARD HIGH SCHOOL • 10TH GRADE
The Azalea Festival is such an integral part of the culture of our town, but when I first moved to Wilmington, I
didn’t know very much about it. I knew that there was a parade, as there is with most festivals, and some street ven-dors
selling treats and trinkets to those attending the events. I knew there are girls dressed up as Southern belles and
some small youth performances downtown, but that was pretty much it.
Every year in my elementary school art class, my art teacher encouraged us to submit a work of art for the Youth
Art Contest. I never won anything, as I’m not the best artist when it comes to pencils and paints, but it did pique my
interest in learning more about the Azalea Festival … a festival in honor of a flower.
But it is not just about the flower that you see everywhere you look in the spring in Wilmington. Our Azalea
Festival is held each year to honor Southern traditions, the resilience and strength of our community, and our coastal
paradise of a home, Wilmington. We are celebrating the end of winter, despite having some unseasonably warm days,
and beginning the countdown to summer.
The vendors lining the streets of downtown Wilmington are local artists selling their masterpieces to eager shoppers.
The Azalea Belles are juniors and seniors from the local high schools, chosen to help give the Festival its signature
Southern feel. The small performances are put on by some of the local dance studios and theater companies, to enter-tain
festivalgoers as they make memories that will last a lifetime.
Several years ago, I participated in one of those performances, and I saw the effect the Azalea Festival has on our
town. It brings our town closer than ever before. Friends and families come together to celebrate their struggles and
triumphs from the past year, and to celebrate the bonds of friendship — the ones we have had for decades and the
ones we have not yet made.
But what stood out to me the most was how Wilmington, just like her azaleas, grows at this time of year, no mat-ter
what. She grows stronger because of the love that flows through her, the love of friends, families, and a strong and
devoted community. And no matter what hardships come her way, even a hurricane, she will only grow stronger.
WBM april 2020