Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Discover ILM: The North Carolina Azalea Festival

I am finally catching up from the excitement that was the 2019 North Carolina Azalea Festival! If you follow along on Instagram, you may have seen that Stephen and I were escorts to Miss North Carolina throughout the week. I was often asked what that meant, so keep reading to get all the details!

It's safe to say that I've had my share of involvement in the festival. It started back in 2008, when I was an Azalea Belle (you can check out more details about that here). The next year, I was lucky to serve as the 2009 North Carolina Azalea Festival Princess! The princess serves as the year-round representative to the festival, traveling the state and sharing all about what the NC Azalea Festival truly is. Then, in 2011 and 2013, I was honored to serve on the Queen's Court. The Queen's Court is chosen from local titleholders that will be competing in the Miss North Carolina Organization that following June. Each role has been filled with its own share of excitement, but I enjoyed this one as we get to have a more behind-the-scenes look at what truly goes into the festival.

So what is the North Carolina Azalea Festival? It is an incredible revenue producer for the city of Wilmington, creating an estimated $51 million dollars in economic stimulus, which is incredible. The organization is filled with volunteers, co-chairs, board members, etc that pull off a 5 day event that includes concerts, a parade, a street festival, of course beautiful azalea garden tours, and more. Patrons and sponsors of the festival are also invited to other events that include luncheons and a fun Saturday night party. 

This year's special guests included Azalea Festival Queen Briana Venskus who is an actress and producer in Hollywood, the Queen's Court, the NC Azalea Festival Princess Claire-Emma Britt, WNBA Veteran Tamera Young, the National Cherry Festival Queen Grace Boyles, Miss North Carolina Laura Matrazzo, Lt. Colonel Allen T. Lamb, Actor Manley Pope, Navy Staff Director Steffanie Easter, Major General James Everette Livingston, and Festival Artist Bergen DeLeeuw. 

This entourage, along with the Executive Board, volunteers, and escorts, travels to each event throughout the festival in the motorcade (every year I'm a part of it, I try to take a video, but the video just doesn't do the experience justice). Thanks to the Wilmington Police Department, we are escorted from event to event (without having to stop at stoplights, which is pretty neat, might I add). 

Stephen and I were asked to be escorts to Miss North Carolina which worked out wonderfully due to my involvement in the Miss NC Organization and also that fact that I had previously met Laura. She and her official chaperone Lindsay McVety (you can check out Lindsay's blog here) came into Wilmington pre-festival, which is where are duties began. Steve and I served as drivers, photo takers, time management enforcers (that was mostly me - haha), festival liaisons, friends, and more. It's a busy week but certainly an incredible one! We also connected with some other amazing people who were serving as escorts. Caroline and Eric Lytle were escorts to this year's festival artist, and I know Caroline through her business High Strung! You should check out her incredible jewelry and here's a throwback to one of her necklaces featured here on Southern Style

The above doesn't even begin to encompass everything that goes into the festival. The Executive Board and Director along with countless volunteers put in more hours than imaginable to make sure that our city experiences an incredible festival. And it's safe to say that's just what we experienced.

The Itinerary:

This is a general idea of the itinerary we followed! There are other things to see and do throughout the event but this was the schedule for the special guests, which of course is what we did as well!

Day 1:

  • Lunch at the Hotel Ballast 
  • Queen's Coronation at Greenfield Lake
  • Past President's Party at Bluewater

Day 2:

  • Celebrity Reception at Cape Fear Country Club
  • New Hanover Regional Medical Center Hospital Visit
  • Brigade Boys and Girls Club Visit
  • Quick dinner at hotel
  • Tyler Farr concert in Downtown Wilmington

Day 3:

  • Ribbon Cutting
  • Garden Party at Airlie Gardens
  •  Dinner at hotel
  • Hank Williams, Jr. Concert

Day 4:

  • Azalea Festival Parade
  • Lunch at hotel
  • Patron's Party at Cape Fear Country Club

Day 5: Depart

Photo Diary

Day 1

For our first day, we were blessed with beautiful weather! We headed to the Queen's Coronation and I chose a Draper James floral wrap dress from last summer. I also used this travel wrap from Target almost every day and I'm so glad I had it!
I dressed things up that evening with this fun midi dress by Hutch from the shop! 

Day 2

Day 2 offered another great weather day, which we were all thankful for. The luncheon was a blast, as we heard from each celebrity guest (and my mom and sister went to this event as well!). For daytime activities on Day 2, I wore this adorable jumpsuit by a brand we carry at ZIA Boutique - Julie Brown NYC. For the evening's Tyler Farr concert, I opted for black jeans, a fun top, and denim jacket. It was a little chilly as we were near the riverfront, so I was glad to have layers!

Day 3

We didn't luck out with the weather on Friday for everyone's favorite Garden Party, but we still had a great time. We first went to a gorgeous home here in Wilmington for the ribbon cutting, as Wilmington offers beautiful garden tours. We then took the motorcade over to Airlie Gardens, which even in the rain was stunning. For this rainy day, I opted for a maxi I've had for a few years by Hutch (and tied it up because the bottom had already been soaked one time at the ribbon cutting and then dried in the car) and paired it with nude Sam Edelman wedges which stood the test of major rain. 

The rain continued into the evening on Friday for the Hank Williams, Jr. concert but we made it work anyway! For that event, I again opted for black jeans and a denim jacket, but switched up my top and wedges. 
dress (sold out, love this one and this one), shoes
leopard tee (sold out, similar), wedges

Day 4

On our last day of festival activities, we were up early for the parade! We sent Miss North Carolina off to her parade vehicle while Stephen and I were taken to the reviewing stand. For these events, I opted for a pair of wide leg pants from the shop and my go-to Loft button tank (and of course that trusty travel wrap because it was a little chilly). 

After an afternoon break, we dressed things up! The Patron's Party is such a special event - attendees include the entire official party, sponsors, and patrons of the festival. It was held at Cape Fear Country Club and was complete with all the details to make it a perfect event. For this event, I opted for gown. We carry the brand Likely at the shop, so I special ordered the Maxson gown in coral for the occasion. It's a very fitted brand so I was a little hesitant but I did love how this gown turned out. 
pants via ZIA Boutique (message to order), wedges, top
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