Thursday, April 5, 2012

Welcome to the Garden Party!

As the South transforms and the flowers begin to awaken and bloom we are glad we have yet again weathered the colder months for the glorious spring.  The breezes of fresh air are heavy with the smell of all the beautiful flowers blooming and we are ready to celebrate one of the South’s most exciting festivals.  The North Carolina Azalea Festival begins next Wednesday and we are ready!  Things have been bustling around the office; ticket sales have been incredible and people are genuinely excited for all the events surrounding the Festival.  Phone calls have poured in from all over the South as visitors plan their activities during their stay in Wilmington next weekend.  A gentleman from Florida called yesterday and requested souvenir books from this year’s Festival; his wife is a graduate of New Hanover High School and they lived here for quite some time and always enjoyed the Festival.  Since he and his wife cannot make the Festival for its 65th anniversary he still wanted to have a little piece of the Festival.  This year has been especially exciting for me as the Festival’s first intern; a lot of work goes into making this such a wonderful event! 

It has been so beautiful outside lately I thought I would share a few delicious recipes from the Junior League of Wilmington, North Carolina cookbook entitled “Seaboard to Sideboard Entertains.”  After looking through all of the recipes I have decided I must try them all, but the book has a Garden Party menu that sounds delightful!  Below is the Garden Party menu and few of the recipes.

Garden Party Menu
Azalea Punch
Honeydew and Lemon Grass Soda Water
Seaside Gougères
Vodka-Infused Tomatoes
Carolina Crab Dip
Spinach Tomato Dip
Cream Cheese with Apricot Preserves
Cucumber-Watercress Tea Sandwiches
Pimento Cheese Sandwiches
Rosemary Pimento Cheese Sandwiches
White Cheddar Pimento Cheese Sandwiches
Devonshire Grapes
Chess Squares
Chocolate Chip Cake

Seaside Gougères
1 C. water
½ C. (1 stick) butter
1 C. all-purpose flour
4 eggs
3 scallions, chopped
1 Tsp. dry mustard
1 Tsp. white wine and Worcestershire sauce
¾ C. (3 ounces) shredded gruyère cheese
8 oz. fresh lump crab meat, flaked
1 can (6 ounces) crab meat, drained and flaked

Bring Water and butter to boil in a saucepan.  Remove immediately from heat.  Add the flour.  Beat with a wooden spoon for 1 minute or until pastry is smooth and forms a ball.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Stir in the scallions, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cheese.  Fold in the crab meat.  Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer or until puffed and golden brown.  Cool slightly before removing from the baking sheet. 

Serve warm as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to soup or salad.  

White Cheddar Pimento Cheese Sandwiches
8 C. (2 pounds) shredded white cheddar cheese
1 (4 ounce) jar pimentos, drained and chopped
1 ½ Tbl. sweet relish
2 C. mayonnaise
12 to 16 slices sourdough bread

Combine the cheese, pimentos, relish and mayonnaise in a bowl and mix well.  Spread on one-half of the bread slices.  Top with remaining bread slices.

Makes 6 to 8 sandwiches.

Devonshire Grapes
2 pounds seedless green grapes
2 pounds seedless red grapes
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 C. sour cream
½ C. granulated sugar
1 Tsp. vanilla extract
4 ounces pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
2 Tbl. light brown sugar

Rinse the grapes and remove from the stems.  Dry the grapes thoroughly.  Beat the cream cheese, sour cream, granulated sugar and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.  Fold in grapes by hand.  Chill, covered, for 3 to 24 hours before serving.  Sprinkle with the pecans and brown sugar mix until evenly distributed.

Chocolate Chip Cake
1 (2 layer) package yellow cake mix
1 (3 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix
2 C. (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
12 ounces pecans, coarsely chopped
4 eggs
1 C. sour cream
2/3 C. vegetable oil

Combine the cake mix, chocolate chips and pecans in a bowl.  Stir in the eggs, sour cream and oil.  Spoon into a bundt pan sprayed generously with non-stick baking spray.  Bake in pre-heated 325 degree oven for 1 hour.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Serves 16 

The food in the book sounds and looks scrumptious and I highly recommend heading over to Junior League of Wilmington, purchase one.

Everyone is so excited about the North Carolina Azalea Festival and we cannot wait for y’all to join us as we celebrate everything wonderful in the South.  Go to our website, the link is above and see all of the wonderful events that are starting less than a week away!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Azalea Royalty

Saturday, March 10th was an exciting evening for several young women as they competed for the title of 2012 North Carolina Azalea Festival Princess.  This event is rich in tradition and has been part of the Festival since 1949.  Every year the Azalea Festival Youth Committee raises an excess of $28,000 to produce the North Carolina Azalea Festival Scholarship Pageant and the winner receives the Beverly Anne Jurgensen Scholarship Award.  The scholarship award is equivalent to one full year’s tuition at an in-state university and the court receives scholarship awards as well.  The scholarship award namesake was a beloved Festival volunteer whom was also the Festival’s first female President in 1992.  This year, the Azalea Festival Youth Committee raised over $10,000 in advertising sales alone and we are certainly proud of their commitment and dedication in making this year’s event a success.

The North Carolina Azalea Festival Princess is a year round representative of the Festival.  The Princess and her court attend all of the events surrounding the Festival, travel with the Official Party and have a float in the Parade on Saturday.  

Our 2012 North Carolina Azalea Festival Princess is Julia Lovett!  She is a senior at Cape Fear Academy.

2012 Princess Court Members
Holland McGraw of New Hanover High School, 1st Runner Up
Emily Wilson of New Hanover High School, 2nd Runner Up
Olivia Robertson of Hoggard High School, 3rd Runner Up
Jessica Ellington of Laney High School, 4th Runner Up

Congratulations to the 2012 North Carolina Azalea Festival Princess and Court!   

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


We are proud to feature Kenny Loggins as a performance artist for the 2012 North Carolina Azalea Festival.  He will perform at 8:00 pm Thursday, April 12th at Trask Coliseum located on UNCW’s campus.   There is no question that Kenny Loggins has impacted the music scene in the last four decades and with hits that cross music genres from country to jazz and rock, there is something for everyone!  Enjoy some of Kenny’s music and make sure to come by and purchase tickets at our ticket office or purchase them online at our website, the link is above.  Tickets are selling quickly and the prices are: $47.50 for bleachers and $37.50 for balcony.

At the heart of it all, there remains a brilliant singer-songwriter and guitarist with a lifelong passion for exploring the endless power of the song to communicate.  Loggins’ impact has been extraordinary; twelve of his albums have gone platinum and beyond.  Even with all of the professional success, Loggins finds himself doing again what he has always done -- writing and playing his songs, digging deep and looking toward the next step.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Get Involved!

Congratulations to Cameron Holmes, a fifth grade student of Bellamy Elementary School for her first place win in our North Carolina Azalea Festival Children’s Art Contest!  Cameron’s artwork will be featured in the 2012 North Carolina Azalea Festival Souvenir Book, she will ride in the 2012 Azalea Festival parade with Curious George and The Man with the Yellow Hat and has also been invited to the Governor’s press conference in Raleigh, NC on March 30th, 2012 to present a copy of her artwork to Governor Beverly Perdue.  Cameron was presented with a $50 gift card for her first place win from Learning Express, a proud supporter of the North Carolina Azalea Festival Children’s Art Contest and she will also receive two tickets for when the Cole Bros. Circus comes to town for the Festival!

Our second place winner is Claire Hommes, a fourth grade student of Bellamy Elementary School.  Claire’s artwork will be featured in the 2012 North Carolina Azalea Festival Street Fair program.  She was presented with a $25 gift card from Learning Express and will receive two tickets for when the Cole Bros. Circus comes to town for the Festival!

Our third place winner is Alison Pond, a fifth grade student of Murrayville Elementary School.  Alison was presented with a $15 gift card from Learning Express and will receive two tickets for when the Cole Bros. Circus comes to town for the Festival!

Honorable Mentions:
Alex Kaiser of Cape Fear Academy
Lanvy Lutz of Murrayville Elementary School
Taylor McMillen of Parsley Elementary School
Mariah Nixon of Mary C. Williams Elementary School
Silas Scribner of Parsley Elementary School
Demi Thomas of Bellamy Elementary School
Lilli Treppel of Myrtle Grove Christian School

We are so proud of all the artwork entered into the Children’s Art Contest this year; the creativity, talent and imagination were unbelievable!  Great job to everyone!

Looking to find a way to get involved and support our community?  There are great events coming up that you can get involved with in March and April so take a look!

Senior girls from the area high schools compete for the title based on a private interview with judge, evening gown competition and on-stage presentation.  BB&T and the Azalea Festival Youth Committee sponsor the NC Azalea Festival Scholarship Pageant.  The winner is the recipient of the Beverly Anne Jurgensen Scholarship Award, named after the beloved past president of the North Carolina Azalea Festival.  The Azalea Festival Youth Committee conducts fundraisers year-round to obtain proceeds for the annual event and to present the pageant.

The North Carolina Azalea Festival Scholarship Pageant will take place Saturday, March 10th 2012 at Kenan Auditorium and begins at 7:30 PM.  Tickets are $10.

Thank you for the hundreds of volunteers who have participated in the past for this wonderful event.  This effort, involving agencies of the city, county, state, local businesses, Keep American Beautiful, volunteer organizations and the North Carolina Azalea Festival committee scour the county the weekend prior to the Festival.  We are all proud of our community and especially proud of the individuals and organizations whom help to make this clean up a success.

Azalea Pride will take place Saturday, April 7th 2012 around Wilmington.  Event times and more information will be available closer to the event.

The Azalea Festival 5k/10k and 1 Mike Fun Walk is an annual even hosted by the Cape Fear Volunteer Center.  All proceeds from this event benefit the Cape Fear Volunteer Center Big Buddy Program.  Big Buddy is a one-on-one mentoring program that matches “at-rick” youth ages 6-16 in New Hanover and Brunswick County with positive adult role models.  Youth are identified as “at-risk” due to the following circumstances: involvement with the juvenile justice system, excessive in-school and/or out-of-school suspensions, poor academic performance and lack of positive role models.  The Cape Fear Volunteer Center is a 501c3 and works to recruit and train volunteers, match volunteers with youth, offer support and guidance through case management and provide monthly group activities.

The Azalea Festival 5k/10k and 1 Mile Fun Walk will take place Saturday, April 7th 2012 at Try Sports Field in Mayfaire Towncenter and begins at 8:00 AM.  The cost for participating in this event is $30.

So get out there and get involved!  More information on these events is available on the North Carolina Azalea Festival website.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wearing the Crown

Jacqueline White, Rebecca Arthur and Ericka Dunlap.  What do these women have in common you say?  Jacqueline White and Rebecca Arthur have proudly represented the North Carolina Azalea Festival as the Queen Azalea in previous years and this year our Queen Azalea is Ericka Dunlap!  Celebrating Wilmington in the spring when our community is at the height of excitement with the beautiful sunshine and gardens exploding with azaleas, our community and visitors alike join together for North Carolina’s favorite Festival.

Jacqueline White is an American film actress whom currently resides in Beverly Hills, California.  Charming and warm, Jacqueline was a leading lady in many 1940’s films and was under contract for both MGM and RKO.  She was our first Queen Azalea that had the privilege of beginning the tradition in 1948.  

 In 1989 William H. Cameron, President of the 42nd North Carolina Azalea Festival crowned Rebecca Arthur.  Rebecca is also an American film actress that starred in the TV show Perfect Strangers as Mary Anne from 1986 to 1993.  Her most current film was in 2000 when she was cast in The Watcher.  

The 65th Queen Azalea is Ericka Dunlap.  She reigned as Miss Florida in 2003 and continued on to win the coveted title of Miss America in 2004.  Ericka is the founder of the Crown Jewel Foundation, an organization that invests in the lives of young women and encourages them to strive for excellence and overcome obstacles in achieving their goals.  We are so pleased she will be joining us this April!

The Queen Azalea is the Ambassador for the North Carolina Azalea Festival; she attends official events, visits with groups in our community and also featured in the Parade on Saturday.  Many of the fondest memories shared with the North Carolina Azalea Festival are those of our beautiful Queen Azalea.  The crown that was used for the first Queen Azalea coronation in 1948 is the same crown used today, kept in pristine condition all these years.  While many traditions change or fade over the years, it is pleasant to know that the North Carolina Azalea Festival strives to keep tradition alive with celebrating Wilmington and Southern hospitality!  We all sincerely look forward to this April when we will again welcome spring and delight in the beautiful place we call home.

Please feel free to share any pictures or memories you may have of the Queen Azaleas over the years on our Facebook page!  We certainly love to see pictures and hear stories relating to the Festival.

Also, there will be a Facebook contest later this week so make sure to “Like” the North Carolina Azalea Festival fan page, the link is above.  Good luck!   

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Get Your Tickets!

We have been incredibly busy this past week selling tickets for Scotty McCreery!  Fans are excited to have the opportunity to see him perform at Trask Coliseum and with how tickets have sold so far, I imagine we might be sold out by Friday.  Our office had lines out the door on Thursday and Friday morning; people have shared they are excited to have Scotty join us as this year’s concert artist and many are making it a family event!  Below is a sneak peak of what you can expect if you have the opportunity to attend Scotty’s concert…

Also, we were so thrilled to share who had been chosen as the North Carolina Azalea Festivals 2012 Queen Azalea, the beautiful and talented Ericka Dunlap!  She is such an incredible addition to the Festival and we sincerely look forward to her time here in Wilmington.  Ericka is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree and is the founder of the Crown Jewel Foundation, an organization that invests in the lives of young women and encourages them to strive for excellence and overcome obstacles in achieving their goals. 

The Ticket Office is currently selling tickets for the Cape Fear Garden Club’s Azalea Garden Tour, Cole Bros Circus, Scotty McCreery, Azalea Children’s Tea with A Princess and A Pea theme, the Annual 5K/10K and Fun Walk and the North Carolina Azalea Festival Scholarship Pageant.  Ticket prices and dates can be found on the North Carolina Azalea Festival website or call our office at 910-794-4650.
Last week marked our first Facebook contest!  Frances Rivenbark won an official North Carolina Azalea Festival umbrella and we are excited about the contests and prizes that will be coming up.  Make sure to “Like” us on Facebook because you never know when a contest will be happening!
Yesterday, I had the opportunity in between the hustle and bustle of the office to go and deliver the 2012 Official Artwork to several local businesses with our office manager and it was wonderful to see how excited people were to have this year’s print to display in their business.  The next time you are out and about, look around for North Carolina Azalea Festival’s Official Artwork!      

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

And the Winner is...

Later on today the North Carolina Azalea Festival will be announcing the 65th Queen Azalea, several of the celebrity guests as well as one of the musical artists that will be performing the week of the Festival.  It is an exciting time for everyone!  I know that every year, Wilmington residents and visitors to the Festival alike await the announcement of the individuals that will join our community in celebrating the splendor of the Cape Fear area and the beautiful azaleas.  The Ticket Office has been bustling with phone calls, countless meetings and preparation to make the announcement later today and we are certain that the community will be thrilled to find out who our Queen Azalea is this year!
Today also marks the start of our North Carolina Azalea Festival contests.  Throughout the next weeks we will be posting questions on the North Carolina Azalea Festival’s Facebook page about the Festival’s history, previous Queen Azaleas, previous Concert Artists, as well as questions about this years guests that will joining us very soon.  Prizes for our winners will range from North Carolina Azalea Festival souvenirs to tickets for events associated with the Festival.  The answers to our questions can be found on the official website, the Facebook page for the North Carolina Azalea Festival and this blog.  The links for these pages can be found at the top of this page so make sure you check out the beautiful website and also “Like” us on Facebook so that you can participate in the contests!  There will be several contests leading up to the Festival so make sure to keep up with Sweet Tea and Azaleas for information about the upcoming Festival events, announcements as well as the next opportunity to win fabulous prizes!