WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Azalea Festival is officially underway and that means bright dresses, big hats, and suits swarming the Port City.
It is a tradition that has been sweeping the area for decades, and one that has changed the life of this year’s Queen Azalea.
“The 10-year-old girl in me is screaming right now she’s so excited,” Queen Azalea, Beth Troutman said.
It’s a dream come true, just 30 years in the making.
“The first Azalea Festival I attended I was ten years old in 1988,” Troutman said. “Kim Morgan Greene, who was the star of ‘The Colbys’ at the time, was the queen. And she in fact gave me a crystal at the Patrons Ball and told me it would bring me good luck and I have kept it for the last 30 years.”
A token of faith that one day Beth would too be crowned Queen Azalea.
The 2018 queen is no stranger to the festival, Beth not only sang at the event as a child, she was also on the Queen’s Court in 1997 and 1999.
“I’m really excited about getting to interact with everybody here. I mean this festival brings in so many people and it’s such a celebration,” Troutman said. “And it’s so joyful and so full of love and so full of kindness and friendship. So getting to come in and be a part of that and get to really know the people from all over the Southeast really who come in to celebrate that’s a spectacular feeling.”
A feeling many including Azalea Belle, Hana Small is excited for but one that is also a balancing act.
“The most challenging part has been that I have prom this week, and soccer games out of town twice a week. And so that’s kind of been a little bit, you know, stressful. But I think my favorite part is probably picking out my dress,” Small said. “Just feeling like a princess and all dolled up and everything that’s pretty fun.”
Celebrity guests, like blogger Adrian Wood, are getting their first taste of what this festival is all about.
“I hope I leave and maybe got to meet some people that I wouldn’t have gotten to meet,” Wood said. “And really kind of walk away and see the wonderfulness of the tradition. And try to emulate it in my own community because it looks so fun.”
A fun, family friendly tradition that’s just getting started.
For more on who this year’s Queen Azalea is and what she has accomplished, click here.