WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY)–The Cape Fear Garden Club is ending the half century tradition of girls dressed as southern belles during the Azalea Festival. That news, however, is being met with substantial push back from the community.
“If you love and your passionate about something then you should try to fight for it,”says Shelly Wilkie.
Wilmington resident Shelly Wilkie has done just that. The former Azalea Belle started a petition online to bring back the belles to the gardens of the Cape Fear. The decision to put together a petition comes after it was announced last week the tradition would be coming to an end.
“It was heartbreaking, I had such an amazing experience with it,”Wilkie says. “So, to know that they’re ending it for future belles is just heartbreaking. I really felt like this was something that I loved and am passionate about.”
The Bring Azalea Belles Back petition is picking up steam, with now over 3,500 signatures since last Wednesday. Wilke says the support she has received has been overwhelming.
“I started this petition having no idea it would be where it is right now,”said Wilkie. “The amount of love and just the people that have reached out to me in regards to this has been absolutely overwhelming.”
The support from the petition has motivated Wilkie and other members of the Wilmington community to start their own non-profit garden club. They hope this will give them a fresh start to bring back the Azalea Belles in a year around setting.
“The girls won’t have just one event that they’ll show up at in their dress,”Wilkie says. “They will have a year full of options for things that they would like to do in the community.”
Sherry O’Daniell, the President of the Cape Fear Garden Club says they have no plan for the Azalea Belles to return to their garden in the future.