Azalea Fest holds first event of 2021: Art Unveiling

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The 2021 Azalea Festival is right around the corner, and the festival held its first event of the year on Monday.

Each year, the North Carolina Azalea Festival President chooses an artist to create an artistic representation of the festival. This year, that artist is Rachard McIntyre.

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“When I first met him, I knew that I wanted him as my artist,” said Azalea Festival President Deirdre McGlone-Webb. “He did a watercolor azalea which is what first caught my eye.”

McIntyre is a Wilmington-based artist with autism. He’s known for drawing realistic pencil sketches of celebrities, and his ability to make art out of words.

“Instead of just painting a flower, I decided to express the flower in words with all the names of the queens and presidents and princesses who were a part of the Azalea Festival in the past,” McIntyre said of his artwork.

This year’s piece is called ‘Words in Bloom.’ McIntyre got to unveil it on the Battleship North Carolina surrounded by family, friends, and Azalea Festival Princess Brooke McIntyre (no relation).

“Just the thought and detail that he put into the artwork was just amazing,” Brooke McIntyre said.

Event attendees could also buy prints of the artwork and have them signed by the artist.

“It felt real good. I feel like a celebrity here right now because so many people are impressed by what they saw,” McIntyre said. “I got a chance to meet the mayor also, and the princess of the Azalea Festival.”

The official festival is April 7 – 11, although concerts, the street fair, and the parade are planned for late summer. McGlone-Webb says organizers have had to get creative after most events were canceled last year due to COVID-19.

“Economic impact, we bring about $50 million to the community, and so last year was a double whammy, the festival didn’t happen and then we went into shutdown,” she said. “So anything we can do now, we’re just grateful that we can stimulate the economy somehow.”

You can find out more about Azalea Festival events here.

You can find out how to purchase a copy of McIntyre’s art piece here.