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Who are the Azalea Belles?

Judy Royal

According to the N.C. Azalea Festival Web site, Mrs. Harley Vance, past president of the Cape Fear Garden Club, introduced the tradition of the Azalea Belles participating in the Azalea Garden Tour in 1969. Seven young ladies, five of whom were daughters of club members, wore hoop-skirted antebellum dresses that year as their costumes for the Confederate Ball.

Since then, the Belles have grown to a group of more than 100 young women serving as ambassadors for the city of Wilmington during the Azalea Festival. Their primary duty is to act as hostesses in the gardens featured on the garden tour.

Azalea Belles must be sponsored by a member of the Cape Fear Garden Club or the Azalea Belle Committee. Priority is given to daughters and granddaughters of Cape Fear Garden Club members, followed by high school seniors, juniors and sophomores. A lottery drawing is conducted if there are more Belle applications than spaces. The number of spaces varies from year to year, based on the sizes of the gardens. Priority is also given to girls who reside in or attend school in New Hanover County.

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