N.C. Azalea Festival volunteers relive warm memories
Sandee Spradley, a 36-year volunteer with the N.C. Azalea Festival, rides an elephant in an N.C. Azalea Festival parade in the early 1990s. Contributed photo
By Brittany Michelle Hughes
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The N.C. Azalea Festival is made possible each year by the many volunteers who contribute their time and talent to the annual showcase. Festival staffers estimate around 1,000 volunteers are involved in various capacities.
Here are some of their stories:
Frances Lamb is no stranger to the N.C. Azalea Festival – she’s been involved off and on for more than 45 years.
She joined the festival in 1966. One of her favorite memories is of the “Cottage Lane Art Show,” when she dressed as an artist and escorted visitors through the art exhibit answering questions and describing the art.
Although the “Cottage Lane Art Show” has not been a part of the Azalea Festival’s events in most recent years, Lamb looks forward to the street fair and concerts.
In 1959, Lamb got Ronald Reagan’s autograph when he was grand marshal for the festival; several years later she was able to visit the White House during his presidency.
One of her most interesting memories is of Barry Sadler, an American soldier, author and musician (“The Ballad of the Green Berets,” 1966), who visited Wilmington as a celebrity guest in the late ’60s. He wanted to watch the parade from the reviewing stand but, considering his popularity, there was fear he would be mobbed en route to the stand.
Beverly Anne Jurgensen, the parade messenger for the festival, asked Sadler to simply take off the famous green beret he was wearing. They hopped in her 1951 MGTD and he was safely escorted to the reviewing stand.
The 1993 Queen Azalea, Kelly Ripa, stands out as outgoing and personable to Lamb, and she appreciated how Lindsay Shaw, Queen Azalea in 2010, connected with the younger generations.
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