Aspiring artists take home top prizes in Azalea Fest competition

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Carolina Beach Elementary students Elajandra Torres and Marea Bradley, seen here art teacher Melony Conner, were top winners in this year's Azalea Fest art contest. Courtesy photos.
Carolina Beach Elementary students Elajandra Torres and Marea Bradley, seen here with art teacher Melony Conner, were top winners in this year’s Azalea Fest art contest. Courtesy photos.

Some budding spring-inspired artists recently received accolades for their N.C. Azalea Festival creations.

After reviewing nearly 900 entries from K-8 students in New Hanover and Pender counties, judges in the festival’s annual children’s art contest recently selected their favorites in elementary and middle school categories. Submissions came from at 26 different public, private, charter and home-schools, as well as one after-school program, according to New Hanover County school district spokeswoman Heather Miller.

Elajandra Torres, a fourth-grader at Carolina Beach Elementary, took home best in show among her peers for her vibrant watercolor and color pencil piece, “Southern Girls.” Naturally, the 9-year-old says art is her favorite subject in school, Miller said, and is never without her art journal.

Middle school winner Audrey Mase, left, Torres pose with their first-place artwork.
Middle school winner Audrey Mase, left, Torres pose with their first-place artwork.

The illustrator-in-training said she pulled her art “from the beautiful Wilmington sunsets, and from the beautiful belles and azaleas seen here in the springtime.”

In the middle school category, Audrey Mase, who is in seventh grade at Roland-Grise, was the top winner for “In Bloom,” her watercolor take on an azalea belle stationed in her garden of the pink-hued flowers for which the long-running local festival is named.

A science-minded student who also is an active member of the school band and its offshoot, Trash Can Therapy, Audrey, too, keeps her sketch pad close to capture what she sees around her.

When it came to the contest, she said she was struck by the parallels between the petals and the parading girls in antebellum attire.

“I love the similarities between the beautiful azalea blossoms and the dresses and parasols of the beautiful azalea belles,” she noted.

Now in its seventh year, the Azalea Festival Children’s Art Contest started back in October with an open call to all area students. Focusing on which festival traditions most stand out to them, artists created a variety of themed pieces that were up for review in January.

Contest co-chairpersons Stephanie Kraybill and Miss Greater Wilmington 2010 Brooklyne Williamson assisted the contest judging panel, which included this year’s official Azalea Fest artist, Mary Ellen Golden.

Other winners include:

Elementary Division

  • Second place—“Singing Azalea” by Marjorie Garcia Velasquez, second grade, Mary C. Williams
  • Third place—“All the Belles” by Marea Bradley, fourth grade, Carolina Beach Elementary
  • Honorable mention–Aiyanna Age, third grade, Rachel Freeman School of Engineering

Middle School Division

  • Second place—Brooke Sanderford, eighth grade, Wilmington Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Third place—“The Battleship Azalea” by Symaji Rainey, seventh grade, DC Virgo Preparatory Academy
  • Honorable mention–Natalie Ramos, DC Virgo Preparatory Academy