Nonprofits across North Carolina descended on the WRAL-TV Transmitter site in Auburn, NC, on Saturday, September 25, 2021, to pick up the plants awarded them in the 35th Annual WRAL Azalea Celebration. The celebration returned after being cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Sponsored by WRAL-TV, MIX 101.5 WRAL-FM, FOX 50, WRAL.com and NC Beautiful, the Azalea Celebration promotes environmental education, beautification and stewardship by awarding azalea plants to non-profits in North Carolina.
Corp Chief Horticulturist & Property Manager Andrew Plunkett and his team unloaded and sorted the 5,350 azaleas the day before the distribution.
“The volunteers, people from NC Beautiful, nursery unloading people said it was all very smooth operation with 8 groups coming every 15-minute increments,” said Plunkett of the Saturday distribution.
As is tradition, three nonprofits won awards for their use of azaleas. Named for CBC founder and creator of the WRAL Gardens, A. J. Fletcher, the awards honor the nonprofits who have best maintained their landscaping projects using the WRAL azaleas awarded to them three years ago. The winners each received cash prizes, plaques in the shape of NC, as well as garden supplies including water hoses, rakes, shovels and fertilizer.
The 2021 A.J. Fletcher Award winners are:
- 1st Place – Summerlin Falls HOA – $500
- 2nd Place – Whitakers Revitalize and Preserve – $250
- 3rd Place – Harnett Chapel Church – $125
“All of the recipients and A.J. Fletcher award winners were so grateful for the Azaleas, goodies, and checks,” said Plunkett. “Overall, it was a beautiful fall day with lots of fun and laughter from everyone spreading joy in making the state more beautiful, thanks to the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. NC State beat Clempson too! “
The 2021 celebration was the first for Plunkett. He joined the CBC during the pandemic, in a year in which the WRAL Azalea Celebration had to be cancelled.
“It was quite a challenge to organize with me never have doing it, Ken [Corp Estate Gardener Ken Sandy] never having done it, the contact at the nursery never have done it, and the people from NC Beautiful with only one person that knew how the actual day went. The set up and scheduling was all on us. We figured out little details by asking people question that had done it years and years ago, by looking at old notes and group numbers, and pictures for how things were laid out.”
Despite their lack of experience, the day turned out to be a success for everyone involved. A volunteer team of mostly Boy Scouts and several CBC’ers, pitched in to load plants for the nonprofits who came to pick them up.
Congratulations to the 2021 A.J. Fletcher Award winners and to all the NC nonprofits who received azaleas this year.
Thanks to Corp’s Andrew Plunkett for these Capcom photos.