The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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June 17, 2024

Landon School hosts 70th annual Azalea Festival

Bustling crowds roam around the lawn, stopping to enjoy numerous events, ranging from carnival rides to live music. Visitors stop inside a tent to view racks of colorful clothes, jewelry and purses sold by local boutiques. Food trucks line the street, offering a variety of cuisines to wandering guests. Although the Landon School Azalea Festival is advertised for azaleas, flowers are only the beginning of the celebrations.

From May 3 to 5, Landon School hosted its annual Azalea Festival. The event attracts hundreds of visitors yearly and aims to raise funds for student scholarships. The multi-day festival offers many activities for all age groups — children enjoy carnival rides and face painting while adults shop at various boutiques and participate in auctions. 

The vibrant azalea gardens line one side of the lawn. Originally a memorial for lost World War II soldiers, the gardens are known for their abundance of colorful azaleas. Founders of Landon School Paul and Mary Lee Banfield purchased the grounds in 1936 and opened the school as a dormitory. In 1954, they held the first Azalea Festival, selling flowers to raise money for the school. Now an annual event, the festival celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2024.

Shopping is one of the main attractions of the festival. Offering everything from jewelry to ceramic pieces, many local businesses display their unique products for the festival visitors. This festival is essential to the success of many of these business owners.

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Whitman math teacher Kathleen Lubin, a former Landon teacher, started a women’s golf apparel business and displayed her products for the first time at the Azalea Festival. She expressed that the festival was an incredible opportunity to share her designs with a new audience.

“A lot of families would come up and talk to me or ask me about my products or ask [for] more information,” Lubin said. “People were super supportive.”

In addition to the incorporation of new businesses, there is a sense of familiarity for consistent festival visitors. Some shop owners have been at the festival for many years to showcase their products, cultivating a community of annual visitors. 

Liza Jarrett, owner and founder of the clothing brand Liza Byrd, has participated in the Azalea Festival for almost 20 years.

“I have a very nice following here,” Jarrett said. “People that know the product come back year after year, which is great.”

Stationed underneath large canopies are stands filled with plants for sale. Visitors can choose from many options including perennials, azaleas, herbs and vegetables. These plant stands extend the 70-year tradition of selling flowers to festival attendees, a custom that began at the first Azalea Festival.

The festival features many businesses and attractions and is designed to give back to the community. The money raised over the weekend is used for Landon scholarships, supporting educational opportunities for students across the county. In conjunction with profits from ticket sales, the school raises money from participating businesses, who give 20% of their earnings back to the school. 

Landon students and parents often participate in the fundraising by volunteering to set up and facilitate the event. Landon parent Lynn Dyer has volunteered for the past three years. She stated that the best part about volunteering is meeting new people and connecting with the community.

A beloved event for the past 70 years and consisting of many volunteers and attendees, the festival fosters a community among visitors and volunteers alike. Visitor Julia Meier enjoys the shops and boutiques at the festival and has also established a community here. She has come to the festival seven times.

“It’s definitely really fun to come with friends every year, seeing people you haven’t seen in a while,” Meier said. 

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Will Swearingen
Will Swearingen, Photographer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I like taking photos. What is your favorite game? Monopoly

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