"When I go back, I will be just a student again . . . not even a princess or anything like that," said Monique Hamilius, who for the next week will also be known as Queen Azalea XXVII. Hamilius, 18, is from Luxembourg (which does indeed have a princess or two, along with an assortment of other titled types, right up to the grand duke and duchess). And Luxembourg is this year's "most favored" of the 15 NATO nations that participate in the International Azalea Festival, held every year in the fleet headquarters town of Norfolk, Va.
Most favored means that, in addition to choosing the queen, Luxembourg's Ambassador Adrien Meisch also got to have the receptions for the other nations, the princesses, the pageant sponsors and officials and representatives from the Virginia Orchestra Group on both Saturday and Sunday nights.
"It is one of the more pleasant tasks of the ambassador," said the smilingly undaunted Meisch of the Azalea Festival activities, even as the crowds of strangers pushed over the Bukhara carpets in the entrance of the embassy to the Nayyins and Isfahans beyond, trailing ashes, cracker crumbs and dribbling champagne.
In fact, the crush of activity at the embassy and at the Sunday brunch in the OAS building could take on the aura of a peaceful interlude when contrasted to the ambassador's more somber responsibilities of the upcoming week. Last night after the second reception, he flew to Europe to make arrangements in his home country for the upcoming meeting with the European Community at which possible actions involving Iran and Afghanistan will be discussed. Europe may indeed by ready "to get tough, too," was one official's assessment of the attitudes among most of the nine Community nations.
"Tonight is rather special," agreed Robert S. Sutton, who had somewhat different reasons for offering that evaluation of Saturday's reception. Sutton is president of the newly formed Virginia Orchestra Group whose Virginia Philharmonic was about to be the first professional Virginia orchestra to perform at Kennedy Center. He was commenting on the nice coincidence that the festival and concert came at the same time. "It's happy that the two events coincide. Normally we would be having this concert in Norfolk; now we'll just have the same concert repeated Monday night."
But before the concert moved to Norfolk, it seemed that most of Norfolk moved to the concert.
"Everybody's where the queen is," said Bridget Ritter, member of the festival committee, who offered assurances that all committee members, in addition to numerous orchestra patrons, chamber of commerce officials, orchestra members and community boosters had made the trek from the Tidewater to the Sunday brunch and the matinee concert.
"I hope we don't regret the weather," said another, surveying the brilliant sky that was enticing crowds of shirt-sleeved strollers outside the OAS building.
"There are two kinds of weather, good and bad," observed someone nearby, "and both are bad for the arts."
It wasn't bad for partying, however, as the large crowd around the brunch tables of "Virginia specialties" proved. "I heard they sold over 900 tickets for this brunch alone," said Gloria Askew, whose husband Sid is on the Azalea Festival Committee.
Askew had been talking to Walter Noona, conductor of the Virginia Pops, one of the three groups under the aegis of the orchestra group. Noona had been pointed out as a "mover and shaker" behind the newly formed organization.
Of the 1,000-plus guests at the Sunday reception, a good half were so described. And the Saturday night crowd was made up almost entirely of the same (movers and shakers, that is) with the exception of those who were princesses, attendants or "guiding lights." Some people even had multiple titles.
Daisy Dickson was one of those. Some called her a mover and a shaker; to others she was a guiding light. In fact, she is a former president of the Norfolk Society of the Arts and one of the members of the committee that made the arrangements for the Kennedy Center performance.
"I put the whole thing together," said she, adding modestly, "It was a committee of three: two men and me."
"They were the gang of three," chuckled William Dickson who described himself as "attendant," nodding toward his wife and adding a third title: "she's a princess, you know."
The ambassador at this point posed at the piano and struck a few chords.
"An etude by Chopin," Mrs. Dickson grinned.
Really! Was she pulling a quick one?
"Of course I am. But it always sounds good to say that," was the reply.
The ambassador was dead serious, however. "I have played music professionally, you know. I played with the Moscow Philharmonic when I was ambassador there. I would have liked to have had music my profession, but I became an ambassador first."