Azalea Fest named among best flower festivals in the nation

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Among other events, an annual home garden tour helped land the N.C. Azalea Fest on USA Today's list of the top flower festivals in the country. Photo courtesy N.C. Azalea Festival.
Among other events, an annual home garden tour helped land the N.C. Azalea Fest on USA Today’s list of the top flower festivals in the country. Photo courtesy N.C. Azalea Festival.

Since 1948, the N.C. Azalea Festival has paid homage locally to the flowering shrubs that annually usher in the spring.

Now, the brilliant shades of pink that pepper the Port City are getting some national attention.

A panel of gardening experts recently named the Azalea Fest as among the 20 best floral-themed celebrations in the country on USA Today’s 10 Best site. USA Today is asking readers to vote online for their favorite now until noon on Monday, March 28.

As of noon Friday, the Wilmington festival had reached the third spot in the rankings, just under two Michigan events—Mackinac Island Lilac Festival and Tulip Time in Holland.

The recognition puts the festival in good company, alongside Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. and Pasadena’s Rose Parade. Wilmington is one of just three southern cities making the list. The International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia and the Greenwood, South Carolina Festival of Flowers also received a nod.

“Each April, southern charm is in full bloom at the annual North Carolina Azalea Festival,” USA Today writes. “Festival-goers are sure to see plenty of azaleas in bloom during home and garden tours throughout the community.”

Highlights of the festival—which includes a parade, concerts and a host of arts and entertainment and family activities—include a kick-off garden party and a tour of backyard blooms hosted by the Cape Fear Garden Club. The club’s annual Azalea Garden Tour is one of the oldest in the state and has been featured in Southern Living magazine.

This year’s Azalea Fest is set for April 7-9. While the list of celebrities and notable guests—including the Azalea Queen—have not yet been revealed, festival planners have announced two headlining acts—indie bluegrass band The Avett Brothers and up-and-coming country artist Chase Rice.

Votes for Best Flower Festival may be cast once per day until the March 28 deadline, when the winner will be announced.

Hilary Snow is a reporter for Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.