North Carolina Azalea Festival celebrates 70 years with Southern flair and fanfare

PortCityDaily.com is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Azalea Flowers
The festivals namesake flower, the Azalea. (File photo by Cory Mannion)

WILMINGTON — April has arrived in all its blooming glory just in time for the North Carolina Azalea Festival. One of the state’s oldest and largest annual events, the N.C. Azalea Festival celebrates 70 years in 2017 with Southern flair and fanfare in honor of the millions of azaleas making their perennial debut.

The festival will be held from April 5th to the 9th.

Certified by the Azalea Society of America as an official “Azalea City,” Wilmington is a flowering showcase during early spring when azaleas dominate the landscape in shades of red, pink, and purple. Even during years when the blooms peak a bit early (or late), the festival welcomes spring with a celebration of Wilmington’s art, history, culture, and nature.

Alison Baringer, the N.C. Azalea Festival’s executive director, explains in a recent blog how the festival’s mission encompasses more than a single flower.

Since its inception in 1948, the N.C. Azalea Festival has blossomed into an extended weekend celebration of spring that organizers estimate will attract more than 300,000 attendees.

More than 300 arts and crafts vendors and 40 food trucks will line downtown streets this weekend during the 69th annual NC Azalea Festival. Courtesy photos.
Arts and crafts vendors as well as food trucks will line downtown streets this weekend during the 70th annual NC Azalea Festival. (PCD file photo)

To commemorate its 70th year, five days of fanfare will kick off with pageantry on Wednesday as Queen Azalea Kira Kazantsev (2015 Miss America) opens the festival with an official coronation, along with reigning Miss North Carolina McKenzie Faggart and a court of Carolina festival queens at Greenfield Lake. Queen Azalea and her court will be joined by Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Belles dressed in hoop skirts with matching parasols.

Time-honored events that take place in conjunction with the festival include the Cape Fear Garden Club’s Azalea Garden Tour and the Historic Wilmington Foundation’s Azalea Home Tour.

The Cape Fear Garden Club’s 64th Annual Azalea Garden Tour is one of the South’s longest-running and most popular garden tours, showcasing a dozen or so lovingly landscaped private and public gardens.

For details and tickets: www.capefeargardenclub.org/azalea-garden-tour. Another time-honored event is the Azalea Home Tour, showcasing private homes and a historic church that represent an array of architectural styles found in Wilmington. For home tour tickets: www.historicwilmington.org.

Festival weekend events include a two-hour parade in the heart of downtown Wilmington on Saturday morning (begins at 9:30 a.m.), complete with flower-laden floats, marching bands, clowns, local pageant winners and celebrity guests.

There’s also a juried art show (Friday-Sunday), coin show, fireworks (Saturday, 9 p.m.), children’s art contest, and street fair (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) with exhibits, vendors, live music, entertainment and kids’ activities. This year the festival welcomes the return of the Riverwalk Shag Dance Contest (Saturday/Sunday) at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside.

New this year is Cirque Maceo, an exciting gypsy-themed horse show circus on the grounds of the Wilmington International Airport(Friday/Saturday/Sunday). A special Wednesday night concert at UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium will feature beach music by The Temptations.

Live music is a highlight of the N.C. Azalea Festival. This year’s national headline concerts include: Cole Swindell with Michael Ray and CJ Solar (Thursday); Duran Duran with guest Roadkill Ghost Choir (Friday); and Jason Derulo With Opening Act Morris Day and The Time (Saturday).

All headline concerts are held outdoors on the Miller Lite Main Stage at the Cape Fear Community College Campus in Downtown Wilmington (411 N. Front Street). Concerts begin at 7:00 p.m.; gates open at 5:00 p.m. Concerts are rain or shine; standing room only. For tickets: ncazaleafestival.org/tickets.

Other notable celebrities scheduled to make guest appearances include: Chaplain Major General Dondi E. Costin (Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Air Force); Emily Loftiss (a.k.a. “Queen of Everyday Glam”); Jordyn Wieber (Team USA Women’s Gymnastics 2012 Olympic Gold medalist); Disney celebrity Paris Berelc (Disney XD “Lab Rats: Elite Force”); and 2017 Festival artist Sean Ruttkay.

Attendees can stay in-the-know by downloading the N.C. Azalea Festival App for up-to-date event details, breaking entertainment news, behind-the-scenes buzz and insider tips. For App details, a festival schedule and concert tickets, call 910-794-4650, visit ncazaleafestival.org or stop by the festival ticket office at 5725 Oleander Drive in Wilmington.

Spring brings blooms, belles, festivals and beach weather. Come for the N.C. Azalea Festival and plan a return visit soon to enjoy the nearby island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach. For a free Official Visitors Guide, call 1-866-266-9690 or email visit@wilmingtonandbeaches.com. For visitor information and seasonal highlights, visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/things-to-do/seasonal-highlights.

-Content provided by Connie Nelson, Wilmington and N.C. Beaches Visitors Bureau

local_shout_4-edited-424x300-1This content was provided by a community member via Local Shout, a new initiative at Port City Daily. Port City Daily cannot guarantee the accuracy of information presented in this story. If you have additional information or would like to submit a story, please contact shout@portcitydaily.com.