WILMINGTON — The North Carolina Azalea Festival is a month away from debuting its full return since 2019, with the aftereffects of the pandemic stunting operations over the last two years. As part of its 75-year celebration, it has announced a fourth musical act will kick off the five-day event. The first trio to ever win “The Voice,” Girl Named Tom, will take over the Riverfront Park stage after the 2022 Queen’s coronation.
The opening night concert was greenlit last month when both the Wilmington City Council and New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved giving the festival $35,000 each to offset a portion of the artists’ costs. Of the 11 officials who voted, council members Luke Waddell and Neil Anderson were the only two to oppose the use of taxpayer money. (Chair Julia Olson-Boseman was absent from the commissioners’ vote.)
READ MORE: Azalea Festival asks city, county for $70K for ‘nationally headlining musical act’
READ MORE: Azalea Festival granted its $70K request for fourth headlining act
The money was awarded at the request of festival president John E. Russ and executive director, Alison Baringer, who sent a letter to the government entities in January. They noted the money would help bring down ticket prices for the community-at-large and present a family-friendly event.
Girl Named Tom tickets start at $5 for lawn seating with $10 reserved seating. The prices are at least four times less than other festival concerts, such as Cypress Hill, REO Speedwagon and Brantley Gilbert whose tickets range from $39 to $159.
The Azalea Festival’s letter to the city and county also noted the infusion of funds would help offer free tickets: “We have plans to to give away approximately 400 tickets to our valued health care workers as a thank you for their pandemic work.”
Port City Daily reached out to Baringer to find out how they will distribute tickets to healthcare workers and for costs associated with Girl Named Tom. The article will be updated upon response.
Girl Named Tom consists of Caleb, Joshua, and Bekah Liechty, siblings from Pettisville, Ohio, who are hailed for their vocal harmonies. They were the first group to garner a four-chair turn for their rendition of “Helplessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young when season 21 launched last fall. Each “Voice” judge — Blake Shelton, John Legend, Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande — vied to work with the twenty-somethings, but the group chose Clarkson, a pop-country megastar also known for wooing audiences on TV during 2002’s “American Idol.”
The sibling trio — which independently released its first album “Hits from the Road” mere months before debuting on “The Voice” — performed multiple covers throughout last season, including Radiohead’s “Creep” and Joni Mitchell’s “River.” Currently, the group performs covers and originals as it tours theaters, casinos, and festivals nationwide.
They will take over the Live Oak Bank Pavilion stage after the crowning of Queen Azalea — former Miss America 2019, Nia Imani Franklin. A composer, actress, and singer, Franklin earned a degree in musical composition and theory from East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., and attended the N.C. School of the Arts for her master’s in music composition. She completed a fellowship at Lincoln Center and was a composer-in-residence at Festival Napa Valley in 2021, according to a release from the festival.
Franklin has an EP, “Extended,” featuring original rhythm-and-blues songs she sings, also featuring her orchestral piece, “Chrysalis Extended.” She founded the nonprofit Compose Her, which empowers and supports women in music.
Franklin will be crowned at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Apr. 6, with celebrity guests and queens on site, including NFL Pittsburgh Steeler and Wilmington native Alex Highsmith, Olympic silver medal swimmer Claire Curzan, and Miss North Carolina Carli Batson, also from Wilmington, among others. “Bigg B” from Coast 97.3 will emcee the event and Wilmington’s East Coast Community Choir will perform as well.
Tickets to the coronation concert featuring Girl Named Tom go on sale Saturday, Mar. 13, 10 a.m. There are health checks in place for the show, requiring ticketholders to show either a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of the concert or provide proof of full vaccination within 14 days of their last Covid-19 shot. Children under 12 years of age will be required to provide results of a negative test taken 72 hours before the event.
The Azalea Festival brings in upward of 300,000 people annually and has an economic impact of $50,000,000, according to a study conducted by UNCW over a decade ago. The 2022 event will take place Apr. 6-10; its full schedule can be found here, including a few events kicking off this month before the festival officially begins.
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