2021 Azalea Festival releases event lineup, moves concerts to August

The N.C. Azalea Festival will carry on in April and continue through the summer, with the large-scale events scheduled for August. (Port City Daily/Courtesy N.C. Azalea Festival)

WILMINGTON – N.C. Azalea Festival organizers announced plans to continue the Wilmington tradition for a 74th year while navigating the ongoing pandemic.

Festival organizers released the lineup for the celebration Monday. The main weekend is set for April 7-11 and will include fan-favorite events that could be made smaller and socially distanced. The festivities will continue through the summer, with the largest of the events scheduled for August.

“The festival team – made up of over 120 volunteers in leadership positions and festival staff – have been working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to plan a springtime celebration for the community that now will blossom throughout 2021,” festival organizers stated in a press release.


Related: Azalea Fest Garden Tour called off early for 2021

The 2020 festival was called off last March, just hours after Gov. Roy Cooper released guidance to cancel or postpone gatherings of 100-plus people.

The cancellation of the festival last year served as a local marker for the start of many pandemic-related disruptions to come. At the time, organizers said the festival would return in 2021, but with the health crisis continuing for nearly a year now, and recently reaching records highs, residents have been waiting to hear whether or not the festival would persist.

The April events include a porch parade and a socially distanced Queen’s Coronation, during which the 74th Queen Azalea is crowned. In July, Paws4People will host its dog parade at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater and Bluewater Grill will throw a “dockside party.”

Larger events are scheduled for later in the year. A Dollar General parade and DGX street fair are planned for August. (DGX is the new urban Dollar General concept located in River Place.)

On Thursday, Aug. 19, bands Sublime with Rome and Michael Franti and Spearhead will be some of the first to perform at North Waterfront Park. The part-park, part-Live Nation amphitheater is expected to open this June.

The Avett Brothers will play at the venue on Friday, August 20 and Saturday, August 21. (People who bought tickets for The Avett Brothers show last year may select their new date, or request an upgraded seat, here.)

This year the festival is launching a new “Pin Pals” program.

For $10 people can purchase a 2021 commemorative pin to receive discounts from participating businesses throughout April. Pin holders can also enter a raffle for one of three prizes, each valued at more than $1,500.

Organizers expect the pin program to help boost the local economy in the wake of Covid-19. Each year the Azalea Festival typically makes a $51-plus million impact and attracts more than 300,000 visitors to the area.

Line-up of festival events:

  • BOLO for Blooms, a Virtual Watch Party, March 1 – April 7
  • Art Unveiling, Monday, March 22
  • Azalea Sweep, Saturday, April 3
  • Azaleas on Tour: A Porch Parade, Monday, April 5 – Sunday, April 11
  • Queen’s Coronation…A Journey of 74 Socially-Distant Waves for our 74th, Wednesday, April 7 – Sunday, April 11
  • Celebrity Reception, the Drive-By Edition, Friday, April 9
  • The Secret Garden Party, BYOY (Bring Your Own Yard), Friday, April 9
  • Airlie Luncheon Garden Party, Friday, July 30
  • Paws on Parade: The Official Dog Garden Paw-ty, Saturday, July 31
  • Sublime with Rome and Michael Franti & Spearhead, Thursday, August 19
  • The Avett Brothers, Friday, August 20
  • The DGX Street Fair, Friday, August 20 – Sunday, August 22
  • The Wilmington Grill Music and Beer Garden, Friday, August 20 – Sunday, August 22
  • The Dollar General Parade, Saturday, August 21
  • The Multicultural Stage, Saturday, August 21 – Sunday, August 22
  • The Avett Brothers, Saturday, August 21
  • Patrons’ Party, Saturday, August 28

Events to-be-determined:

  • Chefs’ Showcase

Canceled events:

  • Scholarship Pageant: The 2020 Azalea Festival princess and court will reign over the 2021 festival. A larger pageant, inclusive of both juniors and seniors, is planned for 2022.
  • Boxing Competition
  • Riverwalk Shaggin’ Contest

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