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Azalea Time:

AZALEA QUEEN HEATHER FRENCH HENRY

It’s the official spring festival of Wilmington, bringing 300,000 people to our area to celebrate all things blossoming in red, pink and white! The 64th annual Azalea Festival arrives April 6th and carries on through the 10th, welcoming royalty with our 2011 queen, former Miss America Heather French Henry, celebrities (actress Leann Hunley, parade marshal Major General Robert Dickerson, Chris Lambert from ABC’s “The Bachelor/Bachelorette,” Tampa Bay Buccaneer Connor Barth, among others) and local yokels (Captain Terry Bragg of NC Battleship and Miss Greater Wilmington Megan Everette).

From the famed garden party to the 5K and 10K runs, to the Wilmington Art Association’s juried art show, as well as street festivals and concerts out the wazoo, including Southern men Darius Rucker and the sold-out Avett Brothers, it looks like the next four days will be packed with to-do lists a mile long. Grab some cotton candy and hit the downtown streets—it’s azalea time!

Queen’s Coronation
Riverfront Park
Wed., April 6th, 3 p.m. • Free
At the Queen’s Coronation, Heather French Henry will be crowned officially as Queen Azalea. Former Miss America in 2000, Henry has a passion for veterans and designing Couture Gowns for young women. The event will also introduce the Azalea Festival celebrities for the first time.  Azalea Belles and performers will be on hand for this presentation.

Darius Rucker Concert
Trask Coliseum • Wed., April 6th • $52
He held our hands in the ‘90s on “Cracked Rear View” with his band Hootie and the Blowfish. In the millennium he’s going country. Darius Rucker will be crooning out his Southern soul at the Azalea Festival on Wednesday, April 6th, playing hits from his Nashville release, “Learn to Live.” and his most recent album “Charleston, SC 1966.” Most likely, he’ll grace us “with a little love and some tenderness,” too. Tickets are on sale at etix.com or at the Azalea office.

Battleship Salute
Thurs., April 7th
1 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. • Free
Battleship NC • Jct Hwy.
Wilmingtonians can honor a piece of history and help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Wilmington’s arrival of the Battleship. Along with surviving USS NC Battleship World War II crew members, the Queen Azalea, Azalea Belles, and Azalea Festival Celebrities will be in attendance.

Visiting Ships
Docking on Water Street
Thurs., April 7th, noon
The Celebrated War of 1812 Tall Ship LYNX “America’s Privateer” will make its grand arrival April 7th at noon and will be open for public tours during the Azalea Festival. The square-top sail schooner has arrived on the East Coast from Hawaii and California. It’s scheduled for a five-year mission along the East Coast of the United States and Canada to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Cole Bros. Circus
Wilmington International Airport Grounds
Thurs., April 7th – Sun., April 10th
$15-$25
Clowns, acrobats, motorcycles, gymnasts and exotic animals, like elephants and camels, are all included in the fun-filled and spectacular Cole Bros. Circus. For showtimes, visit  www.ncazaleafestival.org. Tickets for the circus can only be purchased through the Azalea Festival office though Wednesday, April 6. After that, tickets must be purchased at the Circus box office on ILM grounds.

The Avett Brothers
Trask Coliseum, 8 p.m. • Fri., April 8th
They’re hitting a major stride on the music scene right now! The NC-native Avett Brothers have worked with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, releasing “I and Love and You” to much praise, and touring nationally to sold out shows from Portland to New York. Though their Americana soul found its roots in Concord, NC, they’ve become national darlings on the acoustic front. To no surprise, their Friday night show is already sold out!

Garden Tour
Fri., Sat. and Sun., April 8th – 10th
The 58th annual Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour is taking place through 12 of Wilmington’s most luxurious gardens. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will kick off the event Friday, 10 a.m., at the spacious Fragrance Garden at Greenfield Lake, where the revered Azalea Queen’s Garden Party takes place. The queen and her Azalea Belles will be on site, along with the UNCW brass ensemble and Citadel Honor Guard.

The garden tour feature blooms of all sorts, ranging from the signature azalea to the more subtle pittosporum. Tickets are available through the Cape Fear Garden Club’s website, www.azaleagardentour.org, and at the NC Azalea Festival Office, as well as at Belk, local garden centers and other local businesses. Group discounts are available; children 12 and under are admitted free.

Street Fair and Main Stage
Water, Front and Market streets
Fri., April 8th, 6-11 p.m.
Sat., April 9th, 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sun., April 10th, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. • Free
The NC Azalea Festival Street Fair is a family event, featuring over 200 arts-and-craft vendors, 40 food vendors, four stages, a children’s area and a whole lot of fun! The festivities start on Friday night at the Main Stage, and Riverfront Park Stage entertaining the crowds, as food vendors fill the air with scrumptious smells. The excitement continues Saturday and Sunday, with a fireworks display Saturday night at 9 p.m.

Bands will be hitting the stage, playing tunes in all genres all weekend long for free! From rock to rockabilly, beach music to funk, folk to Americana, the main stage is located at the top level of the Water Street Parking Deck; alcohol will be sold on site.

Friday: 6 p.m., The Phantom Playboys; 7 p.m., The Beat Transformers; 7:30 p.m., BLP; 8:30 p.m., The Beat Transformers; 9 p.m., Love Tribe.

Saturday: noon and 1:30 p.m., Band of Oz; 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., Gabriel Lehman; 3 p.m., M-80’s; 4 p.m., Jimmy John’s Eating Contest; 4:30 p.m., Soulbeam; 5:30 p.m. and 7pm, Selah Dubb; 6 p.m., Painted Man; 7:30 p.m., Bald Fury; 9:30 p.m., Liquid Pleasure.

Sunday: noon, Fustics; 1pm, 2:30pm and 4pm, Rockinhorse Unplugged; 1:30pm, Madonna Nash; 3 p.m., Onward Soldiers 4:30 p.m., Fantasy.

Juried Art Show
St. James Episcopal Church, Perry Hall
313 Dock Street
Thurs., April 7th – Sun., April 10th
The Wilmington Art Association holds its annual Juried Spring Art Show and Sale annually throughout Azalea Fest weekend. The nonprofit organization has been accepting entries for months now, in all genres (except for computer-generated or stained glass works) and from all styles of artists, ages 18 and older. Judged by painter Mike Rooney and photographer Brownie Harris, the opening reception is Thursday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the show continues Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., as well as on Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

Azalea 5K/10K/Fun Walk
Sat., April 2nd, 8 a.m.
At Mayfaire’s TrySports Field, the second annual Cape Fear Volunteer Center/Big Buddy 5K will take place in honor of the Big Buddy program. Cash prizes will go to the overall first-place male and female, second- and third-place runner-ups will be noticed, too.

Registration will last from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Prior to the race, the entry fee is $30; the day of the race it is $35. It is free for anyone 12 and under to participate. For more information, call 910-392-8180 or e-mail cfvcdirector@gmail.com to request entry.

Additionally, Wilmington residents of all athletic levels can enjoy the town’s first 10K/Fun Walk. Big Buddy is a mentoring program aimed at assisting “at-risk” youth. It pairs children with positive adult role models.

Boxing
Sat., April 9th, 2:30 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Sun., April 10th, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Williston Middle School • 401 S.10th St.
Free
Nationally and internationally renowned boxers come from all over the nation to participate, including military. Don’t miss the excitement, sponsored by the NC Amateur Boxing Association and Friends of Boxing Inc.

Coin Show
American Legion Hall • 702 Pine Grove Dr.
Sat., April 9th, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sun., April 10th, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. • $1
Families can learn about the values of foreign countries and their respective currency. Children will be given free foreign coins to add to the experience, and over 30 dealers from various states will be on site for appraisals, sales and trades.

Historic Home Tour
Sat., April 9, 1-6 p.m.
Sun., April 10, 1-5 p.m. • $25
Azalea Festival Home Tour, presented by Historic Wilmington Foundation, starts with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at the Fanning House on 206 Orange Street. Each of the nine locations burst with individual appeal, from amazing architecture to historical significance. The structures contain more than 100 years of charm, and guests are welcome to see them from the inside-out.

Tickets will be available at all local Harris Teeter stores and the Azalea Festival Office.

Azalea Fest Parade
Sat., April 9th, 9 a.m. • Free
Downtown Wilmington
Don’t miss the Azalea Queen and her court making their salutations amongst an array of lively floats, the roar of the marching bands, and a sprinkle of colorful clowns and horses. Making its way through downtown, the parade will highlight visiting celebrities and welcomes spectators young and old.

Shag Contest
CFCC’s Schwartz Center
Sat., April 9th, 1-6 p.m. • $3/person
The dance contest features Professional, Non-Professional, Club/Social, Junior I and II divisions. Couples are judged based on execution, togetherness, repertoire, smoothness and degree of difficulty.

Spectators can join in on the fun and watch the fanciest footwork south of the Mason-Dixon line. Shag dancing is about as Carolina as college basketball.

Street Fair MultiCultural Stage
Bailey Park
Front Street between Market and Princess
Sat., April 9th – Sun., April 10th, 1-5 p.m.
The Festival of Cultures is a multicultural event highlighting the rich diversity that makes up the greater Cape Fear region. Exciting entertainment and pageantry are planned with two days of dancing, singing and music-playing. The performers will be dressed in authentic, bright costumes and will showcase a medley of traditions from a variety of cultures.

Tennis Challenge
Trask Coliseum • Sun. April 10th, 2 p.m.
The inaugural Azalea Festival Tennis Challenge will pit John McEnroe against Todd Martin. Produced and directed by Simpson and Associates Sports Marketing, with the Greater Wilmington Tennis Association, the event will give all members of the community a chance to be involved with the establishment of the Althea Gibson Tennis Center. It’s going to be a spectacle between McEnroe’s well-known antics, and Martin’s professionalism and perspective character he brings to the sport. Tickets start at $12; etix.com.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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