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FLOWER FEST IN FULL BLOOM: The North Carolina Azalea Festival returns with new events and favorite traditions

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encore has this week’s Azalea Festival activities from April 11-15 all broken down for readers, including an interview with 38 Special’s lead singer Don Barnes; a bouquet of beautiful homes and gardens featured in this year’s Garden Tour; and for folks looking to break out of tradition, this year’s Alt-Zalea Fest is back at BAD (Brooklyn Arts District).

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It’s spring in the Port City. Y’all know the drill: Wear layers at all times, as it goes from 40-80 faster than Dale Earnhardt Jr. on race day. Stock up on decongestant if you’re sensitive to pollen’s unrelenting assault on the senses. Dust off your garden hats, stock up on cocktail mixers and batten down the hatches for Wilmington’s biggest flower fest: it’s the 2018 North Carolina Azalea Festival.

encore has this week’s Azalea Festival activities from April 11-15 all broken down for readers, including an interview with 38 Special’s lead singer Don Barnes; a bouquet of beautiful homes and gardens featured in this year’s Garden Tour; and for folks looking to break out of tradition, this year’s Alt-Zalea Fest is back at BAD (Brooklyn Arts District).

Here are the rest of this year’s Azalea Festival happenings in full bloom, with more details found at

MULTICULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT: Azalea Fest offers up more than fun spring shows, each event on the Multicultural Stage is sure to be as educational as entertaining. Courtesy photo.

MULTICULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT: Azalea Fest offers up more than fun spring shows, each event on the Multicultural Stage is sure to be as educational as entertaining. Courtesy photo.

Juried Art Show and Sale
April 7-11, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., April 12-14, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., April 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Free
Azalea Festival’s “Official Art Show,” created by the Wilmington Art Association, started April 7 and is ongoing throughout festival week. More than 100 artists from North Carolina and across the U.S. will present fine-art creations at the 36th annual art show and sale at Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center (120 S. 2nd St.). It’s free and family friendly.

Queen’s Tea & Coronation
Tea: April 11, 1-2:30 p.m., $30
Coronation: April 11, 3:30-4 p.m., Free
Each year NC Azalea Festival organizers put on events fit for a queen—which is probably why they crown one each year. Enter Beth Troutman, 2018’s Queen Azalea. Troutman was the first woman to run for Congress in NC-8 District at 27, and has since won two Emmy Awards, has grown as a TV personality (“FOX News Rising,” “The Balancing Act,” “Right This Minute”), and is a motivational speaker. The UNC-Chapel Hill grad has been the main anchor of NBC-Charlotte’s evening newscasts since 2015, but most recently shot a series of short documentaries while living at an orphanage in Haiti.

Folks can meet Troutman at Azalea Fest’s latest event, the Queen’s Tea with VIP Coronation Processional on April 11. While tickets include an hour long meet and greet with Queen Azalea (and hold her crown before the official Coronation at 3:30 p.m.), other guests include the Festival Princess, Miss North Carolina and the Queen’s Court. Ticket holders can enjoy tea, lemonade and light hors d’oeuvres with special guests, like “Tales of an Education Debutante” blogger Adrian Wood, celebrity chef Vivian Howard of PBS’s “A Chef’s Life” and recently opened Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria in Wilmington, Azalea Festival’s official artist Vivian Wright-Frierson, and more. The processional walk starts from Hotel Ballast to the Coronation together at Riverfront Park, with VIP seating for ticket holders.

Airlie Luncheon Garden Party
April 13 Private VIP Event
While the Airlie Luncheon Garden Party is a private function for partners of Azalea Fest, Bluewater Grill in Wrightsville Beach helps puts the “party” in VIP for everyone. So no one need to miss out on big hats, seersuckers and the Citadel Summerall Guards performance! The Bluewater Garden Party VIP package includes one ticket into the Airlie Luncheon Garden Party (a $175+ value), free shuttle from Bluewater to Airlie Gardens and back, and a Bluewater food voucher (includes a non-alcoholic beverage, appetizer, entree, and a dessert) up to $65 and good for Friday, April 13, 11 a.m. -11 p.m.

After Garden Get Down
April 13, 2-6 p.m., Free
The After Garden Get Down at Bluewater in Wrightsville Beach is a chance for a bit of free fun at dockside party with a VIP feel. Open everyone an immediately following the closed Airlie Luncheon Garden Party, guests can enjoy Bluewater’s waterfront bar and patio (voted Best Outdoor Dining of 2018 by encore readers), live music, food and drink specials. Queen Azalea will be there, too!

Waterfront Street Fair
April 13, 6-10 p.m., April 14, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., April 15, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Free
There are more than 250 vendors lined up for this year’s street fair, which sprawls out across downtown’s Water Street and even overflowing out to the Music & Beer Garden on Second Street. Shoppers can find anything from uniquely handcrafted pieces to commercial products while munching on traditional fair fare like kettle corn, gyros and funnel cakes, or get a taste of Maine lobster rolls, French beignets or Southern BBQ. Not to mention, there’s an art walk, Multicultural Stage of performances, and children’s area with educational games, crafts and interactive exhibits. A complete schedule of Waterfront Street Fair activities and shows can be found at

Multicultural Stage
April 14-15, Free  
The Street Fair Multicultural Stage is back at the Azalea Festival to celebrate and showcase the different cultures making up the Greater Cape Fear Region. The stage will show off authentic costumes, dances, and music by local ethnic performing groups. The line-up for 2018 includes music from places like China, the Middle East, Mexico, Polynesia, Hawaii, Japan, Latin America, Ireland and many more.

The Multicultural Stage also will make an appearance within the festival’s parade during the “Multicultural March for Nations.” The march will include multiple ethnic marchers, performers and band members dressed in traditional costumes, as well as a float decked out in international flags.

Children’s Area
April 14-15, Free
The Children’s Area returns to the Azalea Festival to provide family-friendly fun made just for kids at The Cotton Exchange. The area provides educational games, crafts, interactive demos and exhibits to excite and entertain children of many ages. The area also provides eye screenings from Wilmington Eye and dental screenings from Colgate Bright Smiles.

Parents and children alike can enjoy bounce houses, dance troupe performances, and meet and greets with local celebrities from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Waterfront Street Fair Music & Beer Garden
April 13, 6:30-10:30 p.m., April 14, 12-11 p.m., April 15, 1-5 p.m., Free
The Wilmington Grill Music Stage and beer garden will be open to the public for free day and night. Aside from hours of back-to-back tunes from local and regional favorites like Jenny and the Hatch Bros (Friday, 6:30 p.m.), L Shape Lot (Saturday, 5:30 p.m.) and Stray Local (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.), folks can play outdoor games and enter a raffle to win a Cape Fear Deluxe Grill ($2,287 value) all weekend. (Winner will be announced Sunday.)

Boxing Tournament
April 14-15, Free
Ready for some friendly sparring? The North Carolina Azalea Festival Boxing Tournament hosts some of the top national and international boxers from across the country, ranging in ages 8-16 and 17-34 and a Master Boxer competition for athletes 35 and up. The tournament attracts fans from all over, but also sees appearances from Queen Azalea and VIP celebrity guests throughout the two-day event.

Coin Show
April 14-15, Free    
Looking to teach the kids about currency? The annual Coin Show at the Elks Lodge (5102 Oleander Dr.) will offer a family event, wherein kids are given free foreign coins for a unique learning experience about special coins, medal, gold, silver and paper money from around the world. Plus, families can pan for their own gold with Gold History Corporation. Whether a new spectator or old numismatics pro, more than 30 dealers will be on hand to appraise, buy, sell and trade coins and more.

Historic Home Tour
April 14-15, $30
Take a walk into the past with the Historic Home Tour held by the Historic Wilmington Foundation each year. Event proceeds help the Historic Wilmington Foundation in their mission to preserve the irreplaceable historic resources of Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear Region. With help from event proceedings in the past, the foundation successfully saved more than 200 historic properties from demolition.

Tickets are $30 and purchasable online or through any local Harris Teeter location or the Azalea Festival Office. Included in your ticket purchase is an invitation to the ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off the tour and free ice cream provided by Dairy Queen.

Riverwalk Shag Contest
April 14, $1
The Riverwalk Shag Contest returns to the Azalea Festival to crown the ultimate shag dancer at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside. Raffles, vendors, shag demonstrations, line dancing and more will be available during the contest and cash prizes will be awarded to contest winners.

The very first Riverwalk Shag Contest After Party happens from 7:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. following the contest. DJs Fred Rouse and Mike Worley will co-host the event and play music ranging from the oldies to newer genres.

ON THE RUN: Azalea Fest is in full sprint this week, literally, with the Parade Mile Run on April 14. Courtesy photo.

ON THE RUN: Azalea Fest is in full sprint this week, literally, with the Parade Mile Run on April 14. Courtesy photo.

MGC Parade Mile Run
April 14, 8:30 a.m., $15-$20
Local law firm McAngus Goudelock & Courie partner with Go Time to bring the Parade Mile Run back to the Azalea Festival for 2018. The run covers a portion of the parade route, which begins shortly after the runners cross the finish line.

Each year, proceeds from the run benefit a different charity and 2018’s recipient is the Jo Ann Carter Harrelson Center. Proceeds will the center continue their mission to provide a humanitarian services campus of nonprofit organizations which offer hope, opportunity and empowerment.

April 14, 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m., Free
The annual Azalea Festival Parade makes its rounds through downtown once again for its 71st year on Saturday. With multiple giant character balloons, floats and bands marching through the streets, the parade is quite the sight to see.

Viewing areas are provided all along 3rd Street, from Market Street to Bladen Street. Viewing along the route is free, but bleacher tickets are available for purchase at the Azalea Festival Ticket Office for $5-$7 in advance or $7-$10 the day of the parade.

GTV8 broadcasts the parade live, but also provides streaming to connected devices from their website at

April 14, 9-9:30 p.m., Free  
The annual fireworks show lights up the Azalea Festival once again for 2018. The show is completely free and provides a spectacular- end to the day. Pick your spot early to have the best viewing experience.

Festival Finale
April 15, 4-8 p.m., Free  
Bluewater Grill hosts the Festival Finale as part of their Waterfront Music Series on Sunday. Uncle Hairy performs at the finale where guests can enjoy food, entertainment and plenty of giveaways. The event is free and the last event of the Azalea Festival, so make sure to head out.


Billy Currington w/ Drake White and the Big Fire, Kenton Bryant
April 12, 7 p.m., $45
CFCC Parking Lot
701 N. Front St.

38 Special w/ Tuesdays Gone
April 13, 7 p.m., $23
CFCC Parking Lot
701 N. Front St.

Ludacris with Childish Major
April 14, 7 p.m., $46
CFCC Parking Lot
701 N. Front St.

Old School Concert at GLA
April 14, 4-6 p.m., $25
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
1941 Amphitheatre Dr.

Dark Star Orchestra
April 15, 5 p.m., $30-$35
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
1941 Amphitheatre Dr.


Poor Man’s Garden Party
April 12- 13, 4-7 p.m
Goat & Compass
710 N. 4th St.

Alt-Zalea Fest
April 14, 12-9 p.m., Free
Brooklyn Arts District
Various locations

Azalea Festival Firecracker Cruise
April 14, 7:30-9 p.m., $55
Wilmington Water Tours
212 S. Water St.



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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, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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