It’s a phrase we coined here at encore—a requirement to welcome the new spring season every year in Wilmington: Ah! Zal! Yay! The excitement brims on our coast as temps warm and azaleas bloom. It’s an indication to the beauty of our area, in and of itself offering much to celebrate (aside from the $50 million impact it has on our local economy, according to a report held by UNCW faculty last year). The 65th annual Azalea Festival is the official springtime event in North Carolina, crowding our town with arts and crafts vendors, queens and princesses, celebrities and performers out the wazoo.
The festival’s heavily red-pinned calendar has more events than we could possibly attend from Wednesday, April 11th through Sunday the 14th. Folks will revel in garden and home tours, a parade and street festival, live music and boxing matches, an art show and sale, along with a circus, coin show and more! Here are what the next five days in Wilmington will look like!
SING A LITTLE SONG
Kenny Loggins: 4/12, $38-$48
Scotty McCreery: 4/13—sold out!
Trask Coliseum • UNCW, 8 p.m.
The headliners of the annual Azalea Festival concerts feature a current idol and a previous pop icon onstage to appeal to youth young and younger. Scotty McCreery, from Garner, NC, took over “American Idol” last year as fans threw over 120 million votes his way during the finale episode, leading him to the win. And that would only be the tip of his success, as the 18-year-old country crooner has impressed the industry since, securing Best New Artist of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas a few short weeks ago.
While his voice has him at the top of his game, along with a platinum album, “Clear as Day,” it isn’t without familial support and a good head on his shoulders. In the fall, the youngster will be attending NC State, as his dad once did, making him head of the Wolfpack among a sea of swarming UNC fans attending his show Friday evening at UNCW; if you don’t have a ticket, good luck scouting one!
Tickets are still available (as of press) to see the man who made “everybody cut, everybody cut” in the ‘80s to no avail. Kenny Loggins will be “Footloose” and fancy-free on Thursday evening at Trask, bringing hits over a dozen albums—12 of which actually have gone platinum—to the forefront of one mega dance-a-thon. Though known as a movie master of soundtracks from the ‘80s—“I’m Alright” (“Caddyshack”) and “Danger Zone” (“Top Gun”) among them—he has continued slinging his guitar during performances over the past 20 years, and recording an extraordinary discography of sound from jazz to rock, country to pop. Tickets are $37.50 or $47.50 and can be purchased at www.ncazaleafestival.org.
SWING, BALANCE, ROAR
Cole Bros. Big Top
Wilmington International Airport
The circus is coming to town!
The big top will be set up at the Wilmington International Airport, ready to excite audiences with awe-inspiring performances, including motorcyclists, aerialists, hand-balancing acts, clowns, tigers, elephants and more. The Cole Bros. Circus is a time-honored American tradition, which started in the 1800s and still traverses the country today in the same magical fashion. Ringmaster Chris Conners and his crew of mind-blowing talent will bring wholesome entertainment to families in the southeast. Tickets are $17 to $22 and can be purchased for a variety of shows: Thursday and Friday, 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tickets available at www.ncazaleafestival.org.
Coast Guard Cutter Staten Island
Coast Guard Cutter Bayberry
Each year, ships dock along the Cape Fear River downtown so folks can tour them throughout the festival weekend. This year will be no different as Coast Guard Cutter Staten Island and the Coast Guard Cutter Bayberry will be open for tours.
USCGC Staten Island originally was built as a law enforcement platform. However, it often has multi-functionality, helping in search and rescue, national defense and even marine environmental protection. The 110-foot patrol boat recently returned from participating in Operation Bold Alligator 2012 with other vessels of the Canadian, French, and United States navies.
The 65-foot Bayberry was built in 1954 and serves to aid navigation. It evaluates, establishes, maintains and discontinues structures throughout US and Canadian waters to help guide vessels.
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
4/14-15, $1 donation
American Legion • 702 Pine Grove Drive
A tisket, a tasket, a coin-filled, sparkly basket! How delightful spring is with the addition of shiny
new coins to a collector’s coveted agglomeration of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, as well as international currency. An ongoing addition to every Azalea Festival, the Coin Show is held at American Legion off Pine Grove Drive and features over 30 vendors ready to buy, sell, trade and appraise the goods. The entry fee is only a buck, too, with Saturday hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
PUT ‘EM UP…
4/13-15 • Free!
Williston Middle School
401 S. 10th Street
It’s been around since 1978, with folks from all walks of life clamoring for a final punch in the ring. The NC Azalea Boxing Tournament takes place throughout the weekend, with Friday-night weigh-ins from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Folks from as far north as Jersey to south Florida participate in 8-16, 17-34 and Master Boxer 35-up six division from 55 pounds to 201 or more.
Sponsored by Friends of Boxing and NC Amateur Boxing Association, the competition showcases national and international levels, as well as from military branches. The tournament lasts from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday and is free and open to the public.
HOME IS WHERE THE AZALEA IS
Historic Home Tour
4/14-15 • $25-$30
Held in conjunction with the Historic Wilmington Foundation, one of the Azalea Festival’s most revered events is the annual historic home tour. It features 11 homes across downtown’s historic district, showcasing the most beautiful architecture and historic preservation of the city.
The ribbon ceremony of the tour takes place on the 14th with local politicians, including Mayor Bill Saffo and City Council Member Kevin O’Grady, opening the event at 12:30 p.m. at the Parsley House on 224 S. 3rd Street. Folks who attend the ceremony can enjoy free Dairy Queen ice cream.
The self-guided tour takes place Saturday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., at various homes as listed with ticket purchase ($25 beforehand or $30 day of at Azalea Festival office and all Harris Teeter locations; $2 off with VIC card). Children 12 and under get in free with paid adult.
NC Azalea Fest Parade
4/14 • Free!
Everyone loves a parade! And if not, they should. What’s better than watching folks show pride for their community? Seeing marching bands dance and wiggle, or stoically play their way through a cacophony of brass, strings and bass! Rushing kids in cute costumes while they toss candy at onlookers! Laughing at clowns racing around in small cars! Waving at the Azalea Queen and her court, and at all the celebrities and the grand marshal!
The annual parade welcomes over 500,000 people to the streets of downtown Wilmington. Folks are wise to arrive early for a seat, as the parade begins at 9:30 a.m., meaning streets from 5th Avenue down, and out toward Hanover and Dock streets, likely will be closed. A parade shuttle will be open at Independence Mall, dropping off and picking up folks at Dock and 2nd streets for $1.50 for adults and $0.75 for children and seniors. Those who wish to battle the traffic should anticipate delays! Decks will be open for a $7 fee, and vehicles will have limited entrance and exit, all guided by police officers. Visit www.ncazaleafestival.org for the street closings.
A WALKING PARTY
Entertainment across the stages
4/13-15, all day
Hunk of turkey leg in hand, bag of artwork in tow and children begging for funnel cakes! Welcome to the Azalea Festival Street Fair, where vendors of all varieties align downtown Wilmington streets (Water, Market and Front, to be exact). They sell food, drinks, sweets, art, clothes, knick knacks and so much more—yes, all 240 of them!
Four stages will be set up throughout downtown as well, including a children’s area for the kiddies. The fun kicks off Friday evening, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., and lasts from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The Main Stage at 101 Water Street will have beer for sale for 21-and-older folks, while showcasing music of all genres, local acts and beyond. (See poster this page.)
The Riverfront Park stage kicks off Friday evening with praise and worship bands, while Saturday will feature a hodgepodge of sound from local music students to masterful bluesmen like El Jaye Johnson (4:30 p.m.). The night will end with a street dance featuring Pamoja! (8:30 p.m.). And folks will be in a prime spot to catch the riverfront fireworks display at 9:05 p.m. On Sunday, more Christian music, including reggae, can be enjoyed.
The dance stage will be in the Cotton Exchange parking lot, which will showcase tons of moves and grooves throughout the weekend, including Zumba! Also located in the Cotton Exchange lot will be the children’s area, featuring inflatable rides.
The Festival of Cultures stage will be located in Bailey Park featuring music from across the globe. Dancers, singers, and musicians will colorfully bring to life traditional customs from various cultures, showcasing costumes, pageantry and immense talent.
No pets are allowed, and the street fair is free! Attendees should bring cash for vendor purchases and good walking shoes; parking likely won’t be available 10 or more blocks away from downtown.