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STOP AND SMELL THE AZALEAS: The 69th annual NC Azalea Festival ushers in live music, artists and more

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All you need to know about 69th annual NC Azalea Festival.

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Wilmington had an early bloom of azaleas this spring. Though they may not be sprouting in the most timely fashion for 2016, the annual NC Azalea Festival certainly is. In its 69th year of celebrating the regional blooms, historic homes and community, this year’s festivities officially start on Wednesday, April 6, with the Queen’s Coronation and go until Sunday, April 10.

FLOAT ON: The 69th annual NC Azalea Festival activities, including parade in downtown Wilmington, kick off this week. Courtesy photo.

FLOAT ON: The 69th annual NC Azalea Festival activities, including parade in downtown Wilmington, kick off this week. Courtesy photo.

encore has the week and weekend schedule of public events broken down from start to finish. Folks can also stay updated on events with the NC Azalea Festival App for breaking entertainment news, behind-the-scenes buzz, and insider tips.

Queen’s Coronation
Port City Marina • 10 Harnett St.
Wed., April 6, 3 p.m., Free

For the first time ever, the Port City Marina Pier in downtown Wilmington will host the Queen’s Coronation, where Anna Kooiman will be officially crowned the 69th Queen Azalea. Kooiman is an anchor and co-host on “Fox & Friends Weekend,” as well as a general assignment reporter for FOX News Channel (FNC) in New York City.

Kooiman graduated with an honors degree in communication studies from UNC-Wilmington and started her career at WWAY-TV (ABC) in 2005 as an intern, then reporter and anchor. As well, she collected two North Carolina Associated Press Awards for Best Investigative Piece and Best Series. Folks will have a chance to mingle with Kooiman, her court, the belles, and other Azalea Fest celebrities directly after the coronation at an exclusive free meet-and-greet.

Street Fair
Water, Front and Market streets
April 8: 6-10 p.m., April 9: 12-10 p.m., April 10: 1-6 p.m., Free

Home of deep-fried Oreos and 8-pound gummy bears, the Azalea Festival Street Fair will be presented by Wells Fargo. The street fair will stretch across downtown Wilmington and is a free family event. With more than 330 arts-and-craft vendors, 40 food vendors, two stages, and a children’s area, the three-day event will have live music, games and activities galore. Children and kids at heart can get their faces painted before getting a bag of kettle corn. Others can shop for jewelry, made from items like sea glass, or even find a new hot sauce or local honey to take home.

Not down for deep-fried Oreos? There will be plenty of other food vendors serving up funnel cakes, gyros, ice cream, and more.

Juried Spring Art Show and Sale
Hannah Block Community Arts Center • 120 S. Second St.
April 8-10, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Free

A 34-year-old tradition, Wilmington Art Association’s annual Juried Art Show and Sale features more than 100 artists from across the nation and North Carolina. After presenting their fine artwork of pastels, prints, digital art, fiber art and more, awards for first, second and third places will be announced, as well as

Donor, Memorial and People’s Choice Award, among others.
After Garden Get Down
Bluewater Waterfront Grill
4 Marina St.
April 8, 2 p.m. – 5 p.m., Free

For the second year the Azalea Festival is hosting its After Garden Get Down at Bluewater Grill. This dockside party will feature live music by Darryl Murrill and Jazzpel, food and drink specials, as well as a pretty great view of the Intracoastal Waterway. Dancing along with the crowd to live music will be 2016’s Queen Azalea Anna Kooiman.

Though it’s free to attend, The Bluewater Dining Package is $261.09 and will include one Airlie Luncheon Garden Party ticket, parking at the Bluewater Grill and shuttle service, a three-course meal at Bluewater Grill, and entry into the After Garden Get Down. There are a limited number of seats available.

City RockFest Tour
Street Fair & Multicultural Stage
April 8, 6 p.m., Free

Come out for City RockFest Tour 2016, with top acts in country, rock and more. City RockFest will feature Seventh Day Slumber, Decyfer Down, Children 18:3, Spoken, and Disciple. And it’s totally free!

USCGC Diligence Tours
April 8-10, Free

Take the family on a tour of the USCGC Diligence on Friday beginning at 12:30 p.m., or Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. Tours run throughout all three days until 15 minutes before sunset.

Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour
April 8-10, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., $25

The Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour is sponsored by Cape Fear Garden Club, Inc. This is one of longest running tours in the South and has been featured in Southern Living magazine. Profits from the tour benefit community beautification and horticulture grants, UNCW and CFCC scholarships, as well as conservation efforts at Battery Island, a National Audubon Society bird sanctuary. They’ve raised more than $1.2 million in 20 years.

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony is the official beginning to the tour and will be held at Hugh Morton Greenfield Lake Amphitheater at Greenfield Lake on Friday at 10 a.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Azalea Festival Ticket Office.

Street Fair Children’s Area
Cotton Exchange
April 9-10, 12:30 – 5 p.m., Free

The Street Fair Children’s Area is family fun for all, with games, craft projects and stage performances at the Cotton Exchange. Starting with a science demonstration by the Cape Fear Museum on Saturday, April 9, at noon, activities continue throughout the day in dance, arts and education.

Activities will resume on Sunday, April 10, from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. See a full schedule of events at

Street Fair Multicultural Stage
Water St. (between Chestnut and Princess) • April 9-10, Free

Each year the Azalea Festival features contemporary and traditional music, dance and ethnic pageantry. Groups and community organizations work together to present an array of diverse ethnic performers and bands that infuse the city with many cultural traditions. Featured musical acts include Clark Beckham, Villa*Nova, Norlina, and local Americana favorites Mike Blair and the Stonewalls.

The Street Fair Multicultural Stage brings recognition to the region’s growing ethnic population. The stage will feature some of the best Native American, Celtic, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Hawaiian, Polynesian, Indian, Techmoja, Philippine, and Japanese performing artists, dressed in authentic colorful costumes.

Historic Home Tour
April 9, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
April 10, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., $30-$35

The NC Azalea Festival Home Tour is an annual event held by the Historic Wilmington Foundation. Proceeds from the Home Tour will advance the Historic Wilmington Foundation’s efforts to protect and preserve the irreplaceable historic resources of Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear region. Since 1966, the foundation has successfully saved more than 200 historic properties from demolition.

This year’s theme is “Stepping Into Spring,” and will showcase 12 private and public gardens of established and new landscapes.
A new addition is Spectrum Gallery’s “en plein air” artists, who will be painting in participating gardens during the tour.

Tour price includes free admission to Airlie Gardens on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 day of. For more information, call the Azalea Festival Ticket Office at 910-794-4650.

Riverwalk • Downtown Wilmington
April 9, 9 p.m., Free

Once again set at the Cape Fear River, the Azalea Festival Firework Show will light up the sky. Arrive early to pick the best spot along the waterfront and expect large crowds. It’s free, fun and fiery!

Parade Mile Run
Downtown Wilmington
Sat., April 9, 8:55 a.m., $10-$20

The Parade Mile Run returns this year, with local law firm McAngus Goudelock & Courie teaming with Go Time to bring a relatively new tradition back to the North Carolina Azalea Festival.

Runners will start and finish the parade-route course at 102 N. 3rd St., in front of the Grandstand at City Hall. Proceeds benefit the Cape Fear Literacy Council. Interested runners can register at The NC Azalea Festival Parade immediately will begin after the race.

April 9, 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

With over 100,000 viewers each year, the Azalea Festival Parade will have floats, marching bands, horses, celebrities, and Azalea Princesses meandering through historic downtown Wilmington.

This year the parade will be given a new route: It will begin at the south end of downtown and travel north up 3rd Street. Viewing areas will stretch from Market to Bladen streets, with bleachers between Grace and Chestnut.
Bleacher tickets can be purchased at the event for a higher cost. Handicap parking and viewing will be available on Chestnut Street between 3rd and 4th streets, next to the City of Wilmington offices.

USS North Carolina Battleship 75th Anniversary Celebration
Sat., April 9, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., $6-$14

Come out for a lesson on USS North Carolina Battleship from a “living history crew” featuring active Marines simulating life during WWII. Bringing the Battleship to life for its 75th anniversary with patriotic tunes and a cake cutting at 1:15 p.m., there will be appearances by Queen Azalea and other celebrity guests. The event is free to attend with Battleship admission.

Coin Show
The Elks Lodge, 5102 Oleander Dr.
April 9: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
April 10: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Free

A family-fun day of coins and currency will take place at the Elks Lodge, wherein 30 dealers from several surrounding states will appraise, buy, sell, and trade coins and other numismatic items. Children will receive free foreign coins to learn about currency and foreign countries.

Don McNeely of Gold History Corporation will be on hand, too. A 30-year veteran prospector, he will be speaking with attendees and teaching panning techniques throughout the event.

Boxing Tournament
Schwartz Center, CFCC
April 9-10, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m., Free

A tradition since 1978, the North Carolina Azalea Festival Boxing Tournament showcases boxers ages 8 and up from national and international levels. Sponsored by the NC Azalea Festival, Friends of Boxing and NC Amateur Boxing Association, boxers will be separated into three age groups: 8-16, 17-34 and master boxers, 35 and up, who will compete in six divisions—from 55 to 201 pounds. Queen Azalea and other VIP guests will be in attendance.

Festival Finale
Bluewater Waterfront Grill,
4 Marina St.
Sunday, April 10, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.

While the Azalea Festival Finale wraps up their 69th year, Bluewater Grill will kick off their 2016 summer Waterfront Music Series. The last official event of the NC Azalea Festival, the “yacht rock” band, Back of the Boat, will cover tunes from Buffett to Zac Brown Band. The patio party will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., with plenty of giveaways throughout the late afternoon and early evening.

Festival Concert Series

All tickets can be purchased at

The Avett Brothers
Belk Main Stage
411 North Front St.
Thursday, April 7, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $55

Read the interview here.

Snoop Dogg with Doug E. Fresh
Belk Main Stage
411 North Front St.
Friday, April 8, 7 p.m.,
Tickets: $46.50

“The capital S, oh yes I’m fresh, N double-O P, D O double G Y, D O double G, ya see” makes his debut on the Azalea Fest stage on Friday evening. Joining the ‘90s hip-hop king will be Doug E. Fresh, known as the first beatboxer in the rap world!

It. Will. Be. Bumping.

Chase Rice with Kane Brown
Belk Main Stage
411 North Front St.
Saturday, April 9, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $36.50

Country fans unite! North Carolinian Chase Rice will be honky-tonkying up the stage on Saturday evening. His 2013 “Ready Set Roll” EP hit all the major charts, Billboard, iTunes and went platinum, and will be played among his recent releases.

Unofficial Azalea Weekend Events

Poor Man’s Garden Party
Goat and Compass, 710 N. 4th St.
Thursday, April 7, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m., $2

The Poor Man’s Garden Party will return this year at the Goat and Compass. The pre-party prior to The Avett Brothers concert welcomes attendees to nibble on grub from T’Geaux Boys and Soulful Twist food trucks, enjoy brews by Natty Greene, and get down with music by L Shape Lot. Folks can sip on their Azalea Festival cocktail, featuring Tito’s vodka, and play lawn games like cornhole and bucketball.

Admission is $2, with a portion of all door sales donated to Friend of Angels ( in memory of Tessa Myree Dominelli.

20th Annual Pleasure Island
Chowder Cookoff
Sat., April 9, 11:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., $6

Each year chefs from restaurants of Pleasure Island, Monkey Junction and Wilmington gather on Pleasure Island for a famous Chowder Cookoff, live music, games, and more. Tickets are $6 and children 12 and under are free. Visit

Alt-Zalea Fest
Sat., April 9, 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Read article here.

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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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