Get out the shades and the sundresses. As the spurts of 70-degree days become more consistent, and the ground thaws out to produce lush, green grass, the annual Azalea Festival once again will usher in spring as Wilmington comes alive with a host of events to pique the interests of locals and tourists alike.
This year marks the 67th year the festival has inaugurated the seasonal shift. The event welcomes celebrity appearances by Beau Wright, a local child actor who appeared in “Little Accidents;” Calum Worthy of “Kyle and Ally;” actor Emmanuel Gibson; Jacob Lofton, who also appeared in “Little Accidents;” local chef Keith Rhodes; lieutenant general Robert E. Milstead, jr.; Miss NC Johna Edmonds; actress and 2001 Miss NC Monica Palumbo; actor and screenwriter Trevor Munson; and artist William Mangum. A freshly launched, free cell phone app will keep attendees up-to-date on Azalea happenings—downloadable from the iTunes store or Google Play.
Wilmington Convention Center
April 9th, 3p.m., Free
2008 Miss America winner Kirsten Haglund will be crowned this year’s Queen Azalea. During her reign as Miss America she served as the goodwill ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network. As well, she’s been an outspoken proponent of raising awareness about eating disorders.
The event will ceremoniously award her with the title and will be frequented by city officials, board members, and the Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Belles.
Water St., April, 9th – 13th
Docking on the Cape Fear this year will be the USCGC Staten Island, the 45th cutter to join the fleet. Festival-goers can tour the ship Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
Cole Bros Circus
Wilmington International Airport
April 10th – 11th, 4:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.;
April 12th, 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
April 13th 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.
Complete with spectacle for all to enjoy, this year’s circus will include a trio of talented elephants, acrobats, camels, clowns, motorcyclists taking on the Globe of Death, dogs, trapeze artists, gymnasts, the world’s funniest horse, a white tiger, tight-rope walkers and the human Cannonball. Tickets can be purchased by calling (910) 794-4650.
Azalea Garden Tour
April 11th-April 13th, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sponsored by the Cape Fear Garden Club, the garden tour once again will take attendees through a range of colorful blooms. Having been featured in Southern Living, this a tour no one should miss. Rich in history, the tour stands as one of the longest-running garden tours in the South. Profits benefit beautification and horticulture grants; scholarship grants at the UNCW and CFCC; and support the conservation efforts at Battery Island for the National Audubon Society bird sanctuary.
Off the Beaten Path Tour
The Miller Lite Stage,
North Front St., between Hanover and
April 10th, 8 p.m. • $31
“Small Town USA” headliner Justin Moore will share the Miller Lite Main Stage with Randy Houser (“Whistlin’ Dixie”) and Josh Thompson (“Beer on the Table”). The country artist has previously opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trace Adkins and Brooks & Dunn. Cultivating a rowdy, fun-loving atmosphere the concert will keep folks boot-scootin’ rain or shine. An after party for the event will be held at Hell’s Kitchen, featuring the Austin Mowery Band.
April 11th, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
April 12th, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
April 13th, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
“We are super excited about all of the events at the Street Fair this year,” Azalea Festival event head Debbie Bowden enthuses.
Returning will be dance, gymnastics and other performing groups. The NC Science Festival will also return at the Children’s Area Stage in the Cotton Exchange lot.
About 35 percent of the event’s 331 vendors are new this year. Bringing fresh, new faces proves a priority this year.
“We have the best options: ribs, brisket, fried candy bars, sandwiches, Japanese, Mexican, chicken-on-a-stick, roasted corn, seafood, wraps, vegetarian, kettle corn, ice cream, snow cones, and much more,” Bowden proclaims.
Saturday at Bailey Park from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., guest celebrity Calum Worthy will be signing autographs. Fans can purchase pictures for $10.
From 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday, there will be a tent where roaming princesses, princes and pirates will appear for free photos with children or adults.
At Riverfront Park, various street performers will populate the area from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. “The Street Fair team has worked so hard to provide a fantastic event for all, [so] come take a stroll during the weekend” Bowden urges. Some of the best concerts around will populate the streets throughout the weekend:
Paul Scott Project, 5 p.m.
Unspoken, 6:30 p.m.
Rhett Walker Band, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 12th:
MG Band, 11:30 a.m.
After Death, 1 p.m.
Nathan Story, 2 p.m.
Unashamed, 3 p.m
Stone Street Band, 4 p.m.
Brent Stimmel Band, 5 p.m.
Sky Riders Acrobatic Troupe, 6 p.m
Coco Loco Party Band featuring The Original Carolina Girl, 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 13th
Collegiate a acapella competition, noon
Acoustikats from NBCs ”The Sing Off,” 3:30 p.m.
April 12th, 9 a.m. – noon
As with every year, a multitude of floats and celebrities will make their way through the streets of historic downtown Wilmington. This year a new feature will delight audiences as the parade will boast a competitive twist: Best Float will be awarded.
“This is the first year we are doing the contest, Meghan Tadlock, parade committee administrator, details. “The hope is that this new tradition will spark more creativity and fun back into the parade entries. The three judges are from local radio stations.”
The Azalea Queen and princess floats, along with the NC Aquarium float, will be returning this year. A few new surprises also will offer smiles and waves as they make their way down the street. Chic-fil-A will be joining in the fun with their cows.
“The Carolina Garrison a Star Wars costuming group is coming,” Tadlock explains. “There will also be a float with character princesses done by a Raleigh-based company, Enchanted Wishes, that does children’s parties. And, Neuwirth Motors will have the new Dodge Viper heading up the parade.”
Adding to this year’s parade, the committee decided to include Azalea Fest highlights from yesteryear. “We are starting a new tradition that was an old tradition of kicking off the parade with a little performance,” Tadlock informs. “We will have the UNC Chapel Hill all-female acappella group coming to do a performance directly in front of our new reviewing stand off of City Hall. This will be at 9 a.m. until about 9:15 a.m.”
Wilmington Art Association Juried Art Show and Sale
Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center
April 11th – 12th, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
April 13th, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Juried by Bob Rankin, this year’s Wilmington Art Association (WAA) Art Show and Sale will see expansion in a number of ways. “[He] has selected the best pieces of art from all the show entries,” Liz Hoiser, who’s overseeing the art show, says. “This year we have over 300 entries; there will be 200-plus pieces in the show.”
A part of the festival for 32 years, the show will expand into the auditorium of the Community Arts Center, resulting in two large rooms and two smaller rooms filled with works for attendees to view.
“We will feature the lovely watercolor by Janet Sessoms, which was selected for this year’s poster art,” Hoiser describes. “We will also feature work by Bob Rankin. All artwork is for sale.”
This year, WAA has added sculptures and three-dimensional fine art “in order to better represent the quality and variety of art in the region and to recognize these artists for the wonderful achievements,” according to Hosier. “The show is a wonderful opportunity for the community and visitors to see and purchase beautiful art. We welcome all to come by.”
On Thursday, there will be a private funtion held to for the artists, their families, patrons, and donors.
American Legion, 702 Pine Grove Dr.
Sat. April 12th, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.;
Sun. April 13th 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Fun for all ages, the event informs on American and foreign currency. More than 30 appraisers will be on hand. Don McNeely of Gold History Corporation will be at the show. He will demonstrate gold-panning. Don’s expertise comes from being a prospector for 30 years. People can purchase pans of dirt ffrom the mine for $5.
Williston Middle School
Sat., April 12th
2:30 – 6 p.m.,
Sun., Apr. 13th, 2 – 6 p.m.
Some of the nations finest boxers take the ring. The event’s been around since 1978 and continues to delight festival-goers. Sponsored by the NC Azalea Festival, Friends of Boxing and NC Amateur Boxing Association, the tournament welcomes sportsman from all states.
Street Fair Multicultural Stage
April 12th – 13th,
Corner of Walnut and N. Front streets
As with every year, the Azalea Festival will revel in a number of events that broaden horizons of locals. These shows will delight attendees in their celebration of diversity.
The multicultural-stage events occurring Saturday afternoon are: CFCA of India, 1:25; Walsh Kelley School of Irish Dance, 1:50; Children’s Multicultural March, 2:10; Soloist-Italia Mia Polynesian & Tahitian Fusion Dancers, 2:45; Ballet Folklorico, 3:05; TACAS Chinese Dance Group, 3:20; Ballet Folklorico, 3:40; Techmoja Dance & Theatre Company, 3:55; Waccamaw Siouan Tribe, 4:25; Polynesian Island Praise Team, 4:45; Wilmington Burma Refugee Singers, 5:10.
Events will resume on Sunday afternoon with: Walsh Kelley School of Irish Dance, 1:15; Techmoja Theatre & Dance company, 1:40; Rinku Bhattacharya Das Indian Dance Group, 2:10; Filipino-American Association of the Lower Cape Fear, 2:40; Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko, 3:15; New Revolution Huasteca Group, 3:50 Slainte: UNCW Irish Dance Club, 4:10; Chinese American Cultural Association, 4:30; Brunswick Children’s Choir, 4:45; Middle Eastern Dancers, 5:05.
Annually, private events will be offered to thank sponsors and other select locals who helped bring the festival into fruition. A celebrity reception will be held at 11:30 a.m. on April 10th. The annual Garden Party will be held April 11th. As well, a black-tie patrons’ gala will be held on April 12th for sponsors. Tickets are required to enter all events.
This year’s Azalea Queen will be making a private visit to Roland Grise Middle School.
A fireworks display will occur over the Cape Fear River on Saturday, April 12th at 9 p.m. Arrive early to secure parking.
Miller Lite Stage
April 11th and 12th, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $60 – $310
Wilmington Historic Home Tour
April 12th, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
April 13th, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.