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North Carolina Azalea Festival
From its beginning in 1948, the North Carolina Azalea Festival has blossomed into a five-day event showcasing exquisite gardens, great artwork and our rich cultural history and heritage. It is held in April each year at the height of azalea blooming, with April 9-13, 2014 the dates for the 68th annual celebration of the city’s favorite flower.
As you are driving through the city during festival time, it seems like the city is ablaze with azaleas blooming everywhere – and it is!
The Azalea Festival includes a parade complete with Azalea Queen, street fair, circus, concerts, horse show, major entertainment, home and garden tours, children’s tea, pageantry from a bygone era and much of the charm and culture that makes Wilmington a proud Southern city.
The festival officially kicks off with the arrival of Queen Azalea, followed by the parade and two-day street fair. In all, more than 125 events are included.
Naturally, the Queen has a court, comprised of gorgeous young ladies escorted by Summerall Guards, handsome military cadets in full dress uniform from the Citadel’s senior elite drill team. In addition, the Azalea Princesses, a group of outstanding local high school students who have participated in the Princess Scholarship Pageant, are present.
In 1969, the tradition of the Azalea Belles was introduced, and since then has grown to more than 100 young ladies, all dressed in gowns that reflect the style of the antebellum period. Azalea Belles primarily serve as hostesses at the garden tours and they definitely add a note of gracious beauty and heritage from bygone days.
The Azalea Festival has a $50 million impact on the area, according to a study done in 2011 by the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. The study found that 165,000 people attended the event that year, with the vast majority of them (93 percent) local.