“Life is truly a celebration here in Cape Fear Country with a party honoring just about every facet – a church, a flower, a house, a tree, a river and a fish – just to name a few. And we don’t just party alone – every year we share our fun and enjoyment of life with thousands of visitors and hosts of celebrities.”
A Guide to Cape Fear Leisure
Those were true words in 1983 when the first issue of Wilmington Today was published, and they are true words today. We love a good party. While some of the Wilmington NC festivals held 25 years ago aren’t around anymore, several have endured and grown.
Wilmington NC festivals Abound
The Wilmington area hosts a large number of festivals each year and several of the celebrations have been recognized as outstanding regional or national events. We have festival for music of all types, seafood of several types, flowers and much more.
The largest celebration is the North Carolina Azalea Festival, which has blossomed into a five-day event showcasing exquisite gardens, great artwork and our rich cultural history and heritage since its beginning in 1948. It is held in April each year at the height of azalea blooming.
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 the most recent study done by the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The study found that 165,000 people attended the event, with the vast majority of them (93 percent) local.