WILMINGTON, NC – Azaleas, azaleas everywhere! It must be springtime in Wilmington, North Carolina and its island beaches! Each year in April when the landscape is dominated by thousands of brilliant pink, white, and purple azaleas, Wilmington pays homage to these dazzling flowers during the annual North Carolina Azalea Festival, a five-day celebration that ushers in spring with Southern hospitality and fanfare. A springtime tradition since 1948, the 65th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival (April 11-15, 2012) celebrates the rich history, arts, and culture of Wilmington, North Carolina’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach.
Highlights of the N.C. Azalea Festival include the Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Belles dressed in period hoop skirts, an elaborate parade, juried arts and craft shows, a traveling circus, concerts, fireworks, and a street fair with exhibits, vendors, live entertainment, and kids’ activities. Signature events include the Cape Fear Garden Club’s Azalea Garden Tour (April 13-15), one of the South’s longest-running and most popular garden tours. The 59th annual Azalea Garden Tour’s theme, “Follow the Blooms,” showcases 13 public and private gardens that includes a mix of established and new landscapes. For details and tickets: www.azaleagardentour.org. The 2012 Azalea Home Tour (April 14-15) showcases nine private homes and a church of historical and architectural interest. For home tour tickets: www.historicwilmington.org. A two-hour parade on Saturday morning in Downtown Wilmington features azalea-adorned floats, marching bands, clowns, show animals, and celebrities, including Queen Azalea Erika Dunlap, a former Miss America (2004) and the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Florida. Leading the parade will be Grand Marshal Major General James E. Livingston, USMC (RET). Other celebrity guests include: Miss North Carolina 2011 Hailey Best; former “The Bachelor” contestant/UNCW graduate Ashley Spivey, TopCat Lindsey Yoder (Carolina Panther Cheerleader), former NASA Astronaut Colonel Jerry L. Ross, USAF (RET); and Sergeant First Class Hugh Conlon IV (RET) and liaison for the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program.
Music plays a major role in every N.C. Azalea Festival. This year’s headline acts are country music newcomer and reigning “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery, and the award-winning popular recording artist Kenny Loggins. Tickets for both concerts are available online at www.ncazaleafestival.org.
“American Idol” Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery captured the hearts of audiences when he appeared on the show in 2011. A record-breaking 122.4 million votes were cast for the finale and nearly 39 million viewers tuned in. At age 17, Scotty holds the distinction of being the youngest male winner and the only country male winner in “American Idol” history. A native of Garner, North Carolina, McCreery recently released his debut country album “Clear As Day,” a mix of classic and contemporary country songs. Scotty McCreery will please Wilmington audiences on Wednesday, April 11th when he performs at UNCW’s Trask Coliseum to a packed house.
In a world of one-hit wonders and fleeting fame, Kenny Loggins’ career spans more than 40 years with hit songs in each decade. Many fans will remember Kenny from the country-rock duo “Loggins and Messina” during the early 1970s. Following their split in 1976, Loggins achieved solo stardom with best-selling albums such as “Celebrate Me Home,” “Nightwatch,” “Keep the Fire” and “High Adventure.” In 1980, Loggins won the Grammy Award in the Best Male Pop Vocal category for “This Is It.” During the 1980s, Loggins soared with hit movie theme songs such as “I’m Alright” (from the film Caddyshack), “Footloose” (Footloose), “Danger Zone” (Top Gun), and “Nobody’s Fool” (Caddyshack II). A stream of introspective and personal albums followed, such as “Back to Avalon,” “Leap of Faith,” and “It’s About Time,” among others, including a holiday album and two acclaimed children’s albums. Loggins recently reinvented himself once again, forming a country band, Blue Sky Riders. Kenny Loggins will perform many of his hits during a memorable performance on Thursday, April 12th at UNCW’s Trask Coliseum in Wilmington.
Attending festivals and events, such as the N.C. Azalea Festival, is a fun and affordable way to experience a region’s history and culture. For a N.C. Azalea Festival schedule and concert tickets, visit www.ncazaleafestival.org or call 910-794-4650, or stop by the Festival ticket office (5725 Oleander Dr., Unit B7, Wilmington). For a free 2012 Official Visitors Guide to Wilmington, North Carolina and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, call 1-866-266-9690, email email@example.com, or visit www.GoWilmingtonAndBeaches.com for spring specials, experiences, and events.