NORTH CAROLINA AZALEA FESTIVAL, AN EPIC CELEBRATION OF SPRING

There’s no place like Wilmington, North Carolina and its island beaches during the spring when millions of azaleas are bursting with colorful blooms. The lush flowering landscape provides an idyllic backdrop for an epic Southern-style celebration known as the North Carolina Azalea Festival, a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event. The 67th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival will be held April 9-13, 2014 in Wilmington, North Carolina.

As the stage is set in early April, Wilmingtonians invite friends, family and visitors to help celebrate the season with Southern hospitality, style and fanfare. An annual tradition since 1948, the North Carolina Azalea Festival pays tribute to the rich history, arts, culture and natural beauty of Wilmington, North Carolina’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina BeachKure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach.  Perennial festival highlights include the Cape Fear Garden Club’s Azalea Belles who dress in hoop skirts to greet visitors and honor an era past. There’s also an elaborate 3-hour parade on Saturday morning, complete with azalea-laden floats, marching bands, clowns, show animals, local pageant winners and celebrity guests, including Queen Azalea (TBA). This year’s parade includes a Best Entry contest. There are also juried arts and craft shows, a traveling circus, fireworks (Saturday night), and a street fair (Sat./Sun.) with exhibits, vendors, live entertainment and kids’ activities.

Signature associated events include the Cape Fear Garden Club’s Azalea Garden TourApril 11-13, one of the South’s longest-running and most popular garden tours. The 61st annual Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour theme is “For the Love of Gardening.” This year’s tour showcases 13 private and public gardens that include a mix of established and new lovingly tended landscapes. Garden tour price includes free admission to Airlie Gardens on Saturday and Sunday. For details and tickets:www.capefeargardenclub.org/azalea-garden-tour. Another time-honored sanctioned event is the Azalea Home Tour, April 12 and 13, showcasing nine private homes and a church of historical and architectural interest. Homes are chosen to represent the wide variety of architectural styles found in Wilmington. For home tour tickets: www.historicwilmington.org.

New this year is a N.C. Azalea Festival App that makes it easier than ever for attendees to keep up with event information by providing breaking entertainment news, behind-the-scenes buzz, and insider tips (App details at www.ncazaleafestival.org).

Live music is a big part of every N.C. Azalea Festival. This year’s headline acts include the quintessential jam band Widespread Panic and country artist Justin Moore’s “Off The Beaten Path” tour with fellow musicians Randy Houser and Josh Thompson.WidespreadPanic_013

Widespread Panic is an Athens, Georgia rock band that’s risen to elite status among American jam bands since its formation in 1986. The current lineup includes John Bell, John “JoJo” Hermann, Jimmy Herring, Todd Nance, Domingo S. Ortiz, and Dave Schools. Renowned for packed live performances, Widespread Panic is often compared to jam band legends such as the Grateful Dead and Phish. Widespread Panic will perform two concerts during the N.C. Azalea Festival on Friday, April 11th and on Saturday, April 12th. Both Widespread Panic concerts begin at 8:00 p.m. and gates open at 6:00 p.m.

Justin Moore, a two-time American Country Award nominee, released his third album “Off The Beaten Path” last fall. His number one hits include “Small Town USA” and “Til My Last Day.” On Thursday, April 10th, fans can enjoy Moore’s trademark rowdy, sentimental performance with opening acts by up-and-coming country artists Randy Houser (“How Country Feels”) and Josh Thompson (“Way Out Here”). The Off The Beaten Path concert begins at 8:00 p.m.; gates open at 6:00 p.m.

All headline concerts are outdoors on the Miller Lite Main Stage at the Cape Fear Community College Campus in Downtown Wilmington (411 N. Front Street). Concerts are rain or shine, standing room only. Tickets for all concerts are available online atwww.ncazaleafestival.org and at the N.C. Azalea Festival Office (5724 Oleander Drive, Ste. B7; Mon.-Fri., 9am-5pm). Chairs, backpacks, umbrellas, coolers are not permitted inside the venue. Chairs, food and beverage will be available for cash purchase.

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