Azalea Festival gets mixed feedback
Published: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 19:04
Every year since 1948, streets of downtown Wilmington are flooded with tourists, locals, fried food vendors and local businesses selling their goods to celebrate the blooming of the azaleas in North Carolina.
This year a change in weather caused the azaleas to bloom well before the festival could celebrate them. Despite the lack of a fresh aroma from the annual flowers, the festival was still held in their honor from Wednesday, April 11 to Sunday, April 15.
The festival allowed local businesses to set up small shops along the riverside for festival-goers.
"I try to attend the festival every year," said the owner of a jewelry booth. "I think it's a great way to promote my business to the locals and tourists."
They also hosted a parade and various musical attractions to entertain the crowds. The parade, which was held Saturday, included the Azalea Festival Queen and her court dressed in their best Southern Belle outfits, clowns and the Dance Express cloggers.
On Sunday, the Techmoja Dance and Theatre Company filled Bailey Park off of N. Front Street with soulful music, just after the Walsh Kelly School of Irish Dance featured children stomping the stage with their tap shoes.
The festival’s organizers also set up a circus near the Wilmington airport.
UNCW student Ivy Burridge was stopped on Chancellor’s Walk and asked by a stranger to protest the circus.
"He wanted me to call and ask them not to bring in the circus because it was known to have a history of teaching their animals badly."
One concert that had fans excited was Scotty McCreery, who performed Friday, April 13. McCreery, a Garner, N.C. native, is known for winning the 10th season of American Idol.
“Scotty is so cute,” said twelve-year-old Jessica Gampton. “I watched him on American Idol. He was so sweet on there.”
North Carolinians who do not live in Wilmington traveled hours to attend the festival, while some locals make a point of staying away from it.
“It’s too crowded during the day to really enjoy the festival," said Rachel Davis, a Wilmington resident, “Plus you have just a bunch of fanny-packers who push and shove you to get to a booth just to walk away ten seconds later.”
“I used to love going, but it has gotten so busy that I don’t go anymore, or at least not in the daytime,” said Davis.
Even with more tourists than azaleas present during the festival, some locals in attendance found the festival a nice, relaxing relief.
“I wasn’t sure if we were still going to have a festival this year. The weather has been going up and down so much that I thought maybe it wouldn’t happen until after April,” said Jess Whitt, a Wilmington local. “I know it gets crowded around here but I still enjoy coming. The parking is horrible, but I still come,” he said.