The 57th Annual Azalea Festival - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

4.5.04

The 57th Annual Azalea Festival

The azaleas may not be in full bloom, but that didn't stop thousands from flocking to Wilmington this weekend for the Annual Azalea Festival.

It's been a whirlwind weekend from the crowning of Azalea Queen Dari Alexander and gorgeous garden tours, to pop star Jessica Simpson's sold out show and of course the famous Azalea Parade that draws tourists and residents to the streets of downtown for the street fair on water street. These four days give a big boost to the city's economy.

"The Azalea Festival brings over 5 million dollars in to Wilmington and the greater Wilmington area." First Lady Mary Easley took time out of her festivities to talk to News 6 "So it is really a big part of tourism for North Carolina, showcasing North Carolina in absolutely the best possible way."

That showcasing means big bucks for area businesses. Eric Mercer owns the Port City Java in downtown Wilmington.

"We saw people getting ready for parade, coming in getting hot drinks- it was cool both mornings. We had a two and half hour stint when the door was open and a line out the door."

However, some business owners like Nathan Hoffman, the owner of Cafe Pheonix, say they didn't fare as well in the festival as they have in years past.

"It's been a brisk, pretty productive weekend. Been a lot of people downtown. I can't complain about business at all. It's not been quite as busy as I thought it'd be but i think the weekend is more for walking along the riverfront, eating funnel cakes."

Eventhough if business owners can't agree if this festival was better for business, almost everyone agrees that it will be hard to beat. Blooming azaleas or not.

Report by: Sara Straeten

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