Plans already underway for Azalea Festival 2005

Queen Dari Alexander has gone home. The bleachers on Third Street have come down, and traffic is back to normal.

The 2004 Azalea Festival is over.

Even as this one slips into memory, plans are underway for the next one.

For four full days, the activity never stops -- from the crowning of Azalea Queen Dari Alexander and the gorgeous garden tour, to pop star Jessica Simpson's sold-out show. The stars change, but the traditions don't.

Thousands line downtown streets to watch floats go by, and get a glimpse of the Azalea Queen in annual parade.

Water Street is jam-packed all weekend for the annual Street Fair.

One of the most successful weekends in Azalea Festival history has come and gone. But next year's president is already hard at work, trying to bring one of this year's headliners back to Wilmington in 2005.

During Simpson's concert, the next festival president asked the pop princess if she'd come back as queen. "I think Wilmington would love Jessica Simpson coming down here," said Grady Alexander, president of the 58th Azalea Festival. "She hasn't told me 'no.' We've followed up on it two times since the concert. We're going to forward her some information. If she can't come back as queen, maybe as a celebrity."

On his first day as the new president, Richardson is planning and networking. He says this year's festival set the bar very high, but his goal is simple. "Putting on a quality festival for all to enjoy--spice it up as much as i can," Richardson said. "And think outside the box as much as possible financially. And probably just try to get my entertainers lined up for next year."

Richardson says he's looking forward to bringing more big names to the 58th Azalea Festival. With a little luck, it won't be long before he's able to line up the next queen.

One of the possibilities already knows her way around town.

Reported by Sara Straeten