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Inaugural Azalea Festival queen returns to the Port City

Published: Apr. 8, 2015 at 7:28 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2015 at 7:28 PM EDT
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Anderson was officially crowned the Azalea Festival Queen by Governor R. Craig Cherry. (Source:...
Anderson was officially crowned the Azalea Festival Queen by Governor R. Craig Cherry. (Source: WECT)
Anderson explained that everywhere she went, the crowds were enormous and gracious. (Source:...
Anderson explained that everywhere she went, the crowds were enormous and gracious. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The North Carolina Azalea Festival always features several celebrities, but one of this year's special guests was here when the event first began.

Jacqueline White Anderson was crowned the first Azalea Festival Queen in 1948. Now, more than six decades later, the inaugural queen is in the Port City to celebrate.

Anderson was an actress at RKO Pictures and traveled across the country, by train, arriving in Wilmington to a Hollywood type reception and three days of almost non-stop festivities.

"Hugh Morton was in charge, he was the President of the festival that year, and he and his wife were just delightful and arranged all kinds of interesting people for us to meet, things to do and azaleas to see," said Anderson who explained that everywhere she went, the crowds were enormous and gracious.

Anderson was officially crowned the Azalea Festival Queen by Governor R. Craig Cherry. Word has it Cherry had been enjoying the festival all day and was described as being a little tipsy when it came time to put the crown on White's head.

"It was kind of fun, because he put it on upside down, which sort of added to the fun," Anderson recalled.

White was first under contract to MGM, then RKO, and is best known for her roles in Crossfire and The Narrow Margin.

Since that first festival, she has made one trip back to Wilmington, but says the Port City holds a special place in her heart.

Times may have changed, the festival is bigger and Wilmington has gotten larger, but we still continue to enjoy the millions of azaleas that grace the Cape Fear area every spring, just like they did when Anderson was our queen in 1948.

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