WILMINGTON — The 2019 N.C. Azalea Festival celebrated the start of springtime in North Carolina last week. The annual event, which lasts five days, brings dignitaries, celebrities and revelers to Wilmington. This year, Wilmington native Briana Venskus served as the 2019 Azalea Festival Queen. Venskus is an actress and production assistant with a career in film production. She grew up in Wilmington and attended The University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She made her first screen debut in 2007’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. During her time as an actress, Venskus also began her career in film production working behind the scenes as a production assistant on TV shows such as Dexter, True Blood, Bones, Happy Endings, and the widely known 2009 film, The Fast & the Furious. Her first major role came in 2014’s Let’s Be Cops, which also starred Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. from the popular TV series New Girl. Since then, she has played many recognizable roles in hit TV shows like Nashville and the Netflix original series Grace and Frankie. Venskus also had a recurring role on AMC’s The Walking Dead as Beatrice.
Governor Roy Cooper was on hand to open the festival along with Venskus. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) attended the signature Airlie Garden Party along with Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC7) and several members of the N.C. General Assembly. Other celebrity guests included Tamera Young, an 11-year WNBA veteran who graduated from E. A. Laney High School in Wilmington in 2004; Grace Boyles, the 2018-2019 National Cherry Festival Queen; Laura Matrazzo, Miss North Carolina; and Manley Pope, Wilmington native and award-winning performer, director, writer, producer, and lecturer who is best known for his breakout role as Devon Whitelaw on the hit FOX television series Sweet Valley High and on Broadway, starring as Roger Davis in the Tony and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning musical RENT.