NC Azalea Festival kicks off

WILMINGTON — Following an unprecedented year for live events, the NC Azalea Festival officially kicked off its 74th edition with live, in-person events around Wilmington today. Victoria Huggins was crowned Queen Azalea at a coronation event held a the downtown Wilmington branch of BB&T, the lead sponsor of the festival.

Huggins departed with her crown to attend various events around the Port City as the festival seeks to retain the social atmosphere of years past while keeping to mask rules, social distancing goals and gathering size limitations.

A new series of events, called the Chefs’ Series, will begin Wednesday at the Oceanic restaurant in Wrightsville Beach and run through Friday. Limited tickets are still available for Thursday and Friday night.

Thursday night’s dinner will be at Hops Supply Company with the meal presented by celebrity chef Katsuji Tanabe.

Tanabe’s big break came in 2005 when he was promoted to Executive Sous Chef at Mastros and was later asked to appear in PBS’ “Cooking Under Fire.” Since then, he has appeared on multiple television shows including Top Chef, Food Fighters, and Chow Masters.

Friday night’s dinner will be served at the Festival-favorite Bluewater Grill in Wrightsville Beach

The Chefs’ Series is a spin on the Chefs’ Showcase event which was impacted by restaurant limitations. The festival Queen will attend each of the dinner events.