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On Friday Jan. 21, the North Carolina Azalea Festival began the 2011 festival calendar with a kick-off party at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside. Tickets for the party sold out, a prelude to more than $7 million of economic impact the festival brings to Wilmington according to Azalea Festival President Hank Estep.

“The reason this festival has gotten so big is the community has embraced it,” Estep said.

The Azalea Festival has commissioned a new economic impact study to be conducted on this year’s festival and that UNCW has agreed to take on the project. According to UNCW Professor Woody Hall, the festival brings in at least $7 million to the Wilmington area.

“Nothing competes in terms of size,” Hall said.

The Azalea Festival runs from April 6 to 11 throughout the Wilmington area. Some of the larger events include a downtown parade, street fair and two concerts on the UNCW campus. The Avett Brothers will perform Friday, April 8 and Estep said the concert is very close to selling out. There will be a second concert on Saturday, April 9. The performer has not yet been announced.

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