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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington’s biggest and most colorful event of the year has officially begun. Azalea Festival is now in full swing.

The 65th annual event kicked off today with the coronation of Ericka Dunlap in downtown Wilmington.

The red carpet was rolled out and the journey to becoming azalea royalty started at the state port.

This is Dunlap’s first time in the Port City She was crowned Miss America in 2004.

“I just didn’t know what to expect exactly. I thought for sure there was a possibility that I would be treated like a queen, but they have really taken it to another level,” Dunlap said. They have really taken out the red carpet. I feel like more than a queen.”

Before being officially crowned, Dunlap, her court and celebrity guests got to relax on the Henrietta III before arriving at the riverfront.

As the boat pulled into port, people were lined up to get a glimpse of the queen and her court.

After the procession, Dunlap was finally crowned at Riverfront Park.

WWAY will cover the ribbon cutting for the Azalea Festival Garden Tour Friday, which will air at noon.

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