WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Azalea Festival attendees are sure to be seeing stars, as the organizers have enlisted an impressive line-up of celebrities for this year's events. The 67th North Carolina Azalea Festival will include appearances by Beau Wright, Jacob Lofland, Monica Palumbo, Johna Edmonds, Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, Jr., Emanuel Gibson, Calum Worthy, Keith Rhodes, Trevor Munson, and William Mangum. Reigning over the festival will be this year's queen, Kirsten Haglund.
Haglund is no stranger to the crown as a former Miss America in 2008. During her reign, she served as Goodwill Ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network and was a tireless advocate for increased awareness of eating disorders as a public health priority. She is now a proud National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Ambassador, Community Relations Specialist for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, and television personality, frequently appearing on Fox News Channel, CNN, HLN, Fox Business Network, and Huff Post Live to comment on youth in politics and women's health issues. In February 2009, she founded the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, whose fundraising efforts support treatment scholarships to those battling eating disorders. Originally from Farmington Hills, Mich., she graduated from Emory University in 2013 with a degree in political science.
Beau Wright was born and raised in Wilmington and made his motion picture debut in the feature film “Little Accidents,” which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Wright starred in the film along with Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Chloe Sevigny and Jacob Lofland. Wright, who happens to have Down syndrome, is proving to the world every day that a diagnosis does not define a human being.
Jacob Lofland, also of the film “Little Accidents,” is an actor who made his feature debut in the indie film, “Mud,” directed by Jeff Nichols. “Mud” premiered at the 2012 Cannes International Film Festival, and Lofland had a star-making role alongside Reese Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughey. Lofland, an Arkansas native, is currently on FX's Emmy-nominated “Justified.”
Monica Palumbo, Miss North Carolina USA in 2001, is a Charlotte native and has 15 years of TV and film experience. During the Miss USA Pageant, she was awarded Miss Congeniality, which happened to coincide with the home movie release of “Miss Congeniality,” which Warner Brothers hired her to promote. Her credits also include filling in for Azalea Festival Queen Kelly Ripa on “Live with Regis and Kelly.” Palumbo received a bachelor’s degree in theatre from California State University at Northridge and prolonged her studies in Los Angeles. After performing in the ABC show “All American Girl,” Monica moved back to Charlotte, where she spent four years as Miss Sprint Cup for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Palumbo also served as co-host on the hit morning radio show “The Ace and TJ Show,” and worked as a reporter for the SPEED Channel, which is now the new Fox Sports 1.
Johna Alexandria Edmonds, the reigning Miss North Carolina 2013, is a graduate of N.C. State University, where she received a degree in accounting. She works with Readers to Leaders: Promoting Literacy in America's Youth, emphasizing service projects that educate not only students, but also teachers and parents on the importance of literacy among young people. Edmonds is an active board member of the Helps Education Fund, a non-profit organization committed to supporting educators and improving learning outcomes for students. She has taught English in the Dominican Republic and also studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she taught English to youth and their parents. She was selected for the KPMG Global Internship program where she traveled to work in Paris, France, in 2012. Edmonds is obtaining a master’s degree in accounting at N.C. State University. After becoming a certified public account, she will begin her career with Ernst & Young LLP.
Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, Jr., Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, was born at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the son of a career Air Force Officer. He graduated with a degree in English from the University of Houston in 1974 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in March 1975. Upon graduation from the Basic School, he reported to NAS Pensacola, Fla., and was designated a Naval Aviator in September 1976. Lt. Gen. Milstead’s personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two gold stars in lieu of second and third awards with the Combat V, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with 6 Strike/Flight Awards, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and the Navy Commendation Medal.
Emanuel Gibson is an American actor, singer-songwriter, musician, philanthropist and poet. He has played notable venues such as The Beacon Theater, B.B. King Blues Club, Theater at Madison Square Garden and Austin City Limits, as well as lauded music festivals such as the Berlin Music Festival and Kommune Festival in Germany, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas and North by Northeast in Toronto. Gibson released an album and poetry chapbook, both titled “The Suffering,” on February 4, 2014.
Keith Rhodes is a Wilmington native and the acclaimed chef of Catch restaurant. Rhodes has been voted the city’s best chef for three consecutive years and was a James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist for Best Chef: Southeast in 2011. Rhodes’ enthusiasm for North Carolina seafood is contagious, and his passion for modern cuisine has made him Wilmington’s unofficial foodie spokesperson. He’s a stickler for wild-caught and sustainably-raised seafood, and has caught the attention of Bravo’s show “Top Chef” and Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle blog “Goop.”
Trevor Munson started his Hollywood career when he made the quarter finals in the Nicholl Fellowship, and took fourth place in the Slamdance Screenwriter competition with his original screenplay “Lone Star State of Mind.” The following year “Lone Star State of Mind” went into production and was released in 2002, starring Joshua Jackson, Jamie King, Matt Davis, and John Mellencamp. Trevor’s first novel, “Angel of Vengeance” was adapted into a CBS television series “Moonlight,” for which he served as co-creator and co-Executive Producer. The show won the People’ Choice Award for Best New Drama.
2014 Azalea Festival Artist William Mangum is known for using a controlled style to produce a realism that is rare among watercolorists. He is a prolific artist, having produced more than 3,000 original works of art, as well as a gallery owner, publisher, author, keynote speaker and designer. He is an advocate for the homeless population. Since 1988, Mangum has created an Annual Honor Card to raise awareness and funds for shelters across North Carolina, which has raised more than $4.5 million. Mangum received both his bachelor's and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Calum Worthy plays the goofy video director character Dez, best friend to Austin Moon, on the hit Disney television show “Austin & Ally.” He also stars in a series of shorts, “The Coppertop Flop Show,” that runs between shows. Born in Canada, he made his screen debut at the age of nine on Fox's “Night Visions.” At 10, he starred in a BBC mini-series and has since completed more than 50 film and television projects in five countries, including the 2011 film, “The Big Year,” with Steve Martin. He has won two Young Artist Awards for “Leading Young Actor,” as well as a Leo Award in Canada for “Leading Actor.” He will be attending the Parade Presented by Neuwirth Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram Trucks, and hosting a special public Meet and Greet at the Street Fair on Saturday, April 12, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Bailey Park, sponsored by Kenny Barnes Studio.