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Queen's Coronation kicks of 67th Annual NC Azalea Festival

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The 67th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival kicked off this afternoon with the Queen's Coronation.

Hundreds of people packed into the Wilmington Convention Center to see this year's Queen Kirsten Haglund crowned, but it was not the location planned for the event.

The event was originally scheduled to be held on the grand lawn of the Convention Center, but with the threat of rain, organizers moved the event inside.

The late change of plans did not dampen the mood of the new queen.

"It's so exciting, and it's so beautiful," Haglund said. "I have been looking forward to being a part of the Azalea Festival for the last couple of months, and I am so glad to finally be here."

Queen Kirsten got her crown and now reigns as queen over the festival. She says being part of the festival is not that much different from being Miss America 2008.

"It's actually very similar," she said. "So many things you do on the road as miss america. You are meeting and greeting and being a part of community events that are so important to people's lives and really enrich their everyday experience, so it's very much the same, and that's what I love to do."

Taylor Perdue is a senior in high school. She says it is an honor to have serve as a belle.

"I think for me, I have been coming to this my whole life, and I just think it's a great way for me to represent Wilmington and just be a part of the beautiful culture that the Azalea Festival represents," she said.

A culture the queen says she is glad to be a part of.

"The Garden Party on Friday is supposed to be the most fabulous thing in the south, so I am really looking forward to it," Haglund said.

The last time the Queen's Coronation moved indoors was 2009, when actress Amrapali Ambegaokar was crowned in the ballroom of the Hilton Riverside.

Tomorrow the queen will tour the city, including stops at a school and the Betty H. Cameron Women's and Children's Hospital.

Queen Kirsten started her day with a visit to Greenfield Lake, where she sat for her official portrait this morning. Initially organizers moved the shoot indoors because of the rain, but was changed back to the lake at the last minute when the sun came out.

She also left a permanent mark on the Port City by joining previous queen's by putting her handprints in concrete.

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