WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A former Miss America will reign as Queen of the 64th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival next month, festival organizers announced today.
Heather French Henry won the crown of Miss America in 2000. She is also a fashion designer with her own clothing line. As Miss America and since, Henry has traveled the nation championing veteran's issues. That dedication ties into this year's Azalea Festival's focus on honoring the military.
"Heather's father is a disabled veteran, and he was the inspiration for her to create The Heather French Foundation for Veterans," festival president Hank Estep said. "Heather French Henry's involvement with the military honors our nation's heroes connects our Queen to the Festival's mission of recognizing our military."
Next month's festivities include the Queen Azalea Battleship Salute. The April 9 event will kick-off the 50th anniversary of the Battleship docking in Wilmington and mark the 70th anniversary of the ship's commissioning. It will also recognize WWII crew members of the USS North Carolina still alive today. Capt. Terry Bragg, the executive director of the Battleship, will host the event and join the Azalea Festival as an official celebrity guest.
The military theme continues during the Azalea Festival Parade, which will include several military units and has retired USMC Maj. Gen. Bob Dickerson as Parade Marshal.
Also joining the festival as celebrity guests are wrestling legend Ric Flair, UNCW women's basketball coach and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and newly-crowned Azalea Princess Hannah Smith.
For more information on the 64th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival visit http://www.ncazaleafestival.org. And stayed tuned to WWAY NewsChannel 3 and wwaytv3.com for continuing coverage of this year's festival.