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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The largest event in southeastern North Carolina is just days away. The 64th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival is almost here.

President Hank Estep is calm, cool and collected just hours away from the official start.

Estep spent part of Monday morning at Airlie Gardens going over last-minute specs for the Garden Luncheon. One detail Estep wanted to make sure he got right: his entrance with the festival Queen and the queen of his household.

“The president has to have the Queen walk in side by side,” Estep said. “This year I just wanted to make sure that my wife Lisa is on the other arm. I have to make sure everyone is taken care of.”

With the details at Airlie figured out, Estep was on the move again, but before he could hit the road the president had to pump some air in his tire.

“It’s been two weeks,” Estep said. “I just haven’t had a chance to get it replaced.”

No doubt Estep is busy as the Azalea Festival nears, so with air in the tire the next stop is the Azalea Festival office, where even the president has to buy tickets for all the events.

“The Azalea Festival president doesn’t get any preferential treatment, and nor should he!” Estep said.

From the Cole Bros. Circus to the first ever Azalea Tennis Challenge, Estep made sure family and friends are guaranteed a seat for the events. With tickets in hand the Azalea Festival president was off to deliver them in person.

While on the UNCW campus Estep made a quick stop to give WWAY some insight on his history with the festival.

“My very first job within the festival was to make sure the portajohns were placed properly,” Estep said posing next to two portable toilets. “I’m proud to say that we did that well, and because I did that, this is where I am today: president of the North Carolina Azalea Festival.”

From the Azalea Festival outhouse to the penthouse.

Estep may be busy, but he says all the hard work is worth it in the end.

Though Estep may seem calm and collected, he admits that he is short on sleep. He says once it’s all over, he plans to spend a whole day sleeping.


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