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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington’s biggest and most colorful event of the year has officially begun. The Queen of the 64th Annual Azalea Festival Heather French Henry now has her crown. Let the festivities begin.

“It’s an amazing experience being honored with the Azalea Festival Queen,” Henry said as she sailed up river on the Henrietta.

Miss America 2000’s journey to the Azalea Festival crown began with a police escort for her, the court and festival celebrities to the Henrietta at the State Port.

“It’s still really weird being called a celebrity guest, because I don’t really feel like I am,” Chris Lambton said. “But I love it here so far. The weather’s been perfect. The people are just so friendly. I can’t get over it. Maybe the north, just because it’s so cold, people aren’t as friendly, but down here, so far, everyone’s been just great. I love it.”

Lambton is a former bachelor on ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” He’s a northeasterner, but celebrity Adrienne Leigh Core is a North Carolina native. In fact, she’s Miss North Carolina.

“It’s so much in tradition,” Core said. “This is such an old festival that has so much going on and has so much that Wilmington is proud of.”

Queen Heather said she’s more of an ambassador for the festival; someone who sheds light on all of the hard work that goes into making the Azalea Festival the southern tradition Wilmington is so proud of.

“It means a lot for tourism in the community. You’re talking about economic development,” she said. “As Miss America, we all have platform issues. Miss Kentucky’s the same way. What I understand most about it is that ambassadorship and being goodwill and welcoming people who may not be from Wilmington, this area, to the area for the first time, such as myself.”

Henry’s coronation kicks off a weekend of celebration.

She was crowned by her father, who is a wounded Vietnam veteran, New Hanover County Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield and Azalea Festival President Hank Estep.

With so many events, everyone is looking forward to something different. Henry loves the hospitality, Core is excited for the parade and Lambton can’t wait to rock with Darius Rucker.

The festivities continue at 8 p.m. at Trask Coliseum as Rucker sings his sweet country tunes.


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