Former Azalea Queen Sydney Penny now part of Azalea Festival in different way

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — She’s a former soap star And a former Azalea Festival Queen, who has made Wilmington her home.

Sydney Penny has traded in her Azalea crown for hard work behind the scenes during the festival.

The Port City hasn’t always been home for Penny, but it certainly is now.

“This town was a real revelation to me,” she said. “I really didn’t know it existed before I came here.”

The “All My Children” star showed up in Wilmington almost 20 years ago. She worked on movies here, and then was named 1999 Azalea Queen. It was all up hill from there.

“We found Wilmington so charming that it just kind of stayed there with us,” Penny said.

So she traded in life in the big city for life in the Port City.

“We thought, ‘Well, you know, Los Angeles is always there. New York is always there. There are always airplanes. So what if we stayed and made our life here and raised our son here?’ And it’s just been a really joyful experience for us,” Penny said. “It’s been perfect.”

These days, she’s still in the film industry doing things behind the scenes, as well. Just like she is for the Azalea Festival.

“The whole town just comes alive and takes part in it, and that’s very rare,” Penny said.

A part of the Cape Fear Garden Club, she spent Thursday morning baking cookies for Friday’s Azalea Garden Tour Ribbon Cutting at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater.

“It’s not just about the frippery and the craziness and the great music and the great food, and everyone getting turned out for this beautiful spring,” Penny said.

She says it’s important to remember the good the Garden Club and festival do.

“Proceeds that come in don’t go toward us buying new hats and shovels,” she said. “It goes directly back into the community in the form of grants.”

Her favorite part of this festive time of year is knowing it’s a festival that gives back.

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