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Azalea Festival asks city and county for $70,000 to throw "the biggest party Wilmington has seen"

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The festival is hoping to celebrate its 75th anniversary after two years of events foiled by the pandemic. Organizers are asking Wilmington and New Hanover County for $35,000 each to help defray the costs of booking artists and help keep ticket prices at or under $15.

In its request letter, addressed to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Chair Julia Olsen-Boseman, the North Carolina Azalea Festival touted the "significant benefits" provided to the region, citing a 2011 UNCW report that pegged the economic impact of the festival at $50 million annually — which included an estimated $48 million in guest spending and $1.6 million in spending by festival organizers.

Festival organizers also emphasized the importance of a return to normal for its 75th anniversary, writing that the festival's financial boost to the region "coupled with the return to a 'normal' April Azalea Festival for the first time since 2019 (pre-Covid) is cause for huge honor and recognition in the City and County."

The Festival proposed that the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County co-present the event together — and said the requested investment from local government would "help offset a portion of artists costs," including a "nationally headlining musical act" and allow tickets to remain more affordable. In addition, the Festival suggested it would give away approximately 400 tickets to health care workers "as a thank you for their pandemic work."

The Festival noted it would still continue to have other sponsors, as well.

"We appreciate the consideration given to support the biggest party Wilmington has seen; we are all due for a little celebrating," the Festival's request concluded.

Wilmington City Council will consider the Festival's $35,000 request on Tuesday evening. If approved, the funding would come from City Council's contingency fund.

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners agenda has not yet been released — but the Festival's separate $35,000 request to the county is expected to be discussed during the Monday, Feb. 7 meeting starting at 4 p.m.