Wilmington festivals and arts events we’re looking forward to in 2021

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The Azalea Festival, seen here in 2019, was canceled in 2020, but organizers are hopeful for the 2021 event scheduled for April 7-11.

For fans of the cultural and performing arts in Wilmington, once you get past March, 2020 was an ugly year. Sure, there were a bunch of drive-in movies and concerts, a couple of musicals held on the steps outside of Thalian Hall, and a fair number of art exhibitions that were either socially distanced or held outdoors.

But for the most part, when it comes to the arts, the coronavirus pandemic took away everything most people regarded as normal. At present a return to “the way things were” seems uncertain at best.

At the time this story was written in November, a great deal remained unknown about what would, could, might and might not happen in 2021 in terms of arts and events. That said, we can’t help but hope.

And so, in the spirit of looking forward to a happier New Year, let’s take a look at some of the Wilmington festivals, performances and arts events we’re looking forward to in 2021.

N.C. Azalea Festival

Scheduled dates: April 7-11

The Avett Brothers' concert for the 2020 Azalea Festival has been rescheduled for April 10, 2021.

The 73rd annual N.C. Azalea Festival suffered a double-dose of cancellations in 2020: in the spring, when the festival was postponed till the fall, and then again in the fall, when in-person festival events were called off for the year.

The festival did manage some online events, including a virtual garden party, and with two of the festival’s three concert headliners rescheduled for 2021, there’s a good chance music fans will get a taste of what they missed.

“We are committed to celebrating the azaleas and our city in 2021,” said festival president Alison Baringer.

Michael Franti & Spearhead's concert for the 2020 Azalea Festival has been rescheduled for April 9, 2021.

North Carolina favorite sons The Avett Brothers are scheduled to play Saturday, April 10, and a concert featuring Michael Franti & Spearhead and Sublime with Rome is on the Azalea Festival docket for Friday, April 9. It’s possible another concert or two could be added as well.

A peek at the festival website reveals some warm-up events in January (Chefs’ Showcase and art unveiling Jan. 23) and March (scholarship pageant March 6, “Paws on Parade” March 13) before the festival in earnest — parade, queen’s coronation, street fair and all — is set to begin in April.

Live concerts

Notable shows:Rain (Beatles tribute) at CFCC Wilson Center Feb. 18; The Kingston Trio at Odell Williamson Auditorium March 3; The Coasters at Thalian Hall April 15; Stephen Marley at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater April 17

Construction of North Waterfront Front Park and nearby apartments downtown.

Speaking of concerts, in addition to the Azalea Festival shows dozens, if not hundreds, of live musical performances in Wilmington were canceled in 2020. That’s created quite an appetite for a lot of hungry live music fans. If all goes well, however, Wilmington could start seeing larger concerts return by the spring or summer.

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A new, 6,700-seat amphitheater in Wilmington’s under-construction North Riverfront Park is still set to open in June of 2021. No specific dates or shows have been announced yet. But when the big names start rolling in, the 2021 concert season in Wilmington could be as epic as 2020 was disappointing.



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