Photo courtesy Fiona McKenzie, Falk Plankenhorn
The Norfolk International Azalea
Festival Honors NATO
Every April when azaleas are in full bloom,
Norfolk salutes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
with a gala celebration known as the International Azalea
Festival. The city of Norfolk and the Hampton Roads Chamber of
Commerce hosted the first festival in 1954, and its rich
tradition of friendship began.
Each year the festival selects one NATO country
member as the Most Honored Nation, and a young woman from this
country is crowned Queen Azalea. Her court consists of princesses
from other member NATO nations, with other attendant
representatives from local schools and organizations. Their
coronation is held in the splendor of the Norfolk Botanical Garden,
which is at its peak in spring. A sampling of the culture of the
Most Honored Nation is featured all week in concerts, art exhibits,
films, fashions, and cuisine. Since its inception, the
International Azalea Festival has developed into a celebration with
events that are annually attended by 250,000 people.
Festivities include both sporting and cultural
events, an international military tattoo, a grand parade, a gala
ball and dinner, and a spectacular air show. The rich tradition of
the International Azalea Festival was inspired by the establishment
of NATO's Allied Command Atlantic in Norfolk. Local citizens
organized the festival with the purpose to create new friendships,
to provide a basis for cultural exchange, to focus greater public
awareness on the military's role in maintaining world peace and
ensuring safe trade routes, and to inspire cultural and scientific
development. The festival also provides the citizens of Norfolk and
Hampton Roads with a celebration that highlights their community's
beauty and the benefits it accrues as a world center of trade.
Project documentation comprises information on NATO,
the festival history and events, the Norfolk Botanical Garden, a
biography of the 2000 Azalea Festival Queen from Iceland, a
brochure, thirty 8x10 photographs, a 2000 Festival Schedule, and a
Originally submitted by: John W. Warner,Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.