1952

Janet Leigh drops out as Azalea queen (reportedly at the insistence of husband Tony Curtis) and is hastily replaced by actress Cathy Downs  (My Darling Clementine), whose husband – actor Joe Kirkwood Jr. – happens to be playing in the Azalea Open. 

1954

It was reported that Azalea Queen Ella Raines wore a crown from Harry Winston, with 1,900 diamonds and 75 rubies. 

1956

The Miss America pageant’s,  Bert Parks crowns Polly Bergen, Azalea queen and six years later, Bergen stars in the classic Cape Fear.

1958

A pre-Mayberry Andy Griffith served as emcee and Esther Williams, Hollywood’s “Million Dollar Mermaid,” reigned as Azalea Queen. But this year we also had two kings: “King of Festivities” was actor John Bromfield.  While “King of Hospitality” was cowboy actor Scott Brady. Brady was chosen as the escort for Queen Ester Williams but ends up in a quarrel with her and storms off early leaving Williams to fin for herself. Arnold Palmer played at the Azalea Open. 

1959

Ronald Reagan was emcee; Debra Paget, The Ten Commandments, and Love Me Tender actoress was queen. The event was the event is officially dubbed “The North Carolina Azalea Festival at Wilmington.”