Local Spotlight: Alison Baringer on Azalea Fest and Blue Velvet



Cucalorus sat down with Azalea Festival Executive Director Alison Baringer to discuss the 76th Annual Azalea Festival and the special screening of Blue Velvet on April 14th at 6:30pm.

What’s unique about the Azalea Fest this year?

Well, I think one of the coolest aspects of the festival this year are all of the new events and programs that we’ve started.  Obviously the festival has been around for 76 years. So we have lots of great traditions like the street fair, the parade, and the Garden party. But we’re always looking to bring out new people to the festival. So working with Cucalorus on this Blue Velvet screening is a great example of one of those events that can bring in the film community to the festival.

We also started a mini-golf party on Sunday, April 16th at Jungle Rapids. We sold time slots. It’s super fun. It’s in partnership with the Alex Highsmith Family Foundation. Alex Highsmith  is an NFL Pittsburgh Steeler currently and he’s from Wilmington originally. He’s been a festival guest before but he’s coming back and will be stationed on one of the holes during the putt putt course. And so everybody who plays will get to meet him, take photos, and putt around with him. We’re really excited about that.

Last year we also started a queens dance party. That’s Friday night of the Azalea Festival and it’s for anybody, but it’s really geared towards the visiting queens and princesses who come to town for the parade Saturday morning. So they get an opportunity to meet Miss North Carolina, Azalea queen, our Queens court, our princess, and it’s just kind of a fun dance party. We’re really looking to bring new events to Wilmington and expand the festival spirit.

 Could you tell us a little bit about how the screening came together for Blue Velvet?

Here at the Azalea Festival, I have been trying to find a creative way to partner with Cucalorus because they do such great things for the community. And you have an amazing film festival in the fall.  It just made sense to me that these two groups partner together. So we were finally able to make it happen this year by talking to some of your staff members and coming up with a great solution that kind of fits both of our brands.

Do you have a favorite Cucalorus memory?

It’s been a few years now, but I attended one of the after parties in the old Dennis Hopper building. Blueberry Creative had a party when their business was based out of that building. They had a seventies, retro kind of after party and it was super fun. And years and years ago I was a member of the Dance Cooperative Board so I loved attending Dance-a-lorus.

 In the spirit of celebrating independent cinema, what is an independent film that you love, that you feel is underrated?

Lord, I don’t know if I’m a good person to ask that question. My favorite go-to movies are Jurassic Park and Speed. I will say, every year I watch It’s a Wonderful Life with my family in Wilmington and I think it’s one of the best movies ever made. And my boyfriend, like anytime he is teasing his daughter, I ask him “George, why must you torment the children?” (laughs)