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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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NATO 50th Annual Flag Raising, April 27th, 1999
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 1999 program.

Originally submitted by: John W. Warner,Senator.

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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.

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