If you’ve ever been to the Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade, you know there is a certain type of magic in the air: a love for an event so unique, a love for Atlanta, a love for all of your fun-loving neighbors out on the trail with you. Love stories even have a way of intertwining themselves with the night. Here are three delightful and surprising lantern love stories!
Since 2010, Mr. and Mrs. Giant have towered over the Lantern Parade. At 14 feet tall, the gigantic puppets have led the parade, paused for face-to-face chats with residents on the third floor of Ford Factory Lofts, and danced around the green at Piedmont Park. At one time, they were the tallest members of the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, but have since been joined by several more lofty, illuminated brethren. This year, Mr. and Mrs. Giant will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary!
Before taking the form of giant puppets, the two love birds (Cam and Joy in their day-to-day lives) grew up in the metro area and both attended Stone Mountain High School. In spite of their proximity to each other, they didn’t meet until years later when Joy went into the NTB on the 85 south access road to buy a tire. Just one tire. She very clearly told the salesman that she refused to walk out with three tires she didn’t need. Then, she noticed the tan line on his wrist and made fun of the pale shadow left from wearing a glove in the sun. He said that it was from a Harley ride that he’d recently taken cross-country from South Dakota. That was the only prompting Joy needed to give Cam her phone number before walking out of the store with her one tire.
Fast forward a few years, and Chantelle Rytter, the illustrious Captain of the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons (who brings you the Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade each year), stood next to Joy as a bridesmaid as Joy and Cam were married at the Mary Gay House in Decatur. When it came time for the couple to bid adieu, Joy’s mother taped her veil to her helmet before the newlyweds rode off on a Harley. When the police came to investigate the report of a noise ordinance violation, the wedding party pointed the opposite direction of the recently departed couple. Meanwhile, everyone else in the direction of the traveling Harley stopped to stare at the new bride and her horizontal veil.
When Chantelle moved to New Orleans, Joy and Cam visited for one Mardi Gras and were hooked. When Chantelle forged her own NOLA-style Krewe, Joy and Cam were some of first people to whom she assigned Krewe names. When Chantelle moved back to Atlanta, the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons debuted on the Atlanta parade scene with the Little Five Points Halloween Parade in 2001. Over the next several years, as Chantelle complained about how few parades there were in Atlanta, the then-unpaved Atlanta BeltLine caught her attention as a dark spot that could use a little light. And in 2010, the Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade was born with Mr. and Mrs. Giant leading the way!
So, be sure to wish the people under the puppets a happy anniversary when you see them out there on Saturday!
In the Right Place at the Right Time
Paul and Anne Sternberg met in New York City, years before they were married. They lost touch and Paul moved to Atlanta while Anne stayed in Brooklyn. Paul sent an email at one point that went unanswered, until Anne logged into LinkedIn one day (three years later) and it suggested that she and Paul connect. It was only a matter of time before they were talking every day, getting engaged, moving Anne to Atlanta, and planning their wedding ceremony for a night in September 2013, at Parish on the Eastside Trail – all without knowing it would be the night of the Lantern Parade.
In the moments before the parade came through Inman Park, Paul and Anne stepped away from their ceremony in Parish to exchange vows privately on the Eastside Trail with no inkling of the 10,000 revelers who were about to join their party. After dining under the paper lanterns that decorated the ceiling, one of their guests noticed the river of lanterns flowing by outside. When Paul and Anne went outside to scope it out, strangers from the parade stopped to give the couple hugs and congratulations.
The happy couple now live in the metro area with their 4-month old. Happy anniversary to Anne and Paul!
A Proposal in Lights
The 2012 Lantern Parade left an indelible mark on Stephen Soong. A few months later, when he and his girlfriend Lisa talked about spending the rest of their lives together, he knew he didn’t want a run-of-the-mill proposal. They spent the following summer picking out the perfect ring, which left Stephen with one big task: figuring out when, where, and how to propose. He thought the Atlanta BeltLine had potential as a new, cool place and he had such a great time at the Lantern Parade the year before. In July, he contacted Lisa’s friends and started enlisting their help for a surprise proposal in lights on the night of the parade.
Over the next two months, Stephen spent the few hours he could snag here and there when Lisa was out of the house to make the proposal lanterns. In addition, he made decoy lanterns for them so they would have lights to walk with in the parade.
In the meantime, Lisa was calling her friends, inviting them to walk in the parade with her and Stephen, and each one was systematically turning her down.
Nonetheless, the two of them were excited to embark on the Lantern Parade on their own. As they got close to where the Gateway Trail is now, Lisa’s friends jumped out of the crowd with the caterpillar of lanterns that read, “Lisa, will you marry me?” On the Eastside Trail, with the lights and music of the parade and the city skyline in the background, Lisa said yes.
For the rest of the length of the parade, people shouted, “Did she say yes?!” followed by cheers. Stephen, Lisa, and all of their friends reveled with the parade in Piedmont Park until finally going for pizza at the end of the night. Happy engagement anniversary to Stephen and Lisa and good luck on your wedding day this October!
Do you know of a love story from one of the Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parades? We’d love to hear it! Just leave us a comment below!