Magic happened on May 21, 2022 as Atlanta’s beloved Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade lit up the Westside Trail. Joy community, and creativity again took center stage after a two-year global pandemic as thousands of Atliens gathered to watch or participate in the 12th illuminated procession created and hosted by Chantelle Rytter and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons.
The fun began well before the 8pm line-up at Adair Park I in the southwest neighborhood of Adair Park. As part of their weekly community market, Pittsburgh Yards ® organized pre-parade festivities with a lantern making workshop and kids lantern parade from 12pm-7pm. Neighbors around Adair Park hosted tailgate parties for their friends or picnics in the park as parade participants began gathering together for the evening of fun. Meanwhile, spectators arrived early to stake out good viewing spots on the Westside Trail between the access point at Allene Avenue and Lee + White, while surrounding businesses hosted their own watch parties.
At 8:45 p.m. Chantelle Rytter, the parade’s grand marshal, stepped off Catherine Street onto the parade route to lead the procession, carrying a new, giant, illuminated phoenix, with the help of several puppeteers. Many of the puppeteers were first-timers who answered Chantelle’s call to get trained up in the art of puppeteering. Hundreds of people followed suit, carrying homemade lanterns and flashing their creative energy. Highlights of the parade include many new and returning giant puppets, including Rex the Cat or Puddles Pity Party, as well as four marching bands to keep the crowds dancing: Sabor! Brass Band, Black Sheep Ensemble, Seed & Feed Marching Abomninables, and Wasted Potential Brass Band.
This year marked the first time that the Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade was held on the Westside Trail in the spring. Created in 2010 to encourage people to discover the Atlanta BeltLine, it quickly became a hallmark event of the city each fall during its ten-year run on the Eastside Trail. In 2019, an estimated 70,000 filled the trail corridor. The pandemic required a more innovative approach to keep people safe, and so people were invited to parade in place in 2020 as Chantelle and the Krewe hosted three socially distanced pop-up parades in BeltLine neighborhoods. Most recently, the 2021 parade was rescheduled to spring 2022 due to an increase in COVID cases. In the spirit of inviting people to discover new parts of the BeltLine, the parade was moved to the Westside Trail.
The turnout for the 2022 parade was spectacular. An estimated 10,000-15,000 people attended the event, far better than the anticipated 9,000 attendees. Some came as far away as Lawrenceville after hearing about it on Facebook. Others came with their fellow neighbors en masse from the historic West End neighborhood, decked out with matching lanterns. And other still came from elsewhere in the city, adorned with their old lanterns from previous BeltLine lantern parades, eager to resume one of their favorite family traditions.
The one-mile parade ended at Lee + White, where an afterparty, complete with a fireworks display continued into the evening.
Following the tremendous success of the 12th Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade, the one question everyone is wondering is, “What is the date for the next one?”