For 144 years America has paused on a day in May to honor those who gave their lives in service to their country. In 1971, Congress fixed Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend for most working Americans. Many use the time off as an unofficial start of summer with outdoor fun.
In DeKalb County and nearby areas, there are opportunities to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, May 26 – 28, both as commemoration of lives lost in military service and as a time of fun and fellowship with family and friends. Here is a sampling:
Stone Mountain Park celebration
In what it bills as “Atlanta’s largest Memorial Day weekend celebration,” Stone Mountain Park will honor America’s troops and their families in a three-day celebration of American spirit on the park’s Memorial Lawn.
The park will salute America’s troops during a laser show with a special extended fireworks finale. “Marvel as the skies above light up in a specially choreographed musical tribute honoring the brave men and women who protect our country,” the announcement states. The special fireworks display can be seen Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend after the laser show.
In addition to the park’s other attractions, there will be the all-new Geyser Towers. Park officials say it’s the “first and only adventure of its kind featuring multiple levels of suspended rope bridges and net tunnels connected to towering platforms that overlook a gushing geyser.”
Free passes are available to active and retired military personnel with valid ID along with other special offers, including discounts on food and merchandise throughout the weekend.
Elks Lodge annual Memorial Day Flag retirement ceremony
The Atlanta-Northlake Elks Lodge 78 likes to remind the public each year of the proper way to dispose of a U.S. flag. The Federal Citizen Information Center of the U.S. General Services Administration, states, “When a flag is so worn out that it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.”
For the sixth year, the Legionnaires and Eagles will hold their annual flag retirement ceremony. The event will be held at the Elk Lodge headquarters, 1775 Montreal Road in Tucker, May 26, starting at 10 a.m. It is designed to demonstrate the proper method of disposing of worn American flags and provide area residents a way to dispose of their tattered or torn flags. The public is invited and encouraged to bring their worn American flags for disposal at the ceremony.
Lunch will be provided free to those wearing a military uniform or who show military ID. The meal is available to others at a break-even price.
The group also is sponsoring an eight-ball singles pool tournament on its newly refurbished tables at 1 p.m. Half the proceeds will go to Elks charities. For more information, call (770) 908-0835.
Decatur Arts Festival
A popular way to spend the Memorial Day weekend in the metro Atlanta area is the Decatur Arts Festival, now in its 24th year.
At this year’s festival, May 26-28, there will be more than 160 artists from around the nation selling paintings, jewelry and more. This interactive arts extravaganza, presented by the Decatur Arts Alliance, includes art and artists from all disciplines and features hands-on participatory art as well as demonstrating and performing arts at venues throughout Decatur. All events are free.
Among the events at the Decatur Arts Festival are:
ArtWalk – Held on Friday, May 25, 5-10 p.m., the Decatur ArtWalk gives attendees the opportunity to visit local businesses and galleries that have invited an artist to be present or a collection of art on display. Many offer complimentary food and beverages. Music will be playing from the community bandstand on the square.
Artists Market – On Saturday, May 26, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday, May 27, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., artists will have tents set up to display and sell their works on the square in downtown Decatur. This highly competitive, juried show offers talent from all over the county.
Performing Arts Stage – ConunDrums, an all-women drumming group; The Bitteroots, a Decatur-based rock band; the Bonaventure Quartet, which has grown to a double quartet; and Larry Griffith Band, a fixture in the local blues circuit, are among the groups festival goers can hear from mid-day through the afternoon on Saturday, May 26.
Kids Arts Festival – The Decatur Kids Arts Festival returns Saturday, May 26, to the front lawn of the Decatur First Baptist Church, 308 Clairemont Ave. Children up to 13 years old can participate in activities that include arts and crafts, a rock wall, inflatables, balloon designs, music and more. In true Decatur tradition, the day starts with a Wacky Parade. Lineup begins at 9:40 a.m. at Commerce Drive and Church Street. Participants can decorate strollers, wagons, bikes and the family. Activities continue through 2 p.m.
Fine Arts Exhibition – The annual juried Fine Arts Exhibition, which previewed recently, will be open through June 2. The exhibition features works from more than 60 artists and is held at Agnes Scott College’s Dalton Gallery, 141 E. College Ave. in Decatur, within walking distance from the weekend festival. It will be open May 25, 2 – 10 p.m. and May 26 and 27, noon – 6 p.m.
Theater and Literary Arts Festival – Through May 28 the Theater and Literary Arts Festival includes short plays, improvisational comedy, poetry, storytelling, author readings and more. Events are held throughout the week in conjunction with the Georgia Center for the Book. The Theater and Literary Arts tent on the Old Courthouse lawn will be open all day Saturday and Sunday with a full line-up of performers for both adults and children. Family events are on Sunday. There will be events at the Decatur Library, on the Courthouse Square and in the MARTA Plaza.
New Dance Festival – The Beacon Dance Company will perform at the Beacon Hill Arts Center, 410 W. Trinity Place on May 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. The program features the newest works by a roster of cutting-edge artists. Afterwards, patrons can share their thoughts and opinions with the artists during a special post-performance reception each night.
For more information and a program guide, visit www.decaturartsfestival.com or call (404) 371-9583.
Just a short drive from DeKalb
Atlanta History Center Veterans Remembrance Day
The Atlanta History Center invites visitors to meet veterans and hear their stories of wartime through personal accounts and memorabilia on Sunday, May 27, noon – 5 p.m. Living history interpreters represent soldiers of previous wars, including World War I and the Civil War, by showing authentic dress, equipment and vehicles. This program is free to members and is included in the cost of general admission for nonmembers. The Atlanta History Center is located at 130 West Paces Ferry Road, NW, Atlanta. For more information, call (404) 814-4000.
Atlanta Jazz Festival in Piedmont Park
This annual three-day festival, held this year in Piedmont Park, is regarded as one of the country’s largest free jazz festivals. The event features world renowned jazz artists in a multi-cultural celebration. The festival is free. No outside food allowed, but there will be many vendors onsite.
Among the jazz greats who will be performing are Roy Ayers, Cyrus Chestnut, Kathleen Bertrand, Ojeda Penn and Johnny O’Neal as well as saxophonist Grace Kelly and the Tito Puente Jr. Orchestra.
A dozen middle and high school jazz bands competed on April 28 to win a spot at this year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival.
“We had only planned to award three spots, but the students were so good, we decided to create another slot and this year we have four winners,” said Camille Russell Love, director of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs. “We know you’ll be surprised at their skills when you hear them in historic Piedmont Park this Memorial Day weekend.”
Here are the winners and the times and dates they’ll be performing in Piedmont Park:
First place: Benjamin E. Mays Jazz Orchestra - Monday, May 28, 1 p.m.
Second place: Woodland High School Jazz Band - Sunday, May 27, 1 p.m.
Third place: DeKalb’s Martin Luther King, Jr. High School Big Band - Monday, May 28, 12:30 p.m.
Fourth place: J.C. Young Middle School Jazz Ensemble - Sunday, May 27, 12:30 p.m.
Memorial Day Hike at Panola Mountain
Staff at Panola Mountain State Park invite area residents to work up an appetite before their holiday cookout by joining a ranger for a three-mile hike to the top of Panola Mountain on Monday, May 28, at 10 a.m. Hikers will experience views of Atlanta and Stone Mountain. The cost is $7, plus $5 for parking. For more information, call (770) 389-7801.