For many Atlantans, it’s the most magical night of the year, and 2019 marks the even-more-special 10th anniversary.
The forecast, for now, calls for clear skies and temps in the low 80s by nightfall Saturday, when the annual Art on the Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade steps off, expecting to drawn 70,000 (or more) onlookers, tailgaters, glowing ghosts, marching musicians, comical creations on stilts, ensorcelled children, and more.
The Lantern Parade’s come a long way since a few hundred creative souls marched in 2010 with LED lanterns down the dirt railroad corridor that’s become the Eastside Trail.
As a result, navigating the area has become a logistical challenge. So take note of these tips to make the most of what’s always an enchanting September evening:
The merriment actually kicks off way before dusk.
Beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday, find live music, lantern-making activities, food, drink, and more at the Old Fourth Ward Fall Festival, which takes place alongside the Eastside Trail near the skatepark.
New this year: Art on the Atlanta Beltline artist Cannupa Hanska Luger will be building on his current body of work with an interactive station at the festival.
Festivities continue until 11 p.m.
Get there early
Lineup for the parade begins at 7 p.m. at the Irwin Street entrance to the Eastside Trail.
But starting at 6 p.m., Irwin Street will be closed between Sampson and Krog streets, so consider MARTA, a ride-hailing service, biking, or walking for travel to and from the site. (The closest MARTA stations are Inman Park/Reynoldstown at the south end of the parade route, and Midtown at the north end).
The parade steps off at 8 p.m., and will travel north on the trail to Piedmont Park. It usually lasts between an hour and 90 minutes.
Joining the procession
Everyone is encouraged to bring their own lanterns and participate in the parade. However, flying lanterns, as always, are not permitted.
Participants must have a lantern to walk in the parade. Also, bikes and pets are prohibited. It’s a free event, and no registration is necessary.
Yield to the bands
Four marching bands will participate in the parade, joining hosts Chantelle Rytter and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, and they’ll naturally have the right of way.
Musical marchers this year are: Seed & Feed Marching Abominables (celebrating their 45th year in 2019); Black Sheep Ensemble; Sabor Brass Band; and ATL Freedom Band.
They will step off from the staging area in approximately 10-minute intervals. Each time a band heads out, parade marshals will open the gateway to let parade participants join the procession.
Officials can’t stress enough: Please be patient and wait for these intervals.
Don’t turn around, y’all
The parade is a one-way event, which will head north to Piedmont Park. Do not walk against the flow of the parade. Anyone needing to stop or turn back should exit the trail before doing so.
For more details on logistics—and the location of things like port-o-lets and water stations—check out this map of the parade route and the Old Fourth Ward Festival:
All parade-goers are encouraged to join the bands, lantern-toters, and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons at Park Tavern following the procession.
As Beltline officials note: “This is an ideal chance to take photos with the Krewe’s giant puppets!”