An octopus, a carrot and a Pokéball lantern floated together down the Eastside Trail, illuminating the dusky evening sky. On Sept. 21, Chantelle Rytter and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons held the 10th annual Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade, drawing thousands of captivated spectators.
The event celebrated the Atlanta Beltline art exhibition, which showcases diverse art mediums throughout the Beltline trails. The parade route spanned approximately two miles, from Irwin Street to Piedmont Park.
In an open letter, Rytter explained the intended purpose of the event.
“To see the people we share a city with as playful volumes of light, and to be witnessed as such, does a body good,” she said. “It is restorative.”
The crowd looked in amazement at some of the more elaborate designs, including a hulking green alien, an intricately textured dragon and a miniature, spinning Ferris wheel. Other participants simply painted their lanterns with polka dots or stripes. The event embraced a wide variety of art and welcomed anybody with a lantern to participate.
Several local marching bands also joined the parade, including the Seed and Feed Marching Abominables, Wasted Potential Brass Band, the Atlanta Freedom Marching Band and the Black Sheep Ensemble. The strong beat of their vibrant instruments set a steady rhythm for the marchers and excited the onlookers.
The festive crowd cheered on the marchers and snapped pictures of their favorite lanterns. Some spectators waved glow sticks and light-up umbrellas. Small children, hoisted onto their parents’ shoulders to see over the dense crowd, giggled at lanterns passing by. Young couples held hands and admired the view together. College students took the opportunity to enjoy themselves amidst their busy schedules.
Mark McGaw, a young communications professional, appreciated the amount of effort participants put into their lanterns.
“It’s very imaginative,” McGaw said. “There’s a lot of people from all walks of life coming … and enjoying the parade.”
Emory students and staff also joined in on the festivities. Some came as spectators, and others even joined the parade. Hailey Kasten (23C) crafted a chicken lantern with streamers.
“This chicken is the peak of my artistic career,” she said.
The event completely depends upon community involvement, which continues to significantly grow every year. A decade ago, only 400 people attended the parade’s debut. Miranda Kyle, the Beltline’s Arts and Culture Program Manager, estimates there were around 70,000 spectators and participants this year.
Gina Thomas, who attended the parade with her children, appreciated how much the event has expanded over the years.
“This is about my fourth year coming, and every year it seems to get better,” she said.
Rytter would appreciate Thomas’ repeated visits because she intends for participants and spectators to return annually.
In her open letter, Rytter wrote, “We need traditions to remind us that we have [the] capacity for collective joy because we forget. Lantern parade friends, your capacity for collective joy can likely be seen from space, on the regular!”