Atlanta's best festivals take place in the spring and early summer, starting, appropriately, with its oldest. The 65th annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival (April 6-8, 2001) brings together the unlikely combo of arts venders and dog lovers to Piedmont Park. The yearly event is a rite of passage for city dwellers eager to breathe the first warm spring air and take home a dogwood sapling. Plus, the canine Frisbee competition is absolutely breathtaking.
Arguably the best of the bunch, the Inman Park Spring Festival and Tour of Homes (April 27-29, 2001), is the city's best neighborhood celebration in terms of flat-out fun. This laid-back urban enclave takes on its festival with a mixture of Georgian gentility and big-city wit. Its flavorful parade — a highlight of the weekend — is a must-see for locals and tourists alike. The accompanying tour of homes lacks the stuffiness of the tours mounted by surrounding neighborhoods, while the festival itself boasts Atlanta's biggest street market.
Thank God for Alex Cooley. In the early '90s the concert promoter had the crazy idea that Atlanta might be ready for a large-scale outdoor music festival. Now, after seven years of the wildly popular Music Midtown, the thought of Atlanta not having such a festival is crazy. This year the event — now the size of a mini city — shifted to its second home since leaving the heart of Midtown, proving that a nondescript network of parking lots can host a fanbase of 250,000. The beauty of Music Midtown is in its buffet-style scheduling, letting fans have a slice of frat rock, a side of soul, a dab of disco and a heaping helping of people-watching all around. The eighth annual Music Midtown Festival will be held the weekend of May 4-6, 2001.
In terms of sheer artistic excellence, the Decatur Arts Festival (May 26-27, 2001) can't be beat. Although not as sweeping as Inman Park's party or as packed as the Dogwood Fest, this Memorial Day weekend event heralds the start of summer in Atlanta. Held around Decatur Square, the festival has a decidedly small-town feel. The art, however, is amazing in its diversity and thankfully lacking much of the kitsch found at Virginia-Highland's SummerFest.
Kitsch springs eternal at the Atlanta Pride Festival (traditionally held the last weekend in June), an eclectic celebration of the city's gay and lesbian community. Kicking off with a large-scale commitment ceremony Friday night and culminating in Sunday's parade up Peachtree Street, Atlanta Pride is the closest this city gets to Mardi Gras. The carnival atmosphere centers on a stage and market in Piedmont Park, but the real attraction is the festival-goers themselves, who tend to put on a bigger show than anything event organizers had in mind.
Not all of the city's festivals are outdoor affairs. The Atlanta Film & Video Festival (tentatively planned for June 8-16, 2001), produced by IMAGE Film & Video Center, finds hordes of local film buffs eager to sit in the dark for a week. With a collection of modern cinema shown in theaters across the city, this eagerly anticipated event is the Sundance of the South.