“I Love A Parade” go the lyrics of the classic Arden & Ohmen song, perhaps put to its most whimsical use in this zany1932 Merrie Melodies cartoon. ATLRetro couldn’t agree more that it’s just plain unpatriotic not to on the Fourth of July. Alas, the big Salute 2 America parade (1961-2007) has vanished into the realm of nostalgia. But while the floats and marching bands might not be as glitzy, several suburban parades compensate with homegrown small town star-spangled spirit. To see one of the largest in the area, hop in the car and be in Carrollton by 10, where the parade proves it’s all-American-ness by starting at the Dairy Queen and ending at Kmart. Or head east to Cumming for its Steam Engine Parade (also 10 a.m.), including antique steam engines, tractors and cars, which will be on display in the fairgrounds afterwards where you can ride carnival rides, munch on festival food and linger for evening fireworks.
Prefer to stay in town? Avondale Estates’ parade marches up Clarendon Avenue starting at 10 a.m. at Avondale High School. Marietta also starts up at 10 at the Roswell Street Baptist Church, followed by vendors, food concessions, carnie rides and entertainment in the Square.
Always wanted to be in a parade yourself? Line up at the First Baptist Church of Decatur at 5:30 p.m. for that suburb’s annual July 4th Pied Piper Parade, which officially starts at 6 p.m. and goes to the bandstand in the square where the Callanwolde Concert Band will play patriotic tunes at 7 p.m.
Among the big fireworks displays, Lenox Square‘s Salute 2 America Celebration has history on its side, because, well, there wasn’t even a Centennial Olympic Park until the Olympics in 1996. For sheer ooey-gooey patriotism, however, head to Stone Mountain Park’s Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision which concludes with a mighty fireworks display over the granite dome. It’s been updated this year by adding some Pixar-like CGI effects—yeah, that’s the Mountainvision. But there’s just something so ‘70s/’80s about seeing our nation’s patriotic heroes from Founding Fathers to firefighters in squiggly laser outline—remember when that was NEW technology! Yup, they still play Elvis’s “American Trilogy” and the cartoony “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and that trippy psychedelic rock sequence. If you still can drive there in that old Trans Am, you get extra points. Alas, family-friendly no longer means you can legally enjoy a beer during the show.
If you’re more into an old-time community fireworks display, sitting with your family on a picnic blanket or lawn chairs, head to the Decatur Square or surrounding streets. Every year we’ve been impressed that it lasts longer and is bigger than we expected. If you’ve got a bit of extra cash, fantastic views can be had from the front terrace of Café Lily, along with barbecue and other picnicky specials, DJ music and a glass of complimentary prosecco. OK the latter sounds a bit European, but hey, it’s family-owned by the Italian-American Pitillos and besides Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin really dug France.
We kind of also like the idea of watching the sky explode at scenic Avondale Lake with its vintage boat house and live music by Atlanta Blue Notes. And the Henry County Fireworks Extravaganza is at an actual battlefield, Nash Farm Battlefield Park. We’ll ignore that it was a Civil War battlefield where Georgians fought to separate from the Union, and just enjoy the pony rides, live music and Spirit of ’76 period actors on hand to help families “relive the excitement of when and how America was born!” Extra Retro points for enthusiasm and only 20 bucks a carload so pile those kids into the station wagon and head on down.
The fireworks displays and community festivals have live marching bands and other patriotic entertainment. But to ATLRetro.com, nothing sounds more all-American than Hawgapalooza 2011—BBQ pork, beer and country music including kick-ass honky tonk duo Whiskey Belt at Hottie Hawgs BBQ on the Westside. Fun starts at 4 p.m. and concludes with a fireworks show in Whittier Mill Park.
Nothing’s more all-American Retro than beer, right? Red, White & Brew embraces the patriotic spirit of America’s favorite alcoholic beverage with a beer tasting from 6-10:30 p.m. Even if we’re not too sure about the Retro-ness of being the rooftop of the Georgia Aquarium parking deck, the location promises great views of the downtown fireworks. Gwinnett County may pretend to be all sugary wholesome, but The Mall of Georgia, in all-American consumer spirit, apparently has a Beer Garden planned where mom and dad can toss back a brewski while the kids feast on patriotic food offerings including bratwurst?! I personally prefer to stay ITP, so for more ideas, check out this piece I wrote recently for Metromix on some of the most All-American Bars in Atlanta here.
All photos are from the 2007 Decatur fireworks display and copyright ATLRetro 2011. For post-July 4 Retro action next week, be sure and check back for the regular This Week in Retro Atlanta on Tuesday July 5.