Like most Americans, many Atlantans will be grilling burgers, watching fireworks and finding other ways to celebrate the unofficial start of summer this Memorial Day weekend. But as our troops continue to fight in the Middle East and elsewhere, some may choose a more solemn and respectful way to observe this patriotic holiday.
Regardless of the approach you choose, there are plenty of ways to observe the holiday around town this year. Here's a look at some options, both ceremonial and celebratory, for spending this holiday weekend.
Billed as the largest Memorial Day ceremony in Georgia, this respectful tribute to those who have died in battle attracts more than 6,000 attendees each year. Centered around the Faces of War bronze memorial, the event includes a presentation of colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and a speech by highly decorated war veteran Lt. Col. Robert Ledee. It concludes with a 21-gun salute and "Taps." Following the ceremony, there will be a picnic featuring Slope's BBQ with a performance by Banks & Shane.
• THE 411: Free. 10 a.m. May 26. Roswell City Hall, 38 Hill St., Roswell. 770-640-3253, www.roswellmemorialday.com.
City of Smyrna Memorial Day Ceremony
Taking place at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial in the heart of Smyrna, this service begins with a flyover by a C130 jet, a presentation of colors and the national anthem. There will be remarks by World War II veteran Col. Gene Sidwell, a pilot for the U.S. Army and Air Force; Capt. Maurice Middleton, a Marine and graduate of nearby Campbell High School; Sgt. Michael Hardy, who has done three tours in Iraq with the Marines; and Sgt. Valerie Jelley, a Marine who has served in helicopter squadrons in both Iraq and Afghanistan. American Legion Post 160 will play host to a barbecue following the ceremony.
• THE 411: Free. Seating starts at 9 a.m.; program starts at 10 a.m. May 26. 20th Century Veterans Memorial, 2800 King St., Smyrna. 770-434-6600, www.smyrnacity.com.
Memorial Day Weekend Salute to the Troops
Offering three days of patriotic activities, this annual tribute honors those who have fought for our freedom with celebratory concerts and displays. A performance by the Gainesville State College Brass Ensemble will be featured May 24, and the Atlanta Concert Band performs May 26 (both shows at 7 p.m.). The main attraction is May 25 as Loose Cannon, Ft. McPherson's U.S. Army Forces Rock Band, performs at 5:30 p.m.
• THE 411: Stone Mountain Park, 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd. (U.S. Highway 78 East, Exit 8), Stone Mountain. 770-498-5690, www.stonemountainpark.com.
Marietta National Cemetery
This formal and dignified ceremony begins at 8 a.m. May 24 when local Boy and Girl Scouts place flags at each of the 15,000-plus graves of veterans for the Avenue of Flags event. On May 26, park off-site and walk or pick up a shuttle into the main Greek Revival dais for an address by David Titus, former Commander in Chief of the Military Order of the World Wars, introduction of VIPs, which includes state and local politicians and generals from Fort McPherson, and wreath presentations by 60 historical and military organizations assisted by JROTC cadets. The programs also features patriotic music by the Roswell New Horizons Band and the Marietta Men's Chorale.
• THE 411: Free. Noon. May 26. 500 Washington Ave., Marietta. 770-587-2051, www.nmdaga.org.
Blues, Brews & BBQs
For those who'd rather forgo the solemn patriotism and just kick off the summer season in fun fashion, this inaugural event features all the traditional fixins. And the name pretty much says it all as there will be live blues played by Danny "Mudcat" Dudek, Francine Reed with Java Monkey and headliner Delta Moon. The festivities also will include southern barbecue and locally brewed SweetWater beer.
•THE 411: $15; $10 advance. 2 p.m. May 25. Park Tavern, 500 Tenth St. N.E., Midtown. 404-249-0001, www.rockbbbfest.com.
Atlanta Jazz Festival
Relocating from Piedmont Park to Woodruff Park, this Memorial Day weekend tradition continues with food vendors, art and, of course, performances by some of the top names in jazz. The opening day features performances by Rua 6 and Serenata Band, May 25 features Joe Jennings and Howard Nicholson's Lifeforce and the Ojedda Penn Experience, and it wraps up May 26 with Ron James and the Truth, Jaspects and Mike Phillips. Local contest winners open the festivities each day.
• THE 411: Free. 2 p.m. May 24-26. Woodruff Park, 84 Peachtree St., Fairlie-Poplar District. 404-817-6820, www.atlantafestivals.com.
Brew at the Zoo
Beer is a big part of many Memorial Day celebrations, but Zoo Atlanta puts a different twist on enjoying a cold one. Once you obtain your tasting mug, you'll get to sample brews around the park, including SweetWater's summer brew Road Trip. Aside from viewing the zoo's assortment of wildlife, you'll also be treated to cover bands and acoustic performers. To wrap things up, you can watch the gorillas receive a bedtime snack, say good night to the pandas and have close encounters with other critters at the end of the day.
• THE 411: $45; $40 in advance; $35 for members. 3 p.m.-8 p.m. May 24. Zoo Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Ave., Grant Park. 404-624-5600, www.zooatlanta.org.
Decatur Arts Festival
This 20th annual event kicks off with an ArtWalk around Decatur on May 23. The Festival itself takes place May 24-25 with an art market, musical performances throughout each day, a film festival, literary art performances and other attractions. There's also a Children's Arts Festival featuring a parade, storytelling, balloon artists and hands-on activities.
• THE 411: Free. 5 p.m.-10 p.m. May 23; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 24-25. Downtown Decatur Square. 404-371-9583, www.decaturartsfestival.com.
Masters Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament
For the 49th year, this Memorial Day weekend tournament brings some of the top male and female names in water sports to Callaway Gardens to compete for a portion of the $160,000 in prize money. Aside from the intense competition on Robin Lake, spectators can also enjoy a beachside merchandise plaza and other festivities.
• THE 411: $15 per day; $10 per day for children ages 6-12; free for children ages 5 and younger; $35 per day for pavilion pass each day; $95 for three-day pavilion pass. 9 a.m. May 23; 8 a.m. May 24-25. Callaway Gardens, 17800 U.S. Highway 27, Pine Mountain. 706-663-2281, www.callawaygardens.com.
Atlanta Caribbean Carnival
Also celebrating its 20th anniversary, this annual cultural experience offers all the colorful flavors of island culture. A parade beginning at the Civic Center and featuring Caribbean bands and elaborate costumes kicks things off. But the festival actually takes place on Auburn Avenue with food vendors, arts and crafts, children's activities and live music.
• THE 411: $15; $10 in advance (parade is free). Noon-10 p.m. May 24. Auburn Avenue (between Jesse Hill Jr. Drive and Hilliard Street), Sweet Auburn District. 404-587-5195, www.atlantacarnival.org.
War & Peace
Known for its cartoonish exhibits and pop culture artwork, Alcove might seem like the last place to find a fitting tribute to our troops. But this current art show features works by Leslie Ditto, Benji Williams, Sidney E. Watters and Cynthia Tollefsrud that remain lowbrow while still depicting scenes of soldiers marching in formation, weapons of combat and other fitting imagery for those looking for a satirical escape from the typical celebration.
• THE 411: Free. Through June 10. Noon-7 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; noon-4 p.m. Sundays. Alcove Contemporary Arts Gallery, 2852 East College Ave., Avondale Estates. 404-663-0159, www.alcovearts.com.
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