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Everyday Heroes: Chantelle Rytter

BeltLine Lantern Parade

After a long pandemic hiatus, the beloved Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade returned earlier than usual and on a new route.

The 12th annual Lantern Parade was led by its creator and parade expert, Chantelle Rytter. With a deep love for the art form that ties back to her affection for New Orleans, she made it her mission to bring the joy of parading to Atlanta.

In college, Rytter was devoted to the theater. She directed, she wrote, and she acted. After graduation, she found herself at a bit of a loss, unsure of what her next steps would be. On a whim, she moved to New Orleans and quickly fell in love with the culture and traditions there.

Credit: Isadora Pennington

Credit: Isadora Pennington

“My first Mardi Gras there just spun my head around,” said Rytter. “It engages the whole town and shifts the vibe. It changes social boundaries.”

One of the magical elements of parade culture is the way it enables connection between strangers.

“We have a common calling to delight one another,” she said.

The interactions between performers and bystanders might be short, but they are powerful. Just a moment of recognition, an exchange of beads, or a smile passed from one to another, can be enough to make an indelible impression on a person. Anyone can join the processional which makes these parades a unique outlet for community engagement.

“It’s soul fun; the kind of fun that touches your soul,” said Rytter. “Collective joy, we need it.”

Since its inaugural run in 2010, the BeltLine Lantern Parade has grown in strides. From an initial crowd of 400 to nearly 70,000 in 2019, it’s clear that the infusion of parade culture into this city has met a need. And it’s safe to say, the city has returned the love.

After getting married and moving to Atlanta in the late 1990s, she quickly found a sense of community in the city and developed some incredible friendships. In a nod to Mardi Gras and New Orleans, she founded the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons in 1999. The group began parading in the Little Five Points Halloween Parade and organized a gnome march in 2018 in an effort to break the Guinness Book of World Record largest gathering of people dressed as garden gnomes. The Krewe is also a regular participant in the Inman Park Festival Parade.

The success of the BeltLine Lantern Parade put Rytter in demand to create similar events in other areas, including the Take It to The River Lantern Parade in Sandy Springs, Parliament of Owls Lantern Parade in Midtown, and the Hilton Head Island Lantern Parade, among others.

“Seeing the people you share a city with as playful volumes of light does the body good,” Rytter said. “The idea that you personally can contribute to the culture of your city. I love that.”

HOW TO HELP

For more information on Chantelle Rytter and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, please visit https://www.weirdgonepro.com/.

Check out their Facebook page.


WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead.

We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.

And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

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