Highlights of the spring flings


Spring brings festivals with artisans displaying their wares under a sea of white-topped tents. Nearby food vendors flip burgers and shake fries while other chefs add aromas to the air. Some events are even accented by a rousing parade and marching band.

The following foursome of festival regulars put their best work forward, whether they’re laying out beautifully crafted artwork, tooting trombones or cranking up the grill.

Artist Sergey Cherep

Sergey Cherep’s vibrant artwork is inspired by love of nature. His bold landscapes have been exhibited around the world, as well as locally at Sandy Springs Artsapalooza and the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival.

As a child in his native St. Petersburg, Russia, Cherep contracted meningitis and suffered a debilitating illness for several years. Often he would have to lie flat on his back.

“I like open, big spaces,” he says, recalling childhood memories of looking up at the sky. “For me, the clouds are the main thing.”

The Acworth resident was trained and educated in classical art in Russia. Wanting the freedom to travel, explore and create his art, he emigrated to the United States in 1992 at age 21. Cherep parlayed a job as a janitor into a chance to hold an art show in the cafeteria of the building he cleaned.

Two years later, a trip to California’s Napa Valley changed Cherep’s perspective on painting by introducing him to bold shapes and vivid primary colors. He left behind the classic realistic style he had been trained in.

Art festivals, he says, allows him to meet a variety of people who are drawn to his artwork. Cherep says, “I like to meet new clients.”

Artist Sergey Cherep. Sandy Springs Artsapalooza, Grant Park Summer Shade Festival. sergeycherep.com, sandyspringsartsapalooza.com, summershadefestival.org

Seed & Feed Marching Abominable

This homegrown band is a highlight of the annual Inman Park Festival Parade. Marching in glitter and sequins, tutus and taffeta, no two costumes are alike. Musicians beat drums, crash cymbals and swing into melodies as dancers perform flourishes and kicks before the crowd.

Seed & Feed’s musicians are known as “abominables,” dancers are “despicables,” and children in the group are called “incorrigibles.”

Kelly Morris, a former theater director for Emory University, started the lovable mix in 1973, envisioning a band that could march well and play “abominably,” says band manage Donna Weber. “We’re not a regimented band — we’re more a spectacle to behold,” she says. “But we sound amazing.”

The esteemed Morris is inactive today but his big-hearted passion for bringing fun and folly to audiences was in full effect that first year after a stage performance at his Seed & Feed Theatre in downtown Atlanta. In the preceding months, Morris had stocked a theater band and debuted the players on the nighttime Atlanta streets at Pryor and Garnett before the crowd departed. They were a hit. The band made its official debut within months in the Inman Park Festival Parade.

Current members are all ages. Betsy Abrams, 57, dances in floral tights and red sequins with an assist from her glittery pom-poms. Her mother, Rita Soaring, 89, also takes part as one of the “despicables.” Abrams says, “She dresses as an elf.”

Seed & Feed Marching Abominable. Inman Park Festival Parade. seedandfeed.org, inmanparkfestival.org/events/parade

Jewelry maker Brenda Steele

Brenda Steele learned to make jewelry in 2005 after watching a demonstration by a friend. She honed her craft making earrings and using inexpensive tools before taking her art to new levels creating other pieces. In the past year, long lariats have become one her top-selling items at art festivals and artist markets.

“Anything you can do with a scarf, you can do with these,” says Steele, who uses leather, chains and beads for the popular item.

She will showcase and sell her lariat pieces, cuff bracelets, rings, necklaces and other items at art festivals throughout 2018. You can find Steele’s works in Dahlonega in April and May at the Bear on the Square Mountain Festival and the Dahlonega Arts and Wine Festival, respectively.

This summer, her jewelry is exhibited at the Roswell Lavender Festival and the monthly Alpharetta Art in the Park.

Brenda Steele. Bear on the Square Mountain Festival. bearonthesquare.org, chestateeartists.org/arts-and-wine-festival

Insider tip

Brenda Steele was known for years for creating custom stained-glass windows on churches and doors.

Brett Eanes, Mix’d Up Foods

Mix’d Up Foods owner Brett Eanes invented one of his signature sandwiches inside his food truck at the Fall Fest in Candler Park in 2012. On a whim, he decided to pile fries beneath a cheeseburger to see how people responded.

Festival foodies loved it, and “The Pile” was born.

The Texan burger combines Angus beef with bacon, cheese, pulled pork, barbecue sauce and chipotle ranch slaw. It’s one of seven sandwiches mounted with fresh ingredients and known as “Rockin’ burgers” on Mix’d Up’s menu.

Mix’d Up Foods, which also has burger joints in East Lake and Grant Park neighborhoods, will have a food truck at several festivals this year including the Kirkwood Spring Fling, Sweetwater 420 Fest in Centennial Olympic Park and the Inman Park Festival.

Eanes is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and focused on fine dining while working in Europe. The California native says his love of cooking came about as a child when he would hang out with his grandfather, who was also a chef. During some of those years, Eanes played bass guitar in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

“That’s where I get the ‘no holds barred’ approach to my burgers,” he says.

Eanes had a catering business largely dedicated to fine dining that suffered from the Great Recession, and in 2011 he decided to start a food truck around one of his favorite bites.

“[I thought] let me take off my chef’s hat and do something I really enjoy,” Eanes recalls. “I had the first burger truck on the food truck scene in Atlanta.”

Mix’d Up Burgers. Kirkwood Spring Fling, Sweetwater 420 Fest and the Inman Park Festival. mixdupfoods.com, kirkwoodfling.com, sweetwater420fest.com, inmanparkfestival.org