Jazz Festival's return to Piedmont is music to park lovers' ears

The sounds you hear coming from Piedmont Park Memorial Day weekend will be familiar to jazz and festival lovers. On Monday, the city of Atlanta announced that it is lifting a ban on outdoor festivals at the popular Midtown park.

Georgia’s drought had stoked fears that Class A --  events that attracts 50,000 people or more -- would permanently ruin the park. For at least two years the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Atlanta Dogwood Festival, Pride Parade and Festival, Screen on the Green, and the AJC  Peachtree Road Race, convened elsewhere to smaller crowds.

This year, the Dogwood Festival and the road race finish returned to Piedmont Park.

Now they are all back.

“We are excited that the Jazz Fest will be back in Atlanta’s premier park,” said Camille Russell Love, the city’s director of cultural affairs. “The festival has grown in reputation and in attendance, attracting people from the metro area and surrounding states. And the same is true for the other large festivals. This will have a positive impact culturally and economically. We hope people will come in, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, fly in on Delta and use MARTA to help the city become economically viable.”

In late 2007, the city and the Piedmont Park Conservancy put a halt to all major outdoor activities in the park. The lack of rain at the time and the outdoor watering ban had taken its toll on the 185-acre park.

Festival organizers were forced to find other locations. The 2008 Dogwood Festival, which celebrates springtime, was moved to the Lenox Square parking lot.

Love said the last time the Jazz Fest was held in Piedmont Park, up to 150,000 people attended over the three-day Memorial Day weekend. Last year’s event at Grant Park attracted 20,000 at best.

“We made a commitment to the festival organizers that as soon as conditions warranted, they could return to Piedmont Park," said Dianne Hornell Cohen, the Commissioner of the department of parks, recreation and cultural affairs.