Stockbridge set to celebrate birthday in pandemic, even if online

Stockbridge is building a $15 million amphitheater behind City Hall. PHOTO: STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Stockbridge is building a $15 million amphitheater behind City Hall. PHOTO: STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

The city of Stockbridge turns 100 on Aug. 6, but don’t expect the party of the century at City Hall.

The coronavirus has upended plans the Henry County community was hoping to roll out this spring and summer for a number of events to recognize its centennial, including live concerts, restaurant food tastings and art shows throughout the city.

Instead, the celebration will move to the virtual world, with activities surrounding the centennial tweaked to address the new reality. The Tasty Tuesdays food truck program, which was supposed to expose residents to eateries in the area, may morph into an online show featuring local restaurants. Concert plans could become part of online series on southside entertainment.

“Many of the things that we had planned obviously can’t take place” because of limitations on event sizes and guidelines on social distancing, said Randy Knighton, Stockbridge’s city manager. “We are adapting and will find creative ways to celebrate through the rest of the year.”

Stockbridge joins a growing list of municipalities, organizations and events across the nation that will employ online creativity to celebrate special occasions in the era of COVID-19.

Marietta, for instance, is featuring a patriotic pet costume contest as part of its slimmed down July 4 celebration. Juneteenth organizers recently used Facebook Live to give an online tour of Flat Rock Historic Cemetery, a black burial ground near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

For Stockbridge the centennial also is a chance to honor its resilience. Two years ago, the community was almost split in two when residents of Eagle’s Landing, a well-heeled community of subdivisions surrounding a golf course in Stockbridge’s southern end, attempted to form a new city by annexing about half of Stockbridge.

The battle, which pitted neighbors against one another for almost two years, ended when voters rejected Eagle's Landing effort to become a city.

"Every city has a story to tell and this is part of our history," Knighton said, emphasizing that the city is looking forward with projects such as a $15 million amphitheater under construction.

CieCie McGhee, the city’s events manager, said social media was always part of the city’s centennial plan, but as a compliment to it, not the main focus. As that changed, leaders scrambled to come up with a new vision and pull back from contracts they were close to signing with entertainers. The city went forward with a scheduled art project that was released online.

Other events, however, are still in the planning stages, she said.

“We’ll continue to try to celebrate our centennial as best we can throughout the year in some exciting ways,” she said. “We’re still working on those.”

The city has delayed one featured projecta quilt being put together as a sort of time capsule for the community. Residents were encouraged to contribute a small square for the project, which was being sewn together by local quilters under the direction of Aisha Lumumba. Lumumba, a native of McDonough, has had her work featured at the Auburn Art Gallery Atlanta and the Birmingham Public Library Art Gallery.

But members of the project have net met since February because of social distancing, although they hope to resume soon. .

While the pandemic has forced changes, it too will be part of the city’s history, the Stockbridge leaders said.

“In 10 or 15 years from now, when the world looks back at this time, this will be part of our journey,” Stockbridge spokeswoman Shana Thornton said.

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