On Sunday, July 3, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) is bringing back fireworks to Centennial Olympic Park for the 25th year, this time under the name Look Up Atlanta. Many elements of the event will be a nod to the 1996 Summer Olympics.
The event, billed as a “Celebration of Atlanta for Atlantans,” will make its return for the first time since the start of the pandemic, inviting Atlanta’s professional sports teams, the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra (ASYO) and local food vendors. This will also be the first year in which the Southeast’s largest fireworks event is ticketed.
“Look Up Atlanta is really about a double meaning, really about the fact that we’ve all sort of been through a very difficult time together, and so there’s a whole look up and look past where we’ve been and look towards the future,” Jen LeMaster, GWCCA’s Chief Administrative Officer, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But of course, it is also about the fireworks show. It is a celebration of what brings us together.”
Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC
Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC
Plans for Look Up Atlanta started as early as 2018, when the GWCCA began looking into ways to integrate the fireworks with a summer festival. The goal was also to create community while teaching many visitors about the park’s history as a community gathering spot over the past 26 years. Plans were paused during the pandemic, but in preparation for this summer, LeMaster and her team came up with ways to showcase Atlanta’s unique traits.
Brad Copeland, whose winning design for the 1996 Olympic Games logo displayed five As, also designed this year’s Look Up Atlanta logo that honors five new As: athletics, arts, accommodations, attractions and appetite.
“Certainly it’s strategic in our mind of developing this sense of community pride again, similar to the way the ‘96 Olympics did, where people remember that fondly at the time of coming together unlike anything the nation has ever seen,” LeMaster said.
Each of the five As will be represented in some way at the event, including all of Atlanta’s professional sports franchises in some form.
The team brainstormed in search of the big story of the past two years. “It has to be how sports brought our community together. It gave us one thing after the other to cheer about and sort of get us all through,” LeMaster said.
The ASYO will perform an hour-long concert themed around Atlanta and Georgia. Pieces will cover many genres and will mostly be tied to the local community.
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Headlining with the orchestra is Angelica Hale, 14, who was the runner-up on the 12th season of “America’s Got Talent.” Hale, born and raised in Atlanta, has performed with the Atlanta Opera and at GWCC and has worked with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta after receiving a life-saving kidney transplant at 6 years old. She also performed at A Capitol Fourth in 2019, and she hopes to relive some of her favorite July Fourth memories this year in Atlanta.
“I‘ve done a lot of performances across the world and across the country, for many different events, but it’s always kind of special when you’ve grown up in that town and you get to perform for it,” she told The AJC.
According to LeMaster, the event in past years had little programming beyond the fireworks. This model was unsustainable, since the event would cost around $375,000 per year to support public safety and security infrastructure, operational expenses and production costs. To preserve the event for years to come, the GWCCA changed its economic model to be ticketed at $10 with family deals and additional promo codes.
Any profit made will go toward the Centennial Olympic Park beautification fund. The VIP Village, at $40 per adult ticket and $20 per children’s ticket, will serve as an elevated experience with access to premier viewing areas, summer gifts and locally curated food and beverage options for purchase.
The VIP Village will be curated by Southern Culinary & Creative, co-founded by Elizabeth Feichter and Kelly Campbell. Feichter, who previously ran the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, was invited to come up with creative culinary options for Look Up Atlanta which remain a secret. The VIP Village will cater to a smaller portion of the 15,000 guests expected to come.
“I think it’s very significant in that it shows not only that guests are excited about coming back but I think it also shows that the city is excited about bringing people back to experience something like this and that they are investing in creating something really special for Atlanta,” Feichter told The AJC.
Fourth of July favorites will be brought to the event by restaurant groups such as Pihakis Restaurant Group, which includes Rodney Scott’s BBQ and Hero Doughnuts & Buns. Other groups will serve up hot dogs and hamburgers as well as barbecue classics. The cocktail menu will be curated and designed by Westside Motor Lounge, set to open in a few weeks.
“We knew that it was a legacy that we needed to preserve, so part of this 25th anniversary really is us doing it bigger and better than ever, that we want people to remember that this is the best of us, this is the best of who we are,” LeMaster said.
Look Up Atlanta
5-10:30 p.m. July 3. $10; $40 adult VIP ticket, $20 VIP ticket ages 12 and younger.Centennial Olympic Park; 265 Park Ave W NW, Atlanta. gwcca.org/look-up-atlanta.
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Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC