Art on the Atlanta Lantern Parade lights up the Westside Trail this year

atlanta beltline lantern parade
Art on the Atlanta Beltline Parade is May 21. (Steve Eberhardt)

Gigantic glowing lanterns and puppets will adorn the Westside Trail of the BeltLine tomorrow evening in the annual Art on the Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade. The event was created in 2010 by Chantelle Rytter, who joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom with Miranda Kyle, program manager for arts and culture at Atlanta BeltLine, to talk about the parade, its origins and what this year has in store.

Twelve years ago, Chantelle Rytter and her friends dubbing themselves “The Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons” responded to an Atlanta BeltLine call for art submissions. Art on the BeltLine was looking to beautify the Interim Eastside Trail with contributions from local artists and creators. “It was a dirt trail,” said Rytter. “It was sort of back behind the dumpsters in a hidden away place. I’d been thinking about lantern parades for years, and it just seemed like the right place to try out something new there.”

Rytter and her Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons are known for their whimsical additions to other local parades. In 2018, they organized a world record-breaking gathering of paraders dressed as gnomes for the Inman Park Festival. Their skeletons, goblins and other giant puppets always liven up the annual Little Five Points Halloween Parade. Their first Lantern Parade set things off on the right foot. “We had gathered up some fun folks, and it worked out pretty well,” Rytter said, “And then, of course, it grew and grew and grew.”

She added, “When I think about the popularity of the parade and the other parades that we do, I can’t help but feel that it met a need. You know, I think we need traditions of collective joy to love our places and love our people … Seeing the people that we share a city with as playful volumes of light, it just does a body good.”

Before the pandemic, the Lantern Parade’s attendance was around 70,000 to 75,000. Kyle said, “It is quite the flagship event that the city of Atlanta and our region really flock to … this celebration of collective joy. It has truly transformed, I believe, how people engage with public art, especially performance and music, that happens in our shared public spaces. Chantelle has created a cultural revolution in lights and lanterns.”

Rytter and the Grateful Gluttons offer workshops to teach participants how to make their own lanterns and innovate original designs for lights and light sculptures. “I always encourage people to invent, invent, invent. We all love to see new things. So I feel like the personal inventions have eclipsed the workshops a couple of years ago, which is fantastic,” she said. Participation is open to anyone with a lantern who wants to join; no registration is necessary. 

In addition to recurring lantern-puppet characters like Mr. and Mrs. Happy and new creations like Rytter’s own brand new giant phoenix puppet, the Lantern Parade will feature live music joining the march. Louisiana ensemble Sabor! Brass Band will parade alongside lantern-holders, as will Atlanta’s own Seed and Feed Marching Abominables, the Black Sheep Ensemble and the Wasted Potential Brass Band. 

More information about the upcoming Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade, taking place May 21 on the Westside Trail, can be found here.