How the Parliament of Owls Lantern Parade first took flight

The "Parliament of Owls" parade is Aug. 6 starting at the Plaza of Colony Square. (Photo credit: Steve Eberhardt)

Birds of a feather do not always flock together, and one of those birds is the owl. But this Saturday, Aug. 6, you can see a rare group of them together at the annual Parliament of Owls Lantern Parade. The event is a project of Chantelle Rytter with the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons and the Black Sheep Ensemble, and it begins at Colony Square in Midtown. Rytter joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to discuss the parade and its origins.

Interview highlights:

On gathering a group of “owls,” linguistically termed a “parliament:”

“I love the phrase, and I love the symbology, and I was thinking about it as a parade ensemble, but the more I thought about it, you know, owls are wise. Owls see in the dark. Owls see through illusion and deceit. Owls are omens of change, but they do not flock. So I started thinking about that and that it would be such a nice standalone parade.”

“A ‘parliament’ rather implies smart people governing, so I just sort of like the idea of playing with that. Like, for example, the big lantern puppets that are in ‘Parliament of Owls,’ their names – we have six flyers, and the names of the flyers are Darwin, Galileo, Confucius, Mirriam and Webster, Marx and Rachel Carson… I like the idea of making up species, so they’re all Southern urban forest owls.” 

An expression of community through a partnership with Midtown Alliance and Cousins Properties:

“It was just after the 2016 election when I was applying for the Cousins Studio in Midtown. So it’s a wonderful thing where they give an artist a free studio in the Promenade building in Midtown,” Rytter explained. “It’s not entirely free; at the end of your two-year tenure, you owe them a piece of your work valued at $10,000. So I was thinking about that, and I was thinking about owls, and I was thinking about the agency of the wise in such a fraught and abusive moment and the agency of our better nature. So I thought, ‘Alright, I’m going to… pitch ‘Parliament of Owls’ as my gift… I sort of had to spell it out, like, ‘Okay, it’s not like an object that you’re gonna own. It’s not a painting you hang on your wall. It’s going to be a gift to your community.’ And I got it.”

“Midtown Alliance was a perfect partner for ‘Parliament of Owls,’ and the whole time I was at the studio, I was trying to make the point wherever I could that, look, if you support artists in your neighborhood, you get art in your neighborhood. Why is ‘Parliament of Owls’ in Midtown? Because they gave me a free studio and supported my work.”

Humanity’s best self, in togetherness and at play:

“I think it’s wise to recognize our shared humanity in playfulness, rather than, frequently, its outrage and grief,” said Rytter.

“I think we have a common calling to delight one another, and when we answer that call, it’s restorative. It’s like the best of us,” Rytter later elaborated. “I want people to see the people that they share the city with as playful volumes of light, to be reminded that our collective character is lovable and that where we live is a special place… People say, ‘Oh, it’s so boring where I live.’ And I think, ‘Well, what are you personally doing about that?'”

More on the Aug. 6 Parliament of Owls Lantern Parade in Midtown Atlanta can be found at