Sweetwater 420 Fest relocates while Shaky Knees stays mum on allowing guns

A crowd watches Widespread Panic perform during the 2019 SweetWater 420 Fest at Centennial Olympic Park. The music festival will relocate this year to Sweetwater Brewery, potentially due to Georgia gun laws. (Photo by Robb Cohen/Invision/AP)

Atlanta music festival woes continue in 2023 with the announcement that Sweetwater 420 Fest is scaling back, potentially because of Georgia gun laws.

The massive music event at Centennial Olympic Park that touted jam bands like Widespread Panic and String Cheese Incident will now transition to a decidedly more modest experience at Sweetwater Brewery with a folk, Americana lineup.

According to Rough Draft Atlanta, Sweetwater released a statement Wednesday saying that many factors went into the decision, with “the most important being the safety of our festival goers.”

The festival, which has prohibited weapons in the past, wouldn’t be legally allowed to limit entry to those lawfully carrying firearms at Centennial Olympic Park due to a 2019 court decision.

The ruling on Georgia’s Safe Carry Protection Act prevents events like Sweetwater 420 Fest — and most other music festivals — from banning guns on public or state-owned land.

Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman released a statement Thursday calling the festival’s reduction and relocation a “huge economic loss for our city.”

Music Midtown down

This isn’t the first time an Atlanta music festival has run aground due to the gun protections.

In August 2022, Music Midtown was canceled entirely. The official line being “circumstances beyond [their] control,” but the festival’s policy explicitly prohibiting firearms was now unenforceable in Piedmont Park.

Music Midtown said it would regroup and be back in September 2023. The festival’s social media accounts have been dormant since 2022’s cancellation announcement.   

Shaky details

Another major music festival in Atlanta, Shaky Knees, is seemingly going on at Central Park in Old Fourth Ward without interruption. The festival has been tight-lipped on whether it will allow firearms even though ticket sales began in December.

The Shaky Knees website section labeled “Allowed & Prohibited Items” includes only a simple bag policy. In previous years, the festival explicitly stated weapons of any kind were prohibited and used metal detectors for festival goers entering the park.

In a deleted tweet, the festival responded to a question about its weapons policy with, “no illegal weapons allowed — just like all festivals and concerts.” Firearms are not illegal on public and state-owned land like Central Park, but it is illegal to ban them.  

WABE’s requests for Shaky Knees to clarify whether it will prohibit firearms at the event have gone unanswered.