Annual Summer Shade Festival brings community together and helps fund Grant Park Conservancy

Summer Shade Festival is Aug. 27 and 28 at Grant Park. (Courtesy of Grant Park Conservancy)

After two years of cancellations, this summer has felt more like a normal season of togetherness at outdoor concerts and festivals. Grant Park Summer Shade Festival returns Saturday and Sunday with music, artists, street markets and local food vendors celebrating the historic Atlanta park and neighborhood. Southern Feed Store presents the event, and it benefits the Grant Park Conservancy. “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes was joined via Zoom by the conservancy director Michelle Blackmon, festival coordinator Alisa Chambers, and Josh Irwin of the band Mermaid Motor Lounge. He will play at the festival Saturday afternoon.

Mermaid Motor Lounge returns to Summer Shade Festival for the second time, and Erwin looks forward to sharing their self-described “alt-space cowboy rock” with the crowd. Given that the band’s name conjures intriguing images of amphibious transportation, it’s fitting that the band recently performed a moving street concert on a boat. In one of the Atlanta music scene’s more creative solutions to socially-distanced live music, Erwin described the scene: “I have a really good neighbor right down the street with a boat that’s on a trailer … I had gassed up the generator and cruised around on the streets, and we got a really good response.” 

He added, “That was a whole lot of fun, to see people walk out the door and smile and be like, ‘What the hell is going on?'” Though their set at Summer Shade will be decidedly stationary and land-bound, Erwin promised, “The spirit of the boat will be there.” 

Other festival music acts to look forward to include local “groove-rock” band Khaliko, James Hall and the Steady Wicked, Solid State Radio and the Wheeler Boys. Hungry festival-goers can savor the tasty contributions of vendors like Yom Ice Cream, Repicci’s Italian Ice, Dunwoody Café, Island Noodles and more.

Every year, the Summer Shade Festival reminds locals why they love Grant Park. With its inception 20 years ago, the festival began as a means of raising money to protect and enrich the historic park through the Grand Park Conservancy organization. Blackmon explained the resources and restorations the Conservancy makes possible, from daily maintenance like litter removal to more substantial projects.

“We had just completed, really, a five-year project to restore two historical fountains in the project — a 1927 millage fountain, which we brought back to life after not having run in decades,” Blackmon said. “We also completed restoration of the 1896 Erskine Fountain, which has actually been in the park since 1912, and it hadn’t run, as far as we can tell, ever.” In addition to the fountains, the Conservancy has restored the 1885 Lion Bridge, one of the oldest structures in Atlanta, and planted 2,000 daffodils in the park as participation in the worldwide Daffodil Project, a garden-planting movement to honor Holocaust victims. 

More information on the 2022 Grant Park Summer Shade Festival, taking place on Aug. 27 and 28, is available at