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Jennifer Rainey Marquez

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In much of rural Georgia, maternal healthcare is disappearing

Dr. Joy Baker

Joy Baker’s patients travel 40 miles on average to see her. Some pull up in their own cars, but if they’re too poor to own one, they might hitch rides with friends or on the Medicaid van, which must be scheduled three days in advance and also can run early or late. In that case, they wait for a quick opening in Dr. Baker’s day so she can fit them in. They pass the time in the waiting room, staring at their phones or flipping through issues of Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.

Her patients come to her for the most fundamental of reasons: She’s one of only two OB/GYNs in a swath of rural Georgia that spans eight counties and 2,714 square miles. Baker works out of the Upson Regional Medical Center in Thomaston, about halfway between Macon and Columbus. We hear a lot about safety net hospitals, but Baker is a safety net doctor. Half of Georgia’s 159 counties—79, to be precise—do not have a single obstetric provider. Rural hospitals are closing. In Georgia a pregnant woman has a greater chance of dying before she delivers, or in the weeks after, than in any other state in America. So Baker’s practice here in Upson County, where nearly a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line, represents a kind of miracle—but a precarious one.

Dr. Joy Baker
Baker observes as Brianna, a high-risk patient, receives an ultrasound. The images will be sent to a perinatologist in Atlanta.

Photograph by Melissa Golden

“What’s going on today? Not doing so good, huh?”

Baker hovers above her patient’s hospital bed on the second floor of Upson Regional, a look of concern on her face. Abigail Williams is 28 years old and 27 weeks pregnant, and she was admitted last night. It’s a little after nine o’clock in the morning, but it’s clear Williams has been up for a while. Dark circles ring her eyes, bits of hair escape from a bun and spill onto her cotton hospital gown, and her brow crinkles with worry. A large gallstone is lodged in her bile duct, causing her severe abdominal pain. She also can’t keep anything down, and that has Baker worried, considering Williams also has some coronary risk factors, including tachycardia, when the heart beats too rapidly. “We need to keep your electrolytes steady, your blood sugar steady,” Baker says. “We don’t want your heartbeat to become erratic.”

This is the seventh time Williams has been hospitalized during her pregnancy, and she reminds the doctor that she has two other kids at home, including a one-year-old who requires a feeding tube. “Here’s the deal,” says Baker. “The [surgeon] is probably going to recommend that you try medication first because he’ll be worried about the baby. But I would not try it for long. You need to speak up for yourself on this.” Williams asks if she can request surgery to remove the stone now, rather than risk yet another hospital stay if medication doesn’t help. “Absolutely,” Baker says. “You are the patient, and it’s your decision.” Before she leaves the room, she reminds Williams, “Part of my job is looking out for not just the baby but for you, the mom. Because if you’re not well, the baby’s not going to be well, either.”

Later Williams tells me that Baker is the first doctor she’s had that really takes the time to listen to her and explain things. “I’m just glad to have her.”

Dr. Joy Baker
Joy Baker outside her home in Thomaston

Photograph by Melissa Golden

Baker has been at the hospital since 7:30 a.m., and by lunchtime she will have also performed a laparoscopic surgery, delivered a baby via C-section, induced labor for a pregnant patient who was past her due date, and checked in on a mom who delivered the day before. Baker bought a home in Thomaston after she accepted the job here in 2015—renovating it in cheery colors, with a pink front door and chandeliers in nearly every room—and she chose it mainly for its strategic location just a few hundred yards from the hospital. She can take calls from home and still be at Upson within minutes.

In the afternoon Baker heads to her office across the street from the hospital, where she has a full slate of high-risk pregnant patients who come in regularly to videochat with a specialist in Atlanta. Baker introduced telemedicine for her high-risk patients in March, after the hospital was awarded a grant. Up until then, the women had to travel to Columbus, Macon, or Atlanta to see a perinatologist, a doctor who specializes in the management of high-risk pregnancies.

“That’s an hour away, and if you’re relying on a Medicaid van, or you’ve got other kids at home that you can’t leave alone, you’re not always going to make it,” Baker says. Now patients can undergo an ultrasound at her office in Thomaston, and the images are sent electronically to a specialist at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. It’s one of a number of new programs that Baker has implemented since arriving. “There are opportunities out there,” she says, “but as a rural physician you gotta look for ’em. Who can I talk to? Who can I go to? Who can help me get what I need for this patient?”

Baker’s path to Thomaston was not planned. She wasn’t even supposed to be an OB/GYN. Growing up in LaGrange and Jonesboro, she wanted to be a surgeon. It wasn’t until her final year of medical school at Morehouse, while working in the trauma and surgical ICU at Atlanta Medical Center, that she began to reconsider her path. “A man was brought in with a gunshot wound, and his kidney was beyond repair,” she says. “The attending just took it out and tossed it onto a surgical table.” As the trauma team worked on the patient, Baker couldn’t stop glancing over at the mangled organ. She thought, I don’t want to see people killing and hurting each other for the rest of my life.

Baker did her OB/GYN residency at Morehouse and then found a job at a hospital in Columbus, Georgia. She preferred the lifestyle of a smaller city. “In Atlanta, because of the traffic, pretty much every practice wants you to remain at the hospital while you’re on call, which might be for 24 hours at a stretch,” she says.

She traveled to Thomaston occasionally as a locum tenens, or fill-in, physician. At the time, the practice did not have a full-time OB/GYN, and temporary doctors rotated in and out frequently. “One day I called to check on a patient, and I got to talking with one of the nurses,” says Baker. “She told me, ‘I wish we could have a nice doctor like you here in Thomaston.’” Baker, whose Columbus hospital was planning layoffs, inquired about the job.

Upson’s struggle to recruit a new OB/GYN is representative of that faced by rural hospitals across the country. As more and more Americans shun economically depressed small towns in search of greater opportunity in cities, it has become harder to convince doctors—no matter what their specialty—to go into rural communities. Baker says that while some of her medical school classmates took jobs in places like Macon or Columbus, most chose to remain in the metro Atlanta area. When she came on board in 2015, Upson had been without a permanent OB/GYN for 18 months. (Soon after they hired a second physician, who commutes from Gwinnett County.)

“Ultimately fewer people want to live in rural areas in general, whether they’re doctors or not,” says Shelley Spires, president of the Georgia Rural Health Care Association. Thus, while the entire state of Georgia faces a physician shortage, the problem is especially critical outside of large, or even midsize, metropolitan areas. Of the state’s 108 rural counties, 93 are designated as workforce shortage areas in terms of primary care. Compounding the issue, salaries at small rural hospitals can be less competitive than at large metropolitan ones, making recruitment more challenging.

Spires says that even higher salaries wouldn’t be enough to completely solve the recruitment problem. “Physicians, especially when they’re green, are not always comfortable in an area that doesn’t have the most up-to-date equipment, where there aren’t any specialists who you can discuss your cases with,” says Spires. “Just being able to say to a patient: ‘Let’s have the cardiologist listen to this’ or ‘Let’s have the endocrinologist take a look at your numbers.’ You can’t do that when you don’t have those other doctors nearby.”

Still Baker insists that there are unique joys to practicing in Thomaston. “When I told my friends I was moving here, they were all pretty shocked,” she says. “But I felt a real draw to this town.” Baker, who has a deep faith in God, says a defining moment was the day she drove to the town square for lunch and found a Bible-reading marathon taking place. She rolled down her window to ask a passerby what was going on. “This lady said: ‘Oh, they do this every year. People sign up for shifts, and they read the Bible cover to cover.’ This was happening on the courthouse square. That day, I told myself, I’m gonna buy a house here, and I’m gonna stay.

Dr. Joy Baker
Baker checks on Brandi, a pregnant patient who is also a nurse practitioner. “I always feel honored when other medical staff choose me as their doctor,” she says.

Photograph by Melissa Golden

In Thomaston, Baker provides obstetric services as well as gynecologic care. She also performs gynecologic surgeries. “I see women who just need a Pap smear, pregnant patients, teenagers with menstrual problems, plus whatever comes in the emergency room,” she says. Some days Baker might see 40 patients or more.

Women like Williams—who have a number of existing health conditions before they even become pregnant, thereby putting them at higher risk for serious complications—are common. “The patients themselves are much sicker than those I saw back in 1980 and 1990,” says Dr. Hugh Smith, a semiretired obstetrician who still oversees the obstetrics department at Upson Regional and is president-elect of the Georgia OB/GYN Society. He estimates that up to 90 percent of OB patients in Thomaston are high risk based on obesity alone. The practice also sees a large number of patients struggling with poverty, addiction, or a lack of support at home. “Our patients are juggling a lot of issues,” Baker says, “affording the medication, affording the procedure, having someone to drive them to appointments.”

It wasn’t always this way. In the 20th century Thomaston had been a thriving manufacturing town, with three major employers: Thomaston Mills, B.F. Goodrich, and William Carter Company. But when those mills shut down (Thomaston Mills, once the town’s largest employer, declared bankruptcy in 2001), it devastated the local economy.

“When I came here in 1981, there were six mills open and thousands of people working there,” Smith says. “After the last mill closed, most of those patients ended up on Medicaid, and we lost nearly all of our third party payer insurance.” (It’s estimated that 80 percent of patients in south Georgia are insured through Medicaid, compared to just 10 percent in north metro Atlanta.) Because Medicaid typically pays providers much less than do private insurers, the financial implications were considerable.

Smith was forced to sell his women’s health practice to the hospital in 2009, and every year since Upson has lost significant money from supporting the obstetrics unit. “Luckily the hospital board decided that a real hospital must provide OB services and absorb that loss,” Smith says. “And it is a large loss.”

Dr. Joy Baker
A patient prepares to videochat with a high-risk specialist in Atlanta.

Photograph by Melissa Golden

Many of the state’s hospitals have had to make tougher choices. Between 1994 and 2015, more than 30 labor and delivery units have closed in Georgia. “When you have a rural hospital that’s already struggling financially, if they have to choose one thing to go, it’s often labor and delivery,” says Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, an OB/GYN and the president of Georgia Maternal and Infant Health Research Group. Even that’s not always enough to keep hospitals in business. Since 2010 eight rural Georgia hospitals have shut down completely. As the providers attached to those hospitals or delivery units have scattered, wide swaths of rural Georgia have turned into maternal healthcare deserts. By 2020 it’s estimated that 75 percent of rural primary care service areas will lack adequate obstetrics care.

Just as cities are drawing practicing OBs away from rural areas, other specialties are drawing physicians away from OB work. Money is a big issue, says Dr. Chadburn Ray, associate professor of OB/GYN at Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. From 2002 to 2012, the percentage of Georgia medical school students graduating with more than $200,000 in debt increased from just three percent to 30 percent. Meanwhile, the average starting salary for primary care (including OB/GYN) in 2012 was just over $168,000, compared to $231,000 for all other specialties. “When you’ve got a massive loan burden and you know you can make significantly more money in a different specialty, or even a subspecialty like reproductive endocrinology, it makes general OB/GYN a tough sell,” he says.

And unlike, say, reproductive endocrinologists, who can see patients during regular clinic hours and work a predictable schedule, obstetricians must be prepared to deliver babies at any time of day or night. Ray says that while a previous generation of physicians may have accepted this as a matter of routine, expectations today are different. “There was once a time when [medical residents] stayed and worked until it was done,” he says. That changed in 2003 when restrictions were placed on residents’ on-duty hours; those restrictions were tightened in 2011. The rules were put in place to help reduce fatigue-induced medical errors, but as a consequence, many doctors now aren’t prepared to work a crushing schedule upon completing their residency.

Dr. Joy Baker
The door to Baker’s office in Thomaston.

Photograph by Melissa Golden

The remaining doctors who do provide traditional OB/GYN care are increasingly subject to burnout. “Maybe you want to be around more for your family, and you’re tired of getting up at 3 a.m. to deliver a baby,” says Ray. “So you decide to drop the obstetrics part of your practice.” There’s even a financial incentive because gynecologists don’t have to carry OB malpractice insurance, which is very expensive, in part because obstetricians aren’t just dealing with one life but two.

“It’s not going to be an easy fix,” says Zertuche, “because a lot of these [issues] are just pervasive parts of our society and our education and political systems.” There have been some successes. In 2014 the Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill to make it easier for OBs to qualify for tuition reimbursement so long as they practice in areas of need. If eligible, they can receive up to $25,000 in annual loan repayment for up to four years. The state has also tried increasing its funding for OB/GYN residency slots. “The feeling is that if you can keep more medical students here in residency, you might be able to keep them here in practice,” says Zertuche.

To lure doctors back into obstetrics, last fall Ray created the Georgia Center For Obstetrics Re-Entry Program (Georgia CORP). Essentially a refresher course to help OBs become recertified, the program—which is affordable as a result of state funding—requires its graduates to remain in Georgia and gives priority to physicians who can work in rural areas.

Dr. Joy Baker
Baker with Katie, whose daughter was delivered the previous day

Photograph by Melissa Golden

Doctors are also trying to rethink how care is delivered to patients now that providers are fewer and more spread out. Telemedicine, like the program that Baker implemented, is improving access to physicians and specialists. But it’s a poor substitute for being in the same exam room. If the number of obstetrics providers continues to decline, Zertuche says, eventually the state and the medical community will have to go back to the drawing board on how to provide that in-person care.

“Right now we’re in a downward spiral. If you practice in a small town where there were once three or four physicians, that’s not terrible if all of them are taking OB calls. But if one retires or moves away, and there’s no way to replace them, the remaining physicians take on a greater burden. And if one of those is a mom of three with lots of family demands, she might drop out, too. And then maternity care in that town has just self-destructed.”

She predicts that new modes of care, like traveling mobile clinics with referrals for high-risk patients, may eventually offer a replacement. “But trying to develop and implement an entirely new system of care in rural Georgia takes a lot of thought and resources and honestly somebody taking a chance.”

Dr. Baker remembers the first time a patient said that she was the best doctor they’d ever had. She also remembers being startled by the praise because she hadn’t delivered the woman’s baby or done much at all for her medically.

“It was while I was at Grady, and nobody wanted to see this patient because she was kind of mean. But she was from out of town, and I knew that she didn’t have any support in Atlanta,” says Baker. The woman ended up needing an emergency C-section, and while Baker was doing rounds on Friday afternoon, she encountered the patient in tears. “She was so scared, and I had couple of days off. So I spent the weekend with her. We watched TV as they prepped her for her C-section, and then I sat with her during the procedure like I was her family member.” The day after the patient went home, a severe ice storm hit the city. Baker knew the woman’s baby needed special formula, and after she got off work that night, she delivered milk from the NICU to the patient’s home.

Baker thinks about that woman a lot. “Because she really did perceive me to be the best doctor, and yet all I did was show her compassion.”

It’s a virtue that Baker says she also sees in her new community. Once, in Columbus, another resident of her apartment building approached her mom, who was visiting, and demanded to know “whose unit are you here to clean?” A few months later, when she and her mom were moving boxes into her house in Thomaston, neighbors paraded up the driveway bearing refreshments, introducing themselves, inviting the women into their homes. Baker’s patients often stop her at the grocery store or Wal-Mart to introduce her to their families. Her office is filled with baby announcements and gift baskets, and fresh-baked muffins or cookies are routinely dropped off on the labor and delivery floor of the hospital. “The people here are so warm and so kind,” she says. “It’s a special little place.”

Although she is not herself a mother, Baker feels an almost maternal responsibility for the town and her patients. In addition to telemedicine, she has introduced a model of care known as “centering,” which is designed to provide increased education and peer-to-peer support for moms to be.

“We see so much depression among our patients—I’d guess it’s as high as 50 percent—and I think a lot of it is due to isolation,” Baker says. “The centering program is meant to show that there are other people who are going through the same things.” After giving birth, the women stay in touch at postpartum sessions; one popular activity is a monthly dance for new moms, who execute hip-hop moves with their infants nestled in baby carriers.

Baker admits she sometimes struggles, wishing for more resources. “I can certainly understand why someone would say: ‘I just can’t do it. It’s too much,’” she says, of working in a small place like Thomaston. “You have to be a very tenacious person to survive out here. You can’t take no for an answer. Because these women are phenomenal, and they deserve a voice. They deserve the same level of care as anybody else.”

Rural medicine in crisis
The future of Georgia’s Obstetric workforce
Projections for 2020, assuming no additional providers are recruited

Rural medicine in crisis

              No obstetric service
              Deficient or at-risk obstetric service
              Adequate obstetric service or no data

More than 30 hospital labor and delivery units have closed in Georgia between 1994 and 2015.

79 of Georgia’s 159 counties do not have a single obstetric provider.

8 rural Georgia hospitals have shut down completely since 2010.

More than 80 of the states 109 rural counties are designated as workforce shortage areas in terms both primary and specialty care.

This article originally appeared in our July 2017 issue.

Derek Trucks: Music should be about “lifting people up and stirring something in their souls”

Tedeschi Trucks Band
Tedeschi Trucks Band plays the Fox Theatre on July 15.

Photograph by Tab Winters

“I live in Jacksonville, Florida, but Atlanta always feels like the hometown gig,” says Derek Trucks. “Just about everybody in my old band [the Derek Trucks Band] was from Atlanta, and a lot of the guys in this group are from there, too.” The cofounder of Tedeschi Trucks Band—which he formed in 2010 with his wife, musician Susan Tedeschi—also has strong family ties to Georgia. His uncle, Butch Trucks, was one of the founding members of the Allman Brothers Band, and Derek played with the reunited ABB from 1999 to 2014. We recently chatted with the renowned guitarist about the band’s latest album and the state of rock music today.

Tedeschi Trucks Band just released a live album and concert film, Live From the Fox Oakland. What makes you decide to do a live record?
Every once in a while a band will make a huge jump musically, and when you get to that place, you want to capture it. Our last tour, every show just seemed to get better and better. And I wanted to create a snapshot of what has become a unique thing this day and age, which is a dozen people up there on a stage.

The Allman Brothers Band recorded one of the most famous live albums ever, At Fillmore East. What meaning does that album have for you?
That record is a giant. But it’s such a different day and age now. In 1971, when that record came out, after you played a show it wasn’t immediately on YouTube the next day. If people traded shows in the 1970s, it was reel-to-reel. The days of a live record just totally breaking out like that, it’s probably not going to happen again.

Your uncle [Allman Brothers drummer] Butch Trucks committed suicide earlier this year. What do you hope his legacy will be?
It’s a tough one. It was such a brutal way to go out that I think it’s hard to fully overcome that. I hope the end maybe fades in some way because the work he did—those guys started a movement, and that music and legacy isn’t going anywhere.

Today rock bands almost seem to be a throwback. What’s your feeling on the current state of rock music?
I think music, like a lot of other things, has gotten very cynical. Whether it’s artists or labels or management, it’s people homing in on, “How do we make the most money on this tour? We don’t need a band; we need a light show!” It becomes a lot less about the emotional aspect and the artistic aspect and more about the bottom line. We try to throw all those things out the window and get back to what it’s supposed to be about, which is lifting people up and stirring something in their souls.

You’ve collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry. Is there someone who you’ve always wanted to work with but never got the chance?
I gotta say, I’ve been incredibly fortunate. Most of my living heroes I’ve had the chance to either record with, or perform live with, or be on the road with. For a long time B.B. King was at the top of the list, but we ended up touring with him a few times before he passed away and had some pretty amazing musical connections. Stevie Wonder was the other one, and when we were down in the South China Sea doing some shows, we ended up playing with him, which was surreal. I can’t really think of anyone, and that’s a strange thing. When I got started, most of those names I’d be excited just to get a ticket to the show, much less get on stage with them.

What’s your favorite thing about playing in Atlanta?
It was always good to see Col. Bruce Hampton. In a lot of ways, he was the grandfather of the whole scene. It’s funny; meeting him at a young age, so many of his stories just seemed like things that were pulled from the air. But the most outlandish stories are the ones that turn out to be 100 percent true. Twenty years later you get confirmation from someone else, and you’re like, “Wow, I thought he totally made that up.” He’s the man, the myth, the legend.

You’re a renowned guitarist and this interview is happening on the one-year anniversary of Prince’s death, so I have to ask: Who’s at the top of your list of all-time best guitar players?
For me, Duane Allman was my first influence, so he’s always right near the top. Then there’s Charlie Christian, who was one of the first electric soloists. He played stuff that people still haven’t quite topped. I love the old blues guys, too. The way John Lee Hooker approaches the instrument is so singular and unique. It’s not always technique and flash for me; it’s “how does it stick with you?” But I could give you my top 20, and it would be 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D. At a certain level, when you make it to that pantheon, you can be tied, but you can’t be beat.

With the slick computerized production available today, do you think there’s less of a tolerance for human imperfection in music?
When I hear EDM, perfection is not what I’m hearing. When I hear Ali Akhbar Khan or John Coltrane or Ray Charles, that’s the perfection I’m looking for: cutting to the chase and putting an emotion and a feeling out there and really connecting with somebody. But really more than anything, I think so much of it is just groupthink. When you’re dealing with the age of Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram, then everything becomes very selfish and cynical. We were just touring Europe, and I noticed that we’d go to all these beautiful places, and everyone’s just taking a picture of themselves. I don’t understand that at all. And I feel like that extends to music. I think we’ve lost the script a little bit.

It’s still surprising to me when I go to a concert and everyone in the audience is watching it through their phone.
It’s an amazing thing. There are moments with this band that I think are pretty rare. This band uses a pretty wide dynamic range, so it gets loud and it gets quiet. But every so often we’ll get to this place where everyone in the room is fully focused on what’s happening. You see it happens in sports sometimes, when there’s a really important moment. It’s a great thing when you can get to those places, when you look up you don’t see a bunch of phones out. Even if I’m looking at the instrument and the band, and not the audience, you really can feel it when everyone is locked in.

Tedeschi Trucks Band plays the Fox Theatre on July 15.

A version of this article originally appeared in our July 2017 issue.

Splash into summer with these 23 events for Atlanta families in June

Through 7/15
Ribbit the Exhibit
Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville
When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Tuesday through Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($8 for adults; $5 for ages 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: The Gainesville branch of the ABG hosts an exhibition of 23 large copper frog sculptures from North Carolina metal artist Andy Cobb.

Through 10/29
The Curious Garden
Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden
When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($21.95 for adults, $15.95 for kids ages 3 to 15, free for kids 2 and under)
What: Every spring the Atlanta Botanical Garden decks itself out with a special art exhibition, and this year the event will coincide with the opening of the Skyline Garden, which offers breathtaking city views. Throughout the garden, find 11 site-specific installations by Adam Schwerner, an artist who designs gardens for Disneyland, and one of the highlights is a grove of candy-colored trees that look as though they were lifted straight out of Fantasia.

Through 1/21/18
Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan
Where: High Museum of Art
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Tuesday through Thursday, Saturday); 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Friday); 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($14.50 ages 6 and up; free for kids 5 and under)
What: The High continues its series of picture-book exhibitions with this show highlighting the work of 93-year-old Ashley Bryan. Taken together, his books—many of which draw on the black oral tradition—are a timeless celebration of African American experiences. Visitors can see over 70 works of art from 20 of Bryan’s books (all displayed at kid-height) and stick around for storytelling.

6/2-8/13
Robin Hood
Where: Serenbe Playhouse
When: 11 a.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $10 to $20
What: Robin Hood and his band of merry men will fly through the forest via zip line in this immersive, all-ages outdoor play.

6/3
Robots Day
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: Meet real robots, learn more about artificial intelligence, see demonstrations from local robotics groups, and work on robot-themed crafts at Fernbank’s STEM-focused day.

6/3
Where the Wild Things Are
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: 1 p.m.
Cost: $10.50 (free for members)
What: The Center for Puppetry Arts screens the 2009 Spike Jonze film, which is based on Maurice Sendak’s darkly fanciful children’s book about a naughty boy who is taken in by a group of terrible beasts.

6/3-4
SummerFest
Where: Virginia-Highland
When: All day
Cost: Free (some events require additional fees)
What: This annual arts event draws a (huge) all-ages crowd, but special events for little ones include a Tot Trot (race for children 7 and under) and KidsFest featuring crafts and games.

6/3-4
Flying Colors Butterfly Festival
Where: Chattahoochee Nature Center
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Saturday), noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $12 ($8 for CNC members)
What: Watch as butterflies are released and take flight, wait for a Painted Lady to land on your shoulder in the encounter tent, enjoy live kid-friendly music and face painting, and slurp up a King of Pops treat at this annual event.

6/5-7/22
Roswell Summer Puppet Series
Where: Roswell Cultural Arts Center
When:
10 a.m. (Monday through Saturday), 1:30 p.m. (Wednesday and Friday only)
Cost:
$5 for ages 2 and up; free for kids under 2
What:
Roswell’s annual series features a different puppet show every week, including familiar tales like Rumpelstiltzken, Robin Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and Pinocchio.

6/9-25
Beauty and the Beast
Where: Jennie T. Anderson Theatre
When: Various
Cost: $33 to $58
What: Atlanta’s Lyric Theatre stages a play based on the Disney animated film.

6/10-17
Atlanta Cycling Festival
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: Various
What: Now in its fourth year, this weeklong fest celebrates the two-wheeler experience and includes special themed bike rides, classes, parties, even a bike yard sale. Last year drew more than 3,300 riders of all ages.

6/10-7/16
The Dancing Granny
Where: Various
When:
10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. (Tuesday through Friday), 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (Saturday), 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost:
$15 for adults; $8 for kids ages 6 to 17; free for kids ages 3 to 5
What: Be among the first to see this world-premiere play based on the book by Newberry-winning children’s book author Ashley Bryan, whose work is also featured in a special exhibition at the High Museum. The musical will be performed at three different locations in the metro area: Oglethorpe University, The Galloway School, and Spelman College.

6/10-9/4
Blue Man Group: Making Waves
Where: Children’s Museum of Atlanta
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($14.95; free for babies 1 year and under)
What: Explore this multi-sensory, interactive exhibition focused on sound, science, and art. Play sand drums, “tube phones,” and instruments made out of PVC pipes, then screen a unique Blue Man Group performance in the surround sound theater.

6/11
Atlanta Streets Alive
Where: Westside (Marietta Street and Howell Mill Road)
When: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Take a stroll or bike ride along this brand-new, car-free route from Streets Alive, timed to coincide with the Atlanta Cycling Festival.

6/16
Summer In the City
Where: Decatur Square
When: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Sixty tons of sand transform the Decatur Square into a beach setting perfect for castle-building, fruity drinks, funnel cakes, and live music and dancing. New this year: Pop-up performances from stilt walkers, fire twirlers, and more.

6/17
Juneteenth
Where: Oakland Cemetery
When: 9 a.m. to noon
Cost: Free
What: Since slavery was abolished in 1865, Juneteenth has been celebrated to mark the anniversary of the event. At Oakland Cemetery, take a guided walking tour of the African American burial grounds (including a special kids walking tour) and participate in a cultural scavenger hunt (also for kids).

6/17
In the Heights
Where: Duluth Town Green
When:
7 p.m.
Cost:
Free
What:
Aurora Theatre presents a free, open-air performance of this musical by Lin Manuel-Miranda (yep, the Hamilton guy), which recently won three Suzi Bass Awards for its staging last fall by Aurora and Theatrical Outfit.

6/17-18
Juneteenth
Where: Atlanta History Center
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: The History Center celebrates Juneteenth with a free admission day. Show up for immersive theater performances, special activities that explore themes of history and freedom, and crafts.

6/17-8/27
Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday through Saturday); noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: What’s the difference between a mammoth and a mastodon? What other giant animals did they live among? What did their fur feel like, and how big were their teeth? Explore these Ice Age creatures in Fernbank’s interactive exhibition, then head to the giant screen to watch Titans of the Ice Age.

6/20-7/23
Cinderella Della Circus
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: 10 a.m. and noon (Tuesday through Friday), 11 a.m. (Saturday only), 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
Cost: $11.25 to $19.50 (free for kids 2 and under)
What: This high-flying show fuses fairy tales, magic, circus arts, and puppetry. For ages 4 and up.

6/23-25
AthFest
Where: Athens, Georgia
When: KidsFest runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Friday), 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Saturday), 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free
What:
AthFest, an annual arts and music festival in downtown Athens, also welcomes little ones to KidsFest. Watch kid-friendly bands (including middle- and high-school music acts), work on arts and crafts projects, cut loose in a bounce house, and more.

6/24
Great American Backyard Campout
Where: Chattahoochee Nature Center
When: 5 p.m.
Cost: $60 per family ($40 for members)
What: Camp under the stars at Chattahoochee Nature Center. You’ll go on a guided night hike, see a rehabilitated animal up close, and roast marshmallows by the campfire.

6/24-11/26
Merry Go Zoo
Where: Sifly Piazza at Woodruff Arts Center
When: All day
Cost: Free
What: The High Museum hosts another outdoor exhibition of whimsical work by sculptor Jaime Hayon, who created last year’s TioVio. This time his large-scale, colorful creations double as spinning merry-go-rounds, so kids can hop on or give them a whirl.

Atlanta Dream: Who will step up while Angel McCoughtry is out?

Top scorer Angel McCoughtry is out this season, but these Atlanta Dream teammates are ready to step up.

Elizabeth Williams
Elizabeth Williams

Photograph by Kevin D. Liles

Elizabeth Williams
Alma mater Duke University, where she was the first ACC player ever to reach 1,900 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 400 blocks
Joined the Dream 2016
Known for Her incredible defensive presence, which earned her the WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year award
Future goals Williams has plans to attend medical school and become a physician after retiring from the WNBA.
Stats Age: 23 | Position: Center | Height: 6’3″ | Points per game: 11.9 | Rebounds per game: 9.1 | Assists per game: 1.2

Tiffany Hayes
Tiffany Hayes

Photograph by Gary Dineen

Tiffany Hayes
Alma mater University of Connecticut, where she helped earn the team two national championships and four Final Four appearances
Joined the Dream 2012
Known for Lightning-quick speed and acrobatic finishes that leave the crowd in awe (and earn her frequent appearances in the WNBA’s “top plays of the week”)
Favorite Atlanta Hangout Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles
Stats Age: 27 | Position: Guard | Height: 5’10” | Points per game: 15 | Rebounds per game: 3.4 | Assists per game: 2.4

Layshia Clarendon
Layshia Clarendon

Photograph by Scott Cunningham

Layshia Clarendon
Alma mater University of California Berkeley, where she graduated as the fourth-leading scorer in school history
Joined the Dream 2016
Known for Toughness and tenacity. Last season was a breakout year for Clarendon, who became one of the top rebounding guards in the WNBA.
Off the Court The self-described “biracial, black, gay, female, genderqueer, and Christian” player is an outspoken activist for social justice and LGBTQ rights.
Stats 
Age: 26 | Position: Guard | Height: 5’9” | Points per game: 10.4 | Rebounds per game: 4.3 | Assists per game: 3.5

See the Dream: The team plays their home opener this weekend against the Chicago Sky at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavillion.

 This article originally appeared in our May 2017 issue.

Here’s why reality TV shows keep flocking to Atlanta

Reality TV in Atlanta

Locations, locations, locations
Unlike scripted series or movies, which typically film in soundstages or on a single large set, reality shows rely on access to a large number of filming locations. “We can be in five to 10 locations every week, which is a lot of places to secure,” says Paria Sadighi, vice president of communications for Kinetic Content, the production company behind Little Women: Atlanta. “We’re constantly looking for new locations, and Atlanta has such a variety. Drive a few minutes outside the city and there’s beautiful landscape and natural backdrops. Inside the city, there’s the food scene with lots of cool-looking restaurants. There’s parks. There’s skyscrapers. And if we need a green screen shot, there’s plenty of studio space.”

Reality TV in Atlanta

Diverse cast of characters
“Reality was way ahead of the curve on diversity compared to scripted TV, but RHOA just opened the floodgates,” says Matt Anderson, cofounder and executive producer at Purveyors of Pop. “A diverse audience is often an underserved audience, and we found they will come if you build a show around black characters.”

Lynnette Granville, executive in charge of production for Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, agrees. “As far as casting, it’s all about diversity right now, and here you have very different people living just an hour away from one another, from cabins in the North Georgia mountains to mansions in Buckhead.”

Reality TV in Atlanta

Southern hospitality
Atlanta is a welcoming city compared to filming meccas like Los Angeles. “In New York or L.A., it is very difficult—and very expensive—to lock in locations, especially for reality [shows],” says Granville. “Here in Atlanta, you still have that big-city feel, but everything is easier. When I first started out, you didn’t even need a permit to film at Piedmont Park. As productions have gotten bigger, that has changed a bit, but the city has remained flexible and accommodating.”

That welcome extends from the city to individual property owners. “People in Los Angeles are pretty jaded when it comes to dealing with crews,” says Suzan Satterfield, an Atlanta-based producer who has worked on several lifestyle reality shows, including Mega Dens for the DIY Network. “They don’t want crews in their backyards or their businesses. In Atlanta people are still excited to have a production in their neighborhood.”

Reality TV in Atlanta

Behind-the-scenes talent
“The talent here is a big attraction, and I’m not referring to on-air talent, but the camera crews, the directors, the audio supervisors, the logistical teams,” says Granville. There are two benefits to using local crews. One, it helps the bottom line if you don’t have to fly people in from L.A. and put them up for the duration of filming. It also makes reality shows better, says Anderson. “Someone who’s a local is not only in the know about the shortest way to get from Duluth to Midtown, they also can tell you the hottest new bar to film at.”

Until a few years ago, Atlanta’s crew base was much smaller, says L.C. Crowley, cofounder and president of the Atlanta-based production company School of Humans. “But lately the reality crews have really moved in,” he says. “We see camera people and sound engineers moving in droves from New York and L.A. There’s a ton of work here, and it’s less expensive and more livable.”

Reality TV in Atlanta

Ratings draw
One of the biggest reasons that Atlanta is so appealing to reality producers is that it’s also appealing to reality audiences. “It’s been proven that shows or spin-offs filmed in Atlanta tend to do better than shows filmed in other cities,” says Sadighi. While all the producers we spoke to mentioned the ratings boost, they also acknowledged that the reason remains a mystery. The prevailing theory seems to be that Atlanta offers a just-right mix of Southern comfort and urban hipness.

“Sometimes there’s an expression that a show can be ‘coastal,’ meaning the middle of the country isn’t watching. That’s just not the case with shows that come out of Atlanta,” says Anderson. “I think [the city] seems relatable, but on the flip side, it’s where sports meets music meets Hollywood, so there’s some exciting stuff going on, too.”

The CDC celebrates its longtime photographer, Jim Gathany

Lens on the CDC
A lab worker monitors eggs used to grow the flu virus as part of vaccine research.

Photograph by Jim Gathany

Since 1986 photographer Jim Gathany has documented the inner workings of the Centers for Disease Control, snapping images of visiting presidents, lab scientists at work, even mosquitoes as they feast on his own blood. Through May 26 the David J. Sencer CDC Museum pays tribute to Gathany’s career with a retrospective exhibition, A Lens on the CDC. “We have been trying for years to get Jim to agree to it, and we finally wore him down,” jokes museum director Judy M. Gantt. “He’s so humble about his work, but he has a way of approaching scientific photography that is iconic and beautiful.” We recently chatted with Gathany about his three decades with the CDC and the exhibition.

Before you came to the CDC, you worked as a newspaper photojournalist. What drew you to scientific photography?
I certainly didn’t concentrate on science in college. I applied for this job when my then employer, the Gwinnett Daily News, was shut down. At that time the center employed two scientific photographers and three general assignment photographers, which is what I was doing. I shot portraits, meetings with visiting dignitaries, basically a record of what’s happening at the CDC. At first I was reluctant to try scientific work. But I think the heart of CDC is the research, and it just felt like the right place to be.

Lens on the CDC
Gathany found this Aedes aegypti mosquito in his backyard.

Photograph by Jim Gathany

The exhibition includes many images of lab cultures or insects shot in extreme close-up. How do you approach those kinds of photos?
One thing I love about this job is that I have to learn a little bit about each thing I shoot. Photographing mosquitoes and malaria vectors in particular has become sort of a pet project over the years. It’s challenging because usually the bugs are alive and it’s difficult to capture the images sharply. I let them feed on me to help keep them still, and so I can see the process as they become engorged.

Do you have a favorite photo in the exhibition?
To me each of these images represents my effort to assist a scientist or an educator. When I see the exhibit, I think of those people, and they’re as responsible for this as I am. I pulled the shutter, but often the scientist has put in a lot of work culturing an organism, or growing a colony, or mounting a sample. The best thing about the exhibition is that it’s made me realize how many wonderful people I’ve worked with here. I can still walk across campus and see a scientist that I worked with 20 years ago, and it’s like seeing an old long-lost family member.

This article originally appeared in our May 2017 issue.

19 of the best events for Atlanta families in May

Through 5/7
Wild Weather
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday through Saturday); noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: Have you ever wondered about the forces that create severe weather events like tornadoes or hurricanes? In this interactive exhibition, you can whip up your own storm and learn how scientists are learning how to better predict extreme weather.

Through 5/28
Pete the Cat 
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: Various
Cost: $20.50 ($10.25 for members), free for kids under 2
What: This world-premiere show based on the children’s book series will feature everyone’s favorite blue cat, who skateboards, surfs, and (of course), sings.

Through 7/15
Ribbit the Exhibit
Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville
When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Tuesday through Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($8 for adults; $5 for ages 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: The Gainesville branch of the ABG hosts an exhibition of 23 large copper frog sculptures from North Carolina metal artist Andy Cobb.

Through 1/21/18
Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan
Where: High Museum of Art
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Tuesday through Thursday, Saturday); 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Friday); 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($14.50 ages 6 and up; free for kids 5 and under)
What: The High continues its series of picture-book exhibitions with this show highlighting the work of 93-year-old Ashley Bryan. Taken together, his books—many of which draw on the black oral tradition—are a timeless celebration of African American experiences. Visitors can see over 70 works of art from 20 of Bryan’s books (all displayed at kid-height) and stick around for storytelling.

5/6-7
Meet the Holidays: Cinco de Mayo
Where: Children’s Museum of Atlanta
When: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($14.95; free for babies under 1 year)
What: Watch traditional Mexican dances, create your own homemade instruments, and hear a Cinco de Mayo story in this weekend celebration of Mexican culture.

5/6-10/29
The Curious Garden
Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden
When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($21.95 for adults, $15.95 for kids ages 3 to 15, free for kids 2 and under)
What: Every spring the Atlanta Botanical Garden decks itself out with a special art exhibition, and this year the event will coincide with the opening of the Skyline Garden, which offers breathtaking city views. Throughout the garden, find 11 site-specific installations by Adam Schwerner, an artist who designs gardens for Disneyland, and one of the highlights is a grove of candy-colored trees that look as though they were lifted straight out of Fantasia.

5/7
May Day Festival
Where: Serenbe
When: Noon to 4 p.m.
Cost: $5 per person or $20 per family
What: Watch a may pole dance performed by Serenbe residents’ children, hear live music, watch strolling performers, and more at this annual Pinterest-perfect spring festival.

5/7
Kidz Bop Kids
Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
When: 5 p.m.
Cost: $20 to $45
What: Kids love ’em, parents (let’s be honest) kinda love ’em too. Bring your dancing shoes to this family-friendly concert featuring enthusiastic kid covers of all your favorite Top 40 jams.

5/12
Decatur Lantern Parade
Where: Downtown Decatur
When: 9 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: The Decatur Arts Festival kicks off with a glowing procession of homemade paper lanterns. The parade starts at the Color Wheel Studio on East Howard Avenue, and then meanders all the way to the Decatur Square, accompanied by music from the Black Sheep Ensemble.

5/13
Cinderella
Where: The Atlanta Opera Center
When: 11 a.m.
Cost: $5
What: Gioachino Rossini’s operatic take on Cinderella, which he called La Cenerentola, is a frothy comedy that highlights the importance of Cinderella’s courage and kindness over the magic of fairy godmothers. Introduce your kids to the dramatic genre of opera in this special 1-hour version designed for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

5/14
Mother’s Day Paddle
Where: Chattahoochee Nature Center
When: 1 p.m.
Cost: $30 ($25 for members). Advance registration required.
What: Beat the heat this Mother’s Day by piling into a canoe and paddling to Riverside Park. For a little extra (cool) fun, the folks at CNC will distribute water squirters. Ages 6 and up.

5/16-21
Finding Neverland
Where: Fox Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. (Tuesday through Thursday), 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. (Saturday only), 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Sunday only)
Cost: $30 to $125
What: Treat your Captain Hook and Tinkerbell fans to this touring Broadway musical, about the life of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie.

5/19, 5/21
Aladdin
Where: Infinite Energy Center
When: 7:30 p.m. (Friday), 3 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $16.60 to $22
What: Northeast Atlanta Ballet stages this fairy-tale ballet based on the Middle Eastern folk tale.

5/20
Kirkwood Spring Fling
Where: Bessie Branham Park
When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cost: Free (Tour of Homes tickets are $20 for attendees over age 12)
What: The popular neighborhood fest includes all the usual highlights: a home tour, 5K, barbecue cook-off, artists market, food trucks, live music, and (of course) a kids area.

5/20
Fire in the Fourth
Where: Old Fourth Ward
When: 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: One hundred years ago, an enormous fire nearly destroyed much of Atlanta, and the Old Fourth Ward was particularly devastated. Celebrate the neighborhood’s rebirth—and recent resurgence—at this annual festival, featuring fire sculptures, circus performers, live music, a kids area, and an interactive installation about the history of Boulevard.

5/20
Uncle Sam Wants You! World War I and the American Poster
Where: Atlanta History Center
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Monday through Saturday), noon to 5:30 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($16.50 for adults, $13 for students, $11 for kids ages 4 to 12, free for kids 3 and under)
What: Be among the first to see the History Center’s new exhibition, timed to the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into WWI. Back then, most Americans were reluctant to get involved in the war, so to sway public opinion the government commissioned a series of propaganda posters from renowned artists. This exhibition provides a rare glimpse at some of the graphic artworks, and a great opportunity for kids to learn about this chapter of American history.

5/21
Atlanta Dream vs. Chicago Sky
Where: McCamish Pavilion
When: 3 p.m.
Cost: $18 to $58
What: It’s pretty hard not to have fun at a WNBA game. Cheaper tickets mean you can get closer to the action than at an NBA matchup, leaving extra cash for hot dogs and popcorn. Come cheer on the Dream in their season opener at McCamish Pavilion: the team’s new home base.

5/21
Mommy & Me Princess Tea
Where: Buckhead Theatre
When: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $45 (pre-order) or $50 (at the door)
What: Does your child spend his or her days dreaming of all things princess? Pack their tiaras for this 5th annual event, during which Disney royalty (from Belle to Moana to Elsa) will be on hand for a musical stage show and photo session. Proceeds benefit Girl Talk, a peer mentoring program for girls.

5/27
Kids Arts Festival
Where: Decatur Recreation Center
When: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: Mostly free (a few activities require a small donation)
What: Part of the Decatur Arts Festival, this event includes a stroller, bike, and trike parade (with a prize given for the best decorated wheels); juggling; balloons; live music; clowns; inflatables; and a gaming truck.

Daniel Arsham’s art shows how looks can be deceiving

Daniel Arsham
Last call to see three installations from of-the-moment art star Daniel Arsham

Photograph by Alex Martinez

Appearances can be deceiving in artist Daniel Arsham’s playful, surrealist works. Solid surfaces warp and ooze, human figures seem to be hidden behind walls, and cameras and boom boxes are made to resemble crumbling artifacts. Inside this purple cave, the walls are lined not with rocks but sports equipment: basketballs, tennis balls, footballs, soccer balls. Look closer, and you’ll see something else: Instead of rubber or leather, the balls are made of calcified amethyst crystal, pockmarked with sparkly pitted edges. The sculpture is one of three installations by Arsham on display at the High Museum of Art through May 21. All are part of an ongoing series in which the artist casts modern-day objects as ancient relics. “It’s as if we’re viewing them on a future archaeological site,” he says. “I’ve always tried to make works that kind of floated in time.”

This article originally appeared in our May 2017 issue.

Georgia’s own Sutton Foster performs with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra this weekend

Sutton Foster
Sutton Foster, a Broadway star and Statesboro native, will perform with the ASO. atlantasymphony.org

Photograph by Matt Harrington

Forty-two-year-old Sutton Foster has starred in the canceled cult favorite Bunheads, performed in 11 Broadway shows, and earned two Tony Awards. Yet she remains so indefatigably fresh faced that her latest TV show, Younger, about a middle-aged mom passing as a 26-year-old, feels downright plausible. On April 21 and 22, the Georgia-born actress brings her big voice and screwball charm to Symphony Hall, where she’ll perform some of her favorite Broadway songs backed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

This article originally appeared in our April 2017 issue.

36 of the best events for Atlanta families in April

Through 4/1
Two Boys Kissing 
Where: Druid Hill Presbyterian Church
When: 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. (Saturday only)
Cost: $12.50 to $30
What: The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus performs a new work based on the critically-acclaimed YA book of the same name, which follows the interlocking stories of gay teenagers.

Through 4/2
White Woman in Progress 
Where: 7 Stages Theatre
When: 8 p.m. (Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday), 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $22.50 for adults, $15 for students
What: After Atlanta actress Tara Ochs played the role of civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo in the film Selman, she was inspired to create this one-woman show that tackles issues of privilege, race, and social justice. Teens may find inspiration in message, which stresses the power of the individual to spur change.

Through 4/2
International Cherry Blossom Festival 
Where: Macon, Georgia
When: Various
Cost: Various
What: Did you know that one of the world’s largest cherry blossom festivals is in…..Macon, Georgia, whose streets are lined with more than 300,000 of the pink-blooming trees? Make the trek, and you’ll find concerts, amusement rides, puppet shows, a butterfly encounter, an open-air market, pink pancake breakfasts, and more. The 35th annual (free) cherry blossom parade kicks off at 4 p.m. on March 26.

Through 4/9
Dinosaur! 
Where: Alliance Theatre
When: 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. (Tuesday through Saturday); 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for kids ages 6 to 17; free for kids 5 and under
What: Developed in collaboration with Fernbank Museum of Natural History, this world premiere production gently introduces kids to the giants of the prehistoric world.

Through 4/9
Cinderella and Fella
Where: Alliance Theatre
When: Various
Cost: $32 for adults, $18 for kids
What: Janece Shaffer is known for writing plays that feature strong female characters, and this world-premiere musical is no exception. Expect a spunky take on the classic fairy tale, in which Cinderella is a high-tops wearing gal ready to join her new best friend (aka the prince) in fun and adventure.

Through 4/16
Grease
Where: Serenbe Playhouse
When: 8 p.m. (Wednesday through Sunday)
Cost: $30 to $35
What: Introduce your tweens and teens to the original high school musical. The always-inventive Serenbe will evoke a vintage drive-in theater—complete with VIP hot rod—in this open-air staging.

Through 5/7
Wild Weather
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday through Saturday); noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: Have you ever wondered about the forces that create severe weather events like tornadoes or hurricanes? In this interactive exhibition, you can whip up your own storm and learn how scientists are learning how to better predict extreme weather.

4/1
Spring Fling
Where: Skyline Park at Ponce City Market
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $10, free for kids under 3 (games and putt-putt require tickets to play)
What: Kick off the season at PCM’s rooftop carnival. In addition to the usual putt-putt, games, Heege Tower and giant slide, Skyline Park will host face painting, balloon artists, bubble machines, and a live DJ.

4/1-2
18th Century Colonial Market Faire
Where: Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Georgia
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Saturday), 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $5, free for kids under 12 (park admission is an additional $5)
What: Each year, the Fort Yargo Historical Society hosts this event to teach kids about frontier life in 1700s Georgia. There will be demonstrations from craftsmen and women, frontier camps, a trading post, 18th century music, and children’s activities.

4/1-1/21/18
Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan
Where: High Museum of Art
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Tuesday through Thursday, Saturday); 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Friday); 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($14.50 ages 6 and up; free for kids 5 and under)
What: The High continues its series of picture-book exhibitions with this show highlighting the work of 93-year-old Ashley Bryan. Taken together, his books—many of which draw on the black oral tradition—are a timeless celebration of African American experiences. Visitors can see over 70 works of art from 20 of Bryan’s books (all displayed at kid-height) and stick around for storytelling.

4/2
Back to Your Roots Farm Fair
Where: Chattahoochee Nature Center
When: Noon
Cost: Free with admission ($10 for adults, $7 for students ages 13 to 18, $6 for kids ages 3 to 12, free for kids 2 and under)
What: Cozy up to nature in advance of Earth Day. Get up close with farm animals, explore a working vegetable garden, and go home with some native plants of your own. Plus: face painting and outdoor games.

4/4-5/28
Pete the Cat
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: Various
Cost: $20.50 ($10.25 for members), free for kids under 2
What: This world-premiere show based on the children’s book series will feature everyone’s favorite blue cat, who skateboards, surfs, and (of course), sings.

Easter event
4/7
Acworth Egg Hunt
Where: Acworth Sports Complex
When: 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Watch as the Easter Bunny arrives by parachute, then switch on your flashlights for this evening hunt. In addition to 50,000 eggs, there will be face painting, balloon animals, and inflatables.

4/7
Pajama Concert
Where: Carlos Museum
When: 7:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: It’s pajama party time at Emory’s Carlos Museum, as the Vega Quartet performs musical stories. Cozy up and listen with a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows.

4/7-9
Atlanta Dogwood Festival
Where: Piedmont Park
When: Noon to 11 p.m. (Friday), 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Saturday), 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free to attend; wristbands are $12 in advance and $15 at the door for unlimited rides (see below)
What: This arts and music festival also includes a kids village packed with carnival rides and inflatables. Show up on the 7th for Family Friday, when you can purchase a wristband for unlimited rides, and catch a special African dance workshop. Stick around for opening night fireworks!

4/8
Sheep to Shawl
Where: Atlanta History Center
When: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($16.50 for adults, $13 for students, $10 for kids ages 4 to 12, free for kids 3 and under)
What: Learn how wool becomes cloth with sheep shearing, wool dyeing, spinning, and weaving demonstrations.

Easter event
4/8
Easter Eggstravaganza!
Where: The Rock Ranch
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free (Rides are $3 plus tax)
What: The Truett Cathy–founded farm opens its doors for free to celebrate Easter. Take pics with the Big Bunny and scour the grounds for more than 40,000 eggs (there are three age-specific hunts throughout the afternoon). Note: There will also be a telling of the Biblical story of Easter. Afterwards, take a whirl on the carnival rides, including a locomotive train, carousel, and inflatable jumping pillow.

Easter event
4/8
Spring EGG-stravaganza
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: There will be baby animals for petting, giant bubbles for popping, paper baskets for coloring, and eggs for finding. Afterwards, burn off your candy high with a spring hike in Fernbank Forest.

4/8-9
Meet the Holidays: Passover
Where: Children’s Museum of Atlanta
When: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($14.95; free for babies under 1 year)
What: Learn about this eight-day Jewish spring festival with a reading of Tomie dePaola’s My First Passover plus singing and crafts (where else can you make your own Red Sea in a bottle?).

4/9
Free Family Festival
Where: Woodruff Arts Center
When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free; prior registration required
What: Among the many activities on deck this Sunday afternoon: Performances of the Alliance Theatre’s Cinderella and Fella and Dinosaur! (see descriptions above), a docent-led family tour of the High Museum, a dance performance by Moving in the Spirit, a ukulele workshop, and a family dance party.

Easter event
4/10
Magic Monday: Egg Hunt on the Farm
Where: Atlanta History Center
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cost: $6.50 for adults, $5.50 for kids
What: Comb the historic Smith Family Farm for colorful eggs and participate in Easter-themed games like the Peep Toss at this event for toddlers and preschoolers.

4/11
Becky Albertalli
Where: Little Shop of Stories
When: 7 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: The award-winning local YA author (her 2015 coming-of-age novel about a gay teen, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, is now being made into a movie) stops by the Decatur bookstore to launch her newest book, The Upside of Unrequited.

Easter event
4/14
Easter Egg Hunt at Smith Plantation
Where: Smith Plantation in Roswell
When: 10 a.m.
Cost: $5
What: BYO basket and spend the morning filling it with candy-filled eggs. The Easter Bunny will also be available for photo ops.

4/14-16
Braves vs. Padres
Where: SunTrust Park
When: 7:35 p.m. (Friday), 7:10 p.m. (Saturday), 1:35 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Various
What: It’s opening weekend for the Braves in their new home: SunTrust Park. Opening day attendees will get commemorative tickets, while on the 16th kids can line up to run around the bases. And yes, there will be fireworks.

Easter event
4/15
Taste of Forsyth
Where: Cumming Fairgrounds
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: This annual foodie event includes a free Easter egg hunt with more than 30,000 of the plastic suckers. The hunts are staggered by age group: ages 3 and under fill their baskets at 11:30, 4- to 7-year-olds at 1:00, and 8- to 10-year-olds at 2:30. There will also be live music and a kids play area.

Easter event
4/15
Northeast Cobb Community Egg Drop
Where: Sprayberry High School
When: 10 a.m.
Cost: Free ($7 per child for unlimited rides)
What: It’s the Big Kahuna of metro Atlanta egg hunts: 90,000 eggs and pieces of candy, dropped from a helicopter on to Sprayberry’s athletic field. The mad rush begins at 11:30 a.m. with the toddler egg hunt (there are two more hunts for older children, and the helicopter takes another pass to drop more treats before each one). Kids can also enjoy inflatable rides, face painting, and a comedy circus act.

Easter event
4/15
Eggstravaganza Easter Egg Hunt
Where:
Callanwolde
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cost: $4 in advance, $8 at the door
What: Meet the Easter bunny and search for his candy-filled eggs—then hit the kids dance floor, build a LEGO creation, or get your face painted. There are three egg hunts for kids of various ages: newborns and toddlers start searching at 11:15, preschoolers at 11:30, and elementary schoolers at 11:45.

4/15-7/15
Ribbit the Exhibit
Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville
When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Tuesday through Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($8 for adults; $5 for ages 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: The Gainesville branch of the ABG hosts an exhibition of 23 large copper frog sculptures from North Carolina metal artist Andy Cobb.

4/18-23
Matilda
Where: Fox Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. (Tuesday through Thursday), 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. (Saturday only), 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Sunday only)
Cost: $33.50 to $128.50
What: Based on the book by Roald Dahl, this Tony-winning musical tells the story of a precocious little girl with beastly parents who befriends her kindergarten teacher, Miss Honey.

4/20-23
Disney On Ice Presents “Worlds of Enchantment
Where: Infinite Energy Center
When: 7:30 p.m. (Thursday and Friday), 10:40 a.m. (Friday only), 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
Cost: $18 to $98
What: Disney fans will go ga-ga for ice-skating theatrics featuring characters like Lightning McQueen, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, Anna and Elsa, and Princess Ariel.

4/22
Atlanta Steeplechase
Where: Kingston Downs
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (no admittance after 2 p.m.)
Cost: $32 for general admission (includes parking); free for kids under 12
What: Pull out your big brims for this annual spring festival, featuring all things horsey (racing, Budweiser Clydesdales, pony rides), but also too-cute Jack Russell Terrier races, bagpipers, skydiving, and—you guessed it—a fancy hat parade.

4/22-23
Atlanta Arab Festival
Where: Alif Institute
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Saturday), noon to 6 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $5; free for kids under 12
What: Immerse yourself in the cuisine and culture of the Middle East at this annual event. Browse the offerings at the Arab food court, shop in a bustling “souk,” and enjoy live music, dance, and poetry performances. There will also be plenty of standard kid fare like carnival games, face-painting, and bouncy houses.

4/23
Atlanta Streets Alive
Where: Ralph David Abernathy Blvd./Georgia Avenue
When: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: One of the biggest Streets Alive events of the year stretches through seven neighborhoods, from Westview to Grant Park. Show up with your skates, strollers, or scooters for a car-free afternoon.

4/23
Musical Animals
Where: Carlos Museum
When: 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Lois Reitzes—the voice of WABE—narrates two classic children’s stories: Ferdinand the Bull and Peter and the Wolf, with piano accompaniment by Elena Cholakova and William Ransom.

4/29
National Independent Bookstore Day
Where: Little Shop of Stories
When: All day
Cost: Free
What: Celebrate the indie spirit with a day’s worth of events: make your own Little Golden Book, meet YA authors Laura Silverman (Girl Out of Water) and Ashley Poston (Geekerella), and party like Timothy Failure.

4/29-30
Inman Park Festival
Where: Throughout Inman Park
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: Free (except for the Tour of Homes, which requires tickets)
What: The beautiful Victorian neighborhood hosts a seriously quirky festival, with bands playing across three stages, dance performances in the Trolley Barn, an arts and crafts market, and a showstopping Saturday afternoon parade. A self-guided tour offers a glimpse inside some of those historic homes.

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