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Mark Watkins


4 x 4 ways to celebrate the 4th

Four Classic Atlanta Celebrations

Peachtree Road Race
Prime spectator locations are the intersection of Roswell Road, W. Paces Ferry, and Peachtree or where Peachtree crosses Tenth. Details

Atlanta Braves vs. Marlins: Turner Field
It opens with Corey Smith singing the National Anthem and closes with pyrotechnics. And a whole lot happens in between. Not a bad deal for a single Braves ticket. Details

The Legendary 4th: Lenox Square
Join 200,000 others in the Southeast’s largest Independence Day celebration. (Allow plenty of travel time; it gets crowded.) Details

Fantastic Fourth Celebration: Stone Mountain Park
A laser show AND fireworks? Can’t get much more excessively American than that. Details

Four Big Parties

Whole Hog Pig Roast and Backyard Beer Olympics: Atkins Park Bar and Restaurant
Hang out on N. Highland Avenue and enjoy roasted-hog specials and the chance to compete at cornhole, darts, ladder toss, or ping pong for $500 in prizes. Details

Red, White, and Brew: Georgia Aquarium
Beer, barbecue, live music, and good views of Centennial Park’s fireworks show. The party is 21 and up, but there is a separate parking deck for families who just want see the show. Details

Red, White, and ‘Cue: Bone Lick BBQ
Sure, PBR giveaways will be great, whole-hog barbecue sounds delicious, and putting all that on a Westside rooftop makes this a solid party option. But the real reason you should go? Twinkie. Eating. Competition. Oh, yes. Details

Red, White, and Whiskey Blue: W Atlanta-Buckhead
Recline 125 feet above street level on the rooftop of the W and take in panoramic views of the city’s fireworks displays (and perhaps a few cocktails, too). Details

Four Pyrotechnical Spectacles

Star Spangled Beach Party: Callaway Gardens
Rather than deal with the crush of a crowd, why not take a long weekend away? You can relax on the beach, play some golf, and still catch a fireworks show. Details

Fireworks Extravaganza: Nash Farms
Peruse a car, motorcycle, truck, and, yes, tractor show during the day and see the fireworks roar over the site of some of Georgia’s largest Civil War battles. Details

Fabulous Fourth: Mall of Georgia
Come early for live music leading up to the show and stay late for a free screening of the 2012 movie Playing for Keeps. Details

Fourth of July: Lake Lanier
Retire lakeside for live music all day before watching the show sparkle on the surface of Lanier. Details

Four Charming Small-Town Celebrations (right here in the city)

Avondale Estates
Watch the early-morning parade (or just join in and march; almost everyone in town takes part). The evening firework display is at Lake Avondale. Details

Begin the evening by watching the open-invitation parade then find a spot on the courthouse lawn for the city of Decatur’s fireworks show, which starts around 9 p.m. Details

A morning parade is followed by arts, crafts, and carnival games on the Marietta Square and then evening fireworks. Details

Carnival games, food by Shane’s Rib Shack, and a fireworks display will fill Roswell High School grounds. Details

And one not-so-American rainy day option

James Bond at the Plaza Theatre
Sure, he’s the ultimate Brit, but Bond makes a fine rainy-day companion in Thunderball, the July 4 installment of the Plaza’s “50 Years of Bond” program. Details

Happy Chipper Jones day! Plus, a park reopens in his honor

This morning, media were out en masse to capture Chipper Jones cutting a big, red ribbon to mark the reopening of West Manor Park ball field. What was a little more surprising was the signed resolution from Atlanta City Council declaring June 27, 2013 “Larry Wayne ‘Chipper’ Jones, Jr. Day.” If you needed one, there’s an excuse to raise a glass tonight.

West Manor is the first of ten fields that will be “gifted” to Jones by the Atlanta Braves in the years to come, meaning they’re being renovated in his honor. No name changes or anything. The Braves are ponying up the cash for the commemoration initiative, and paired with the city for West Manor’s renovations. It’s probable that this will happen again in the future. Costs of the renovation were kept private.

It hasn’t been decided what ball field is up to be renovated next, but the hope is for one park to be completed each year.

And with Jones’ induction into the Braves Hall of Fame happening tomorrow, the star third baseman must be feeling pretty loved by Atlanta. Talking to cameras after the ceremony, Jones said he wasn’t missing baseball right now, but that down the road we might see him “back in a uniform, in some form or fashion.”

They’re baa-ack! Meet the kudzu-clearing sheep

On Friday morning, Trees Atlanta invited curious Atlantans to meet the kudzu-consuming sheep it hires to clear greenspaces each summer. The “Breakfast with the Sheep” event at Chastain Park Conservancy was equal parts family-fun (Crafts! Snacks courtesy of Costco Brookhaven!) and educational seminar (Instruction about the dangers of invasive species like English Ivy and kudzu!).

Trees Atlanta contracts sheep services from EWE-niversally Green, the company whose four-legged staff also grooms grass at the Atlanta airport. Using sheep is a simple yet effective way to clear overgrown areas without relying on harsh chemicals or extensive human labor.

If you missed out on this chance to meet the flock, don’t despair: The sheep will put in another public appearance at Tree Atlanta’s October 12 tree sale event.

Tweets of the Day: Paula Deen edition

The National Enquirer got the scoop, but since then everyone from the American Bar Association Journal to Gawker jumped on details revealed in a video deposition given by celeb chef Paula Deen in a harassment suit filed by a former employee. The Savannah-based, butter-basted cook’s reported admissions that, “of course,” she’s used the N-word in the past, and she once pondered hosting a plantation-themed wedding, understandably, set both legacy and social media aflame.


What’s Atlanta watching?

Everyone’s fretting about U.S. government surveillance of phone calls and Facebook, but what about spying by YouTube? The YouTube Trends blog includes an interactive map that shows the three most popular videos on any given day in 150 regions throughout the United States–among them Atlanta. We wondered just what this monitoring might reveal, so we asked YouTube to track Atlanta’s top picks for the past week. It all feels a bit random to us, so maybe you need to be an intelligence agent to find a pattern in the following:

Monday, June 3
Mean Girls revisited, Compton style.
Views: 1 million
Trending: three other regions

Tuesday, June 4
A kid drops his cymbal during the national anthem and doesn’t know what to do with his hands.
Views: 2.1 million
Trending: 83 other regions

Wednesday, June 5
A father and his toddler son cover a Beatles song together. So cute.
Views: 1.9 million
Trending: thirteen other regions

Thursday, June 6
Atlanta still couldn’t get enough of that dad-son Beatles sing-along.
Views: 2.8 million
Trending: thirteen other regions

Friday, June 7
Morehouse alum Samuel L. Jackson delivers a Breaking Bad monologue…from a living room?
Views: 933,000
Trending: fourteen other regions

Saturday, June 8
Brian Williams raps “Straight out of Compton” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Views: 75,000
Trending: eight other regions

Sunday, June 9
And, of course, a preview of last night’s Game of Thrones episode.
Views: 1.3 million
Trending: 28 other regions

A few other good ones from the top threes of last week: Sad Dog Diary, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s on-plane performance, and that adorable/controversial, depending on your viewpoint, Cheerios commercial.

Two homicides that haven’t made headlines

In the two weeks following the May 17 shooting of Saman Balkhanian as he walked from a Braves game, there has been substantial media attention paid to the crime spike in south Atlanta. This intensified after the Memorial Day Weekend murder of Patrick Cotrona in East Atlanta Village.

An interview with Balkhanian got big play this weekend in the AJC, while last Friday’s vigil in honor of Cotrona was the subject of multiple news reports (including two posts in this blog). Mayor Kasim Reed mentioned Cotrona’s death specifically when detailing a plan for increased police presence in Zones 5 and 6.

But in all this talk about victims of violent crime, the fatal shootings of two other men merited only perfunctory media mentions—even though they occurred in the same areas and within the same time frame.

According to police, twenty-seven year-old Henry Omar Reeves was shot and killed just before midnight on May 18. Police and EMS responded to a 911 call of shots fired and person down in East Atlanta Village, and found Reeves on Metropolitan Avenue, dead with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was killed the day after Balkhanian was shot and less than a mile from where Cotrona was killed seven days later.

Drexel L. Berry died Wednesday, May 29, after being shot multiple times on Cooper Street, according to police. Around 2:30 that afternoon, Berry ran to a house on Pryor Street after being shot in the leg, arm, and back. He was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, but died of his wounds. Berry, twenty-four, was shot less than a mile to the west of Turner Field, and less than two miles from where Balkhanian was shot. Berry’s shooting happened a few hours before a Braves home game against Toronto.

Considering the similarities in time and location of the other two murders and that of Cotrona, it seems one notable difference is that Berry and Reeves were black. As it has been frequently observed, media coverage favors white victims.

Scenes from the vigil for Patrick Cotrona

At least 100 people came out to show their support at the vigil held Friday for Patrick Cotrona. They gathered at the intersection of Flat Shoals and May avenues, not far from where Cotrona was shot and killed during an armed robbery.

Natalyn Archibong, an EAV resident who represents District 5 on Atlanta City Council, underscored mayor Kasim Reed’s promises to increase police presence in southeast Atlanta. In her rousing closing statements, Archibong warned “knuckleheads” to “stay out of here!”

Stephanie Ramage, the former reporter who now works at City Hall as Atlanta Citizens’ Advocate, told the crowd that non-working streetlights—which have been pointed to as a safety concern by neighborhood residents—should be fixed “within the week.”

Luminaries inscribed with messages to Cotrona and “EAV pride” were lit later in the evening.

A vigil, a $25K reward, and stepped-up APD presence in response to Patrick Cotrona’s fatal shooting

Spurred by the May 25 fatal shooting of Patrick Cotrona, residents of East Atlanta Village will gather for a vigil this evening at the corner of May and Flat Shoals avenues—close to where Cotrona was shot.

Cotrona, a video game engineer and Georgia Tech graduate, was killed as he walked to his East Atlanta home around 10:40 p.m. He and two of his friends were returning from a local pub when a man approached them with a gun.

According to police, the man demanded money from the three friends while holding them at gunpoint, but Cotrona was shot in the abdomen before he could hand over his wallet. Then, Marcus Peden, one of Cotrona’s friends, pepper sprayed the gunman and was shot in the leg as the man backed away. The shooter fled, leaving behind Cotrona’s wallet.

Peden and Cotrona were rushed to hospitals, but Cotrona was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at Atlanta Medical Center. The third friend was unharmed.

The vigil is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. and intended to honor Cotrona and other recent victims of violent crime in southeast Atlanta.

”It was important to us to bring the community together and get the attention of our city leaders to show that we stand together and we will not accept this in our community,” said Nathan Minor, an East Atlanta resident and vigil organizer. “We own this neighborhood, the criminals do not.”

Atlanta Police Chief Georgia Turner, told the AJC Wednesday that he believes Cotrona’s murder could be linked to at least four other incidents in the area, including the May 17 shooting of Saman Balkhanian as he walked home from a Braves game on Georgia Avenue. Turner also told the AJC that gang involvement is suspected.

In an email to sent to Reynoldstown residents, APD investigator John Egbert said that there is a “strong possibility” Cotrona’s murder is related to two armed robberies in Reynoldstown that occurred roughly ten minutes before Cotrona was shot.

Police released a surveillance video from the Balkhanian shooting that showed two male suspects fleeing the scene. And yesterday Mayor Kasim Reed’s office offered a $25,000 reward for any information leading to their arrests.

“One murder in our city is one too many,” Reed said in a statement. “I plan to use all the resources available to me and the Atlanta Police Department to bring the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice.”

As part of this promise, Reed outlined a six-point plan for how the APD will respond to violence in the area–most notably, a new police unit that will bring an additional sergeant and eight officers into Zone 6, which includes East Atlanta, Kirkwood, Grant Park, and Old Fourth Ward.

“The Atlanta Police Department takes these incidents very seriously and will continue to work aggressively to solve them,” Turner said in the statement.

The show of force has been met with open arms by residents of southeast Atlanta shaken from the three armed robberies, two homicides, and one shooting since May 17. The spike in violent crime has pulled the community and its leaders together.

“The people of East Atlanta Village are stubborn people; we’re not gonna run away. We’re going to stake out ground and do our best to move on,” said Natalyn Archibong, the Atlanta City Council member who represents District 5 which includes East Atlanta.

Scenes from the Silverbacks stadium

It’s been a regular thing for Atlanta’s other pro football team to sell out its 5,000-seat stadium this season. With tickets at $11 and fast-paced matches like last weekend’s victory over the San Antonio Scorpions, it’s easy to see why. If you’ve wanted to check a visit to the Atlanta Silverbacks Park off your Atlanta bucket list, here’s what to expect.

What’s Matt Ryan worth?

The AJC reports that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will join the NFL’s $100 million club when his contract is renewed in the next few days. Naturally, we wondered, what else could Arthur Blank pick up for that much cash?

1.  The 2013 Brave’s payroll
Covering the roster from Dan Uggla ($12 million) all the way to Evan Gattis ($490,000) for a total of $90 million, you’d still have enough left to give Gattis a nice multi-year six-figure contract.

2.  20,000 Chick-fil-A franchises
Chick-fil-A famously has one of the lowest franchise start-up costs in fast food. Chip in $5,000 cash and the company buys land, builds the store, and rents it back to you in exchange for a cut of the profits. 


3.  UGA’s entire athletics budget—from baseball to volleyball
After covering the $92 million fiscal 2013 budget, there’d be plenty to spare for the projects like baseball and softball scoreboard updates ($1 million) renovations of Foley Field ($1.3 mil) and Sanford Stadium gate repairs ($375,000). Heck, there’d even be enough left to give Mark Richt a serious bonus if the Dawgs actually win an SEC championship.

4.  The salaries of 2,856 firemen
Starting pay for a firefighter with the City of Atlanta: $35,000.

5.  The operating expenses of the Atlanta Humane Society ($6 million) — for 16 years
And just think, that’s 112 in dog years. (Pictured: Pepper, who’s available for adoption.)

6.  The Atlanta Streetcar—including over-runs
Some reports project the total cost could reach $100 million.

7.  One million $100 Matt Ryan jerseys
Which would be enough to wear a new one every day for the next 2,739 years.

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