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Atlanta’s “Super Bowl of Swimming” brings Olympians and cancer advocates to Lake Lanier this weekend

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Swim Across America Atlanta Open Water Swim
This year’s Atlanta Open Swim will be held on September 22.

Photograph courtesy of Swim Across America—Atlanta

Swim Across America started out as a small organization to raise awareness for cancer research. Today, it’s spread across the country, with chapters in several U.S. cities. Here in Atlanta, it’s signature fundraiser is an Olympic-swimmer-studded event that inspires and impacts its beneficiaries as well as participants.

The Open Water Swim, held this year on September 22 at Lake Lanier, attracts the largest number of participants and raises the most funds for the Aflac Center & Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. (Swim Across America events donate money back to hospitals and research cities in the areas that they are held so that participants can directly see the impact.) While the first open swim in 2013 drew about 200 people, the event now draws nearly 1,000 to Lake Lanier and has sold out for the past few years.

“People refer to [Atlanta’s Open Water Swim] as the ‘Super Bowl of Swimming,'” says event director Nancy Tao. “We attract the largest number of Olympians.”

One of them, gold medalist Steve Lundquist, was instrumental in starting the Atlanta SAA chapter. He helped organize the first Open Water Swim at Lake Spivey, where it was held for three years before moving to Lake Lanier. Lindquist has been part of SAA events since the national nonprofit was founded in 1987, only three years after his record-breaking appearance at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Other Olympic names who are often involved in Atlanta SAA events: 1996 Olympian and Atlanta resident Peter Wright; five-time gold medalist and University of Georgia student Missy Franklin; four-time silver medalist and former UGA swimmer, Kara Lynn Joyce, who will swim at this year’s event for the first time; and 17-year-old Paralympian and Dacula native McClain Hermes, who will also swim at this year’s event.

Swim Across America Atlanta Open Water Swim
Missy Franklin with swimmers at a SAA event.

Photograph courtesy of Swim Across America—Atlanta

The Olympians often play the role of “angel swimmers” during the event, helping any stragglers reach the finish line.

“We’re not there to compete as much as to help out the competitors,” explains Wright. “[The participants] have different skill levels, and some might even be novice swimmers. So we wear a different colored cap and help or encourage those that are at the back of the field, who are maybe struggling a little bit, and make sure everyone’s safe and having a good time.”

Swim Across America Atlanta Open Water SwimThere are four distances at the swim meet: The half-mile, the mile, two-mile relay, and 5K. And since last year, the Duck Splash, a shorter, fun activity for those who want to participate in the fundraiser but aren’t up for a longer race, takes place before the other events.

Each participant is committed to a fundraising minimum of $400—$200 for swimmers under 18—but event director Nancy Tao said that most teams, as well as individuals, exceed the cap. Swimmers that reach $1000 are upgraded to WaveMaker status, which includes gifts and access to a special photo booth, and according to Tao, bragging privileges that include a highly coveted WaveMaker temporary tattoo. Teams that raise more than $10,000 have access to the VIP Team Zone along with perks like team meet-up tents, refreshments, and t-shirts. This year Tao expects at least 10 teams to reach that status.

Atlanta has one of the largest fundraising sums among other SAA chapters nationwide, with more than $570,000 already collected for this year’s swim.

This year’s top fundraiser is the late Grace Bunke, an osteosarcoma patient and avid advocate and participant in SAA activities until she died in March just one day shy of her 15th birthday. Bunke—who had her left leg amputated below the knee due to the cancer and underwent a unique surgery that replaced her knee with her ankle joint—was a freshman at Walton High School in Marietta, where she was on the swim team and also part of the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team. Her goal was to be the top fundraiser for this year’s event, a goal her family and friends were able to help achieve by donating and swimming as part of her team. An award in her name will also be given at the event.

One person on Bunke’s team is 12-year-old Kyle Klerk, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2016 and quickly became involved with SAA. He serves as an ambassador for the Atlanta chapter, spreading the word about the nonprofit and collecting donations.

“I’m an ambassador for a lot of groups, but Swim Across America is by far one of my favorites,” he says. He and his family raise funds for SAA through Facebook posts and garage sales. For his birthday this year, Kyle asked people to donate to SAA and to Grace’s team instead of giving him presents.

Swim Across America Atlanta Open Water Swim
Grace Bunke and Kyle Klerk

Photograph courtesy of Dee Klerk

“We know that Swim Across America was extremely important to Grace because swimming was something she could do despite her cancer, and even when it came back and it was really bad, she still swam,” Kyle’s mother, Dee, says. “I know the kids really admired her.”

The Atlanta SAA chapter has raised over $1.5 million for the Aflac Center at CHOA and $75 million nationwide.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with [Swim Across America] itself and how it started off from a really small group and spread across the country,” Wright says. “I think it’s amazing that the chapters in each city donate locally, and I think that Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is one of the greatest hospitals in the world. So the fact that [our chapter] gives back locally [to them] is a big plus.”

Art on the Atlanta BeltLine brings a new festival to Southwest Atlanta

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AMFM Festival Westside Trail Atlanta BeltLineArt on the Atlanta BeltLine, the program responsible for not only the art and sculpture along the trails but also events such as the annual Eastside Trail Lantern Parade and the Old Fourth Ward Fall Festival, is launching something new this summer: a festival co-hosted by the National Black Arts Festival’s Next Gen Artist program, ARTlanta Gallery, and artistic space the Bakery.

From August 8-11, the Art.Movement.Film.Music Summer Fest, A.M.F.M. for short, will come alive along the Westside Trail in Oakland City, with visual art, live music, food trucks, panelists, affordable art shows, and more.

All of the programming is free, and the event lineup varies by day and is scattered across different stages and venues near Allene Avenue. Expect a daily chalk festival, film screenings, an indie market, as well as performances and workshops for artists. On Wednesday through Friday, the festival will offer lunchtime fitness classes such as heavy metal yoga and hip-hop athletic workshops from TOMAfit. Each day will end with an 21+ BeltLine After Dark concert.

“Ninety percent of everything we do is family-friendly, but we have huge contingency of adults who use the BeltLine and who are into the creative stuff we do, so we wanted to be able to cater to them,” says Miranda Kyle, the arts and culture program manager for the BeltLine, of the concert series.

But the festival isn’t short on youth programming, especially with its partnership with the National Black Arts Festival’s Next Gen Artist program. Started by the cultural nonprofit last year, Next Gen creates apprenticeship, scholarship, and learning opportunities for high school juniors and seniors who are interested in film, fashion, and visual arts.

“The BeltLine was very excited about having more youth engagement with Art on the BeltLine,” says Vikki Morrow, CEO and president of NBAF. “[The programming at A.M.F.M.] will be a combination of students showing short documentaries, displaying visual artwork and holding a mini fashion show.” Morrow says this allows the students to further connect with and be inspired by adult artists, noting that A.M.F.M. gives the students “a forum that creates a huge audience for their work to be seen.”

Tyree Smith, the founder of ARTlanta, based the gallery around the concept of tactical urbanism, a movement that revitalizes low economic enclaves by hosting art shows, renovating abandoned buildings, and bridging the gap between the developers and the community. Both he and Kyle stressed the festival’s desire to help local artists, so there will be panel discussions meant to help up-and-comers learn how to present their artwork to the community.

“We’re curating two panel discussions on investing in local art and how to properly present your art to BeltLine and to MARTA for proposals,” he says.

Smith is excited by the festival’s Hundo Show, which will sell $100 pieces created by local artists, allowing for greater investment in Atlanta talent. The show will take place in shipping container with a DJ spinning tunes on top of it, Smith says.

An Atlanta company made official socks for Shark Week’s 30th Anniversary

Shark Week Sock FancyTracy Morgan’s 30 Rock character once wisely declared: “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.” Now, thanks to some colorful, nautical socks from Atlanta-based Sock Fancy, you can.

2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Shark Week, the Discovery channel’s annual week of shark-themed programming both educational (a program about invasive tiger sharks) and sensational (Naked and Afraid of Sharks). To celebrate three decades of biting summer fun, Discovery has partnered with several different companies to cross-promote this year’s shows, which kick off July 22. Southwest Airlines has Shark Week-branded planes, Tinder will host five shark profiles, Lyft is giving away the chance to win a shark diving trip to its riders, and Atlanta-based sock company Sock Fancy will host the channel’s first sock collaboration.

Shark Week Sock FancyLaunched in 2013 by thenroommates Stefan Lewinger and Futhum Tewolde, Sock Fancy is a monthly sock subscription service that sends random pairs of fanciful socks—think bright geometric patterns or pairs adorned with pink flamingos or tacos—to its members.

“We like to keep variety really high. You’re not going to get a “February sock” and a “January sock;” everybody is going to get something different,” Lewinger, CEO and co-founder, says. The company creates between 50 and 100 original designs each year.

Shark Week Sock FancyThis is the first major brand collaboration for Sock Fancy, but the company has created its own Shark Weekinspired socks for several years. The Shark Week collection is also the first time Sock Fancy has delved outside its random sock subscription model by offering customers the opportunity to pick their choice of designs.

“We wanted a really good partner to launch [the new model] with, so this our first big launch,” Lewinger says. “This is something that our subscribers can definitely expect more of.” He says that new collaborations will be launched “pretty soon” and some might feature other local Atlanta brands.

The Shark Week socks, which can be purchased individually for $15 per pair or in a $75 six-pack box, feature designs such as shark fins, shark teeth, a Jaws-esque great white, and Shark Week’s new official mascot, Phin.

“[Phin] looks like Bullet Bill from Super Mario World,” Lewinger describes, “We’re the only ones so far doing anything Phin-related, so that’s kind of funky.”

Shark Week Sock Fancy
The Phin sock

Photograph courtesy of Sock Fancy

In the five years since it was founded, Sock Fancy has doubled its growth every year, Lewinger says, with the company sending out 15,000 to 20,000 pairs of socks every month. During holidays they send upward of 50,000 pairs of socks to subscribers around the world.

Shark Week, meanwhile, is pulling out the big guns for its 30th anniversary, featuring celebrities and athletes such as Olympian Lindsey Vonn, WWE fighter Ronda Rousey, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers, and TV food personality Guy Fieri, and famed basketball player Shaquille O’Neal.

The 2018 programming includes reality shows such as Bear vs. Shark, where extreme adventurer Bear Grylls takes on shark-themed challenges, as well as TV crossovers such as Shark Tank Meets Shark Week. Viewers can also expect shows exploring the more mythical side of the ocean dwellers, such as Alien Sharks: Greatest Hits and Megalodon: Fact vs. Fiction.

Shark Week Sock Fancy

5 Atlanta events you won’t want to miss: July 4-10

 FOOD-ology Day
Interactive Cooking Table
Explore an interactive cooking table, where visitors “make” famous dishes eaten around the world.

Photograph ©AMNHD. Finnin

Food-ology Day
When:
July 7, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Cost: $18-20 museum admission, free for members
Details: As part of FOOD: Our Global Kitchen exhibit, a three-month-long showcase of utensils, dishes, and food preparation from around the world and throughout history—the museum is hosting a monthly tasting event. This weekend’s lineup includes educational activities from Slow Food Atlanta and Global Growers, tastings from Mission Foods and Beech-Nut Baby Foods, as well as King of Pops for sale.

Martin Luther on Trial
When:
July 6-7
Where: Ferst Center for Arts at Georgia Tech
Cost: $39-89
Details: This humorous courtroom drama from the Fellowship for the Performing Arts finds the titular historical figure on trial for his soul in the afterlife, with Satan as the prosecutor and Adolf Hitler, Sigmund Freud, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Pope Francis among the witnesses.

Foreigner and Whitesnake concert
When: July 7, 7 p.m.
Where: Verizon Amphitheatre
Cost: $30+
Details: Coming off their 40th anniversary, Foreigner is touring nationwide with Whitesnake and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening to bring 80’s rock classics to 97.1 The River’s birthday bash in Atlanta. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or you just want to belt out “I Want To Know What Love Is,” the Juke Box Heroes Tour summer concert is a must-see.

Night Nation Run
When:
July 7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Georgia State Stadium
Cost: $29.99-60
Details: This national event is half 5k road race, half EDM festival. In fact, the run is almost secondary to the live music, selfie stations, lanterns, laser show, even a concert stage encircled in bubbles. Your registration comes with glow necklace and admission to the event’s afterparty.

Rosé All Day
When:
July 8, 12:30–6:30 p.m.
Where: Urban Tree Cidery
Cost: Pay as you order
Details: Urban Tree Cidery is not only serving up glasses of its rosĂ© cider, but they’re mixing it into cocktails such as the “BrosĂ©,” created with Moonrise Rye Whiskey, and “GlowsĂ©,” using gin from Old Fourth Distillery, and even “F’RosĂ©,” a frozen version of the cider with vodka. Hungry? Grab bites from the Southern Peach Pastries food truck.

But where are all of Atlanta’s Fourth of July events? Don’t worry, we’ve got 16 of them for you.

5 Atlanta events you won’t want to miss: June 13-19

Performance in the Park with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Performance in the Park with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Photograph by Jeff Roffman

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Piedmont Park
Where: Oak Hill at Piedmont Park
When: June 14, 7:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
Details: What’s better than listening to Tchaikovsky? Hearing it live while surrounded by friends and family on a cool summer night. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will take over Piedmont Park, performing not only Tchaikovsky classics such as the “Fantasy Overture” from Romeo and Juliet, but other classical favorites such as “Symphonic Dances” from West Side Story and the “Overture” to Candide. Attendees are welcomed to bring food and nonalcoholic beverages, with wines, beers, and cocktails being sold on site.

Juneteenth Atlanta Parade & Music Festival
Where: Mozley Park
When: June 15-17
Cost: Free
Details: A celebratory and educational event to commemorate the end of slavery, the Atlanta Juneteeth weekend will be packed with live music, mental and physical health activities, and vendors offering food, skin care products, healing beads, and more. Don’t miss Saturday’s Juneteenth Parade, which will go from Morris Brown College to Mozley Park along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in honor of the late civil rights leader, as 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

Atlanta Pride Run and Walk

Atlanta Pride Run and Walk 2018
Where:
Piedmont Park
When: June 16, 8 a.m.
Cost: $35-40
Details: Organized by Front Runners Atlanta, this race welcomes people (and pets!) for its 28th year. This year’s run and walk will benefit Positive Impact Health Centers, which provides HIV care and testing as well as treatment for substance abuse.

Art exhibition by Paul Stanley of Kiss
Where: Wentworth Gallery at Phipps Plaza
When: June 16, 5-8 p.m.
Cost: Free
Details: We’re not making this up. The lead singer and rhythm guitarist from legendary rock band Kiss will be featuring his original artwork at Wentworth Gallery. When he’s not making art through music, Stanley has been known to make art through his painting—contributing to Kiss’s album covers and even creating their logo. Stanley will present his paintings—including self-portraits, Kiss band members portraits, and other abstract art—during a short time frame on Saturday, so be sure to RSVP at phipps@wentworthgallery.com or 404-233-0903.

Atlanta Summer Beer Fest
Where: Historic Fourth Ward Park
When: June 16, 4-8 p.m.
Cost: $45, or $55 the day of the event
Details: You can expect just about every week of summer in Atlanta to have a beer-related event—and this week isn’t any different. Grab a group of legal-age friends to attend this music-filled day showcasing more than 175 types of beer and wine. Be sure to catch Coast Guard, a local classic pop cover band, while munching on crepes and cake pops.

Modern Style 2018 designers
Clockwise, from back left: James Wheeler, Sandra Pawlinger, Jenna Buck Gross, Julie Dewald, Patrick Sharp, Kate Hayes, Niki Papadopoulos, Mark Williams, Justin Q. Williams, Julie Witzel, Beth Kooby, Meghan Sharp, Ann Wisniewski, Michel Boyd

Photograph by Alex Martinez

Bonus Event: Atlanta Magazine’s HOME‘s Modern Showhouses
Where: Atlanta BeltLine’s East Side Trail and Historic Fourth Ward Park
When: Through June 24
Cost: $25
Details: Latest trends. Newest Ideas. If you’re looking to see what’s new in home design, furniture, and architecture, stop by Atlanta Magazine’s HOME‘s two showhouses, each with rooms assembled by city’s top designers. A portion of proceeds from this event will benefit the Junior League of Atlanta.

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