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Sophie Goodman

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24 Atlanta festivals to experience in April

Atlanta’s famous festival culture goes into overdrive during April. Dozens of fests celebrate everything from art and food to music and movies. Check the map at the bottom to find the closest festival to you.

Outdoors
March 11-April 18
International Cherry Blossom Festival
Feed your need for speed and race in the Soap Box Derby. Or you can get a little dirty at the Macon mud run.
Details

April 4
Back to Your Roots Farm Fair
Want to play with something more exotic than a dog? Come visit the farm animals at the Chattahoochee Nature Center.
Details

A poodle at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival
A poodle at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival

Photograph by Liz Noftle

April 10-12
Atlanta Dogwood Festival
Adults can get their groove on with Lefty Williams Band, Cigar Store Indians, and more, while kids can get their play on with face painting, inflatables, and rock climbing. Watch man’s best friend compete during the Disc Dog Tournament. This is serious stuff; some of the furry athletes are international and travel long distances for the chance to take a bite (proverbially) out of the competition.
Details

April 11
UGA International Street Festival
Want to travel the world? Look no further. UGA international students sponsor booths in downtown Athens displaying different cultures.
Details

April 11-12
Perry Dogwood Festival
Not to be confused with the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, this event features food, music, arts and crafts. Don’t forget the Hot Air Balloon Rally which starts at 5 p.m.
Details

April 18-June 7
Renaissance Festival
Eat a 1.5-pound turkey leg and transport yourself back to Medieval times in Fairburn. (We know, the turkey is a New World food and this festival purports to celebrate the European Middle Ages, but don’t let historical details spoil your fun. Nor that the Renaissance wasn’t by definition Medieval . . . ) This festival runs all summer and showcases interactive art and entertainment, featuring more than 150 artists. Visit one of 10 stages for music, comedy, juggling, and more.
Details

April 24-26
Inman Park Festival
Show off your classical and contemporary skills during the dance festival or listen to music by Euclid Avenue Tent, Delta Park, and Euclid & Waverly. The Tour of Homes offers a unique chance to explore the architecture of this neighborhood, Atlanta’s first “suburb.”
Details 

Indoors
April 23-26
Italian Movie Festival
Watch eight Italian films at the Plaza Theater, including “Zoran, Il Mio Nipote Scemo” and “La Mafia Uccide solo d’Estate.” Each film is only $10 at the Plaza box office.
Details

April 25
Peachtree Sports Festival
Experience an entire day of sports—including archery, football, gymnastics, and soccer—with the Youth Sports Clinic taught by professional instructors at the Cobb Galleria.
Details 

Art
April 11
Art on the Chattahoochee
Join in the festivities on the riverbank, including live demonstrations, performing arts, musical performances, and a kids zone.
Details

April 11-12
Acworth Art Festival
Another art festival. This one features more than 100 artists from around the country. Amenities include a kids zone and food.
Details

April 11-12
Festival on Ponce
Admission is free at this fest in Olmsted Linear Park, featuring more than 125 displays of fine arts and crafts.
Details 

April 18
Spring Art Fest
Participate in the Tastiest Pound Cake contest by eating and voting for your favorite in McDonough Square. There’s art, too.
Details

April 18-19
Kennesaw/Big Shanty Festival
This family-friendly festival will showcase the Rowdy Rooster Puppet Show. Let’s not forget about the Master of the Chainsaw, who will transform a log into a work of art.
Details

April 18-19
Sandy Springs Artsapalooza
This art festival corrals more than 150 artisans within the streets of Sandy Springs. Interactive art stations, food, and music are included.
Details

April 25
East Point Spring Fling
Formerly known as the Taste of East Point, this year the festival has a bigger focus on art and music. Explore work by local artists while listening to live music from Black Lion, Pjazz, Mudcat, and more.
Details

April 25-26
Spring Jonquil Festival
Need a good book for a great deal? This festival hosts the book sale of Friends of the Smyrna Library at the Village Green in downtown Smyrna.
Details 

Music
April 11
WRFG Peachblossom Bluegrass Festival
The annual fundraiser for 89.3 FM WRFG Atlanta will feature Playing On the Planet, Cedar Hill, Curtis Jones & Primal roots, and other bands at the Clarkston Community Center.
Details

April 17-19
Bear on the Square Mountain Festival
For anyone tired of listening to Top 40, try this bluegrass festival in Dahlonega. The lineup features 2012 and 2013 Telluride Band Contest winners along with the Skillet Lickers, Threadbare Skivvies, and Ugly Cousin.
Details 

Food
April 18-19
Atlanta Arab Festival
For a change of pace, this festival focuses on all things Arabian. Enjoy cuisine, music, and art. When you get tired, visit the largest Arabian tent in Atlanta for a cup of Arabic coffee.
Details

April 25
Spring Chicken Festival
See the barbecue showdown featuring professionals and backyard cooks in Gainesville, Ga. The winner gets $700 and, more importantly, the Chicken City Cup.
Details

April 26
Taste of Marietta
Learn how to cook like a pro by watching culinary demonstrations. Once you’re good and hungry, you can buy “tastes” from 75 booths.
Details 

Drink
April 11
Hogs and Hops
Barbecue and Beer—two of the best “B” words—will be featured at the Masquerade Music Park. Fill up your stomach while treating your ears to the Geeks Band, DJ QTip, and more.
Details

April 17-19
Sweetwater 420 Fest
Run in the 5K, drink a beer afterward, and dance at the Not-So-Silent Disco at Centennial Olympic Park. Snoop Dogg, 311, Cage the Elephant, and Primus are among the headliners.
Details

♦ – Outdoors
♦ – Indoors
♦ – Art
♦ – Music
♦ – Food
♦ – Drink

Commentary: Growing up Jewish in the South

Tomorrow, the majority of Georgians will celebrate Good Friday—the holiest of Christian holidays and the start of Easter weekend. In 2015, that night will also mark the start of Passover, one of the holiest holidays in Judaism, but one that most people tend to ignore. For me, this time of year always serves as one of the starkest reminders of why I’m different—a Jew in the South.

Growing up, while other kids talked about the Easter Bunny and a Sunday spent gorging on chocolate eggs, I prepared for Passover Seder and dreaded eating matzo, a bland cracker with all the flavor of cardboard—for seven days. For my peers, Easter meant fancy clothes and celebration; for me it meant making haroset, an apple and nut mixture, to remember the bricks that the Jewish people constructed as slaves, eating bitter herbs with salt water to symbolize the tears the Jewish people shed, and hearing the story of wandering in the wilderness during the Exodus. And of course, Easter ham is best not spoken of—we keep Kosher, which means no shellfish, pork, or mixing meat and dairy. Most people are astounded that I’ve never had a cheeseburger. However, keeping Kosher isn’t a hardship–it’s my way of life.

As a Jewish Southerner, I am used to being misunderstood; we have different customs from the society that surrounds us. And Jews represent only 1 percent of the South’s population. I’m not ashamed of my religion—quite the opposite in fact. I am proud that I was raised in a Jewish household and that I had a Bat Mitzvah (a coming of age celebration). But in the South, sometimes pride isn’t enough.

This first hit home for me in my freshman year of high school, which was full of awkward situations to say the least. Joanne [her name, like all others in this essay, has been changed], a supposed friend of mine, told me that I was going to Hell. We were sitting around the lunch table, in the freshmen section of the cafeteria, when she loudly proclaimed this. When I turned to her puzzled and asked why, she simply said it was because I was Jewish, as if that made all the sense in the world. I felt tears welling up, so I fled the cafeteria and cried in the bathroom. That was my first experience being uncomfortable and confused about my faith. At 14, I thought I was on top of the world, but at that point I felt like I wasn’t even worthy to be dirt. I didn’t know how to react to what Joanne said to me, and even worse was the fact that nobody at the table disagreed with her. I couldn’t believe my luck in friends.

When I went home and told my parents about what happened, they answered in very different ways. My dad told me there wasn’t a Hell in the Jewish religion and advised me not to listen to Joanne. My mom told me not to worry about it and gave me some advice on what to say the next day, something along the lines of, “Joanne, you really hurt my feelings when you said I was going to Hell because I’m Jewish.” With that advice in my arsenal, I was ready to face the next day. But when I used the line on Joanne, she cried—in public, not in the bathroom like I had done. Everyone looked at me as if I was the devil incarnate because I made a girl cry. Joanne never spoke to me again, nor did most of the girls at the lunch table that day.

Over the next few years, I realized that it wasn’t only other people questioning the value of my faith—I did so, too. For college, I moved to Milledgeville, the quintessential small Southern town, to attend Georgia College and State University. I only looked into colleges that had my major, so it didn’t occur to me to also look for a school with a Jewish presence, both on campus and off. According to Hillel International, 4 percent of students on the GCSU campus are Jewish. This may seem like a big number for such a small school in a region with such a small Jewish population, but Oglethorpe University, smaller still, has a Jewish population of 30 percent, and Emory University has a population of 27 percent.

Nonetheless, I became great friends with a group of Christians who were very vigilant in their efforts to teach me about their faith. I am naturally curious and found it interesting—until many of them tried to convert me.

One night I was reading a textbook in bed, when Sarah and Margaret knocked on my dorm door. Sarah asked me if I wanted to go to the women’s Bible study. I said no for two reasons. One, and most importantly, I had homework (I was very studious). The second reason is that this situation would make me extremely uncomfortable. A saying that sums up my feelings and makes me giggle like a hormonal teenage boy is an anonymous posting from the website dearblankpleaseblank.com: “Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it, but please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around. And please don’t try to shove it down my child’s throat.” But I didn’t giggle back then. When I declined, Margaret snidely said, “You should really come. You need all the help you can get.” Implying that the reason behind this was my religion. I politely said no again. While the need to “save” me seemed logical to Margaret, it just baffled me. I didn’t quite understand how Margaret could stand there and be both ignorant and rude.

Although I felt like an outcast in my own group of friends, I stuck with them because making friends in college is difficult, especially when you are socially awkward to begin with. I was with my group of vigilant Christian friends and surprisingly, another Jewish girl, Julie. We went to dinner at Zaxby’s, which in our tiny town qualified as quite the hot spot. We had just sat down with our meals and Julie and I began digging into our food. As I was taking a second bite into my Nibblerz, Margaret piped up, saying, “Let’s pray.” The group bowed their heads; I chewed my food. The prayer was something along the lines of, “Thank you Jesus, Lord, for the food that you have provided. Jesus you are the most amazing influence in my life. Amen.” At this point I continued to eat. I felt inclined to ask if I could say the HaMotzi, the prayer said before eating; I somehow swallowed down the words, along with some chicken. Not even as a Jew, but as a considerate human, I would never deliberately put anyone in an unpleasant situation. Praying to Jesus, your savior, with others who believe this is one thing. Doing so with others who don’t believe this makes for an awkward dinner. Jews believe that Jesus was real; however we do not believe that he was the Messiah. I don’t think Margaret did this on purpose, but always thinking before you do something that would potentially make others uncomfortable is a good policy.

College is a time for experimentation, and some of mine included questioning my religion. I am an extremely logical person, therefore, I like to see and touch things in order to understand them. It was difficult not being able to see and touch G-d (I was taught not to write out the word G-d, instead writing it with a dash instead of an “o.” The explanation behind this is that you don’t want to throw G-d’s name away). It was as if He wasn’t really real to me.

I found my way back to my beliefs while working on my senior capstone project. My last semester, I decided to delve into the religious diversity in my teensy college town. My capstone was a semester long project during which I visited and reported on four different religious groups, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the First Presbyterian Church, the First Baptist Church, and the Jewish community (which in Milledgeville was comprised of a mere 30 members). This project not only affected my thinking on Judaism and G-d, but also my view on the world. Now, I feel closer to G-d and my belief in Him has solidified. Through learning about these different faiths, I realized that the people who had criticized me or made hateful remarks were in the minority. Each religious group I visited displayed the same curiosity about Judaism that I had about their religion. Not only was I learning about different religions, but also that no two people are alike, and to not judge a group of people based on encounters with one or two representatives of the group.

What I have concluded is that—no matter where you live—being Jewish is a feat in and of itself. With all of the rules, holidays, and food, we’re reminded of our differences every day, not just during this season when religious holidays converge. I was raised to not only respect others’ cultures, but also to respect my own. I will respectfully decline your chocolate bunnies—and I won’t make you eat any matzo.

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