Five hundred people showed up for the first Art on the Atlanta BeltLine lantern parade in 2010. Carrying homemade lights, they tromped up the dirt path between the dumpsters and hills of kudzu that, not long ago, dotted the Eastside Trail. Four years later, 23,000 participants illuminated the paved strip that runs from Old Fourth Ward to Midtown. And at the head of each parade was the founder, Chantelle Rytter.
Rytter, who moved here from New Orleans in 2001, says she quickly realized that Atlanta lacked something her old city had in abundance: art that encourages participation. Inspired by lantern parades in Asia and Vancouver, Rytter applied for a grant to create an evening event where locals could literally “hold up a light for the BeltLine.”
Before last year’s parade, more than 500 people came for lantern-making classes held in a bungalow off Glen Iris Drive. And the afterglow of the BeltLine parade is spreading. Decatur and Grant Park asked Rytter to start lantern parades: 1,200 marchers lit up Decatur Square last May, and this year will mark Grant Park’s fourth Halloween Lantern Parade. “When we lay down joyful shared memories in a place, it changes how we feel about it—especially in places where nothing has ever happened before,” she says.
This article originally appeared in our September 2015 issue.