How to throw the ultimate BeltLine Lantern Parade party

Celebrating Atlanta’s annual lantern parade is a festive way to usher in the fall season.
Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade
Photograph by Raftermen

Six years ago, when the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail was still unpaved, New Orleans native Chantelle Rytter dreamed up a lantern parade as a way to inaugurate an annual display of visual and performing art along the budding corridor. Now every year, on the Saturday after Labor Day, Rytter and her Krewe of Grateful Gluttons lead tens of thousands of revelers past more than a hundred works of art—all part of the city’s largest temporary public art exhibition, Art on the Atlanta BeltLine.

Wilma Sothern, vice president of marketing for Central Atlanta Progress, and her husband, Scott Almendarez, were early cheerleaders for the BeltLine—moving into a spacious townhome overlooking the multiuse trail. When their first September came, a longtime friend, art consultant Marianne Lambert, offered to bring over some Chick-fil-A sandwiches so they could have cocktails and watch the spectacle from the balcony. PR maven Liz Lapidus soon got in on the fun too.

Over the years, the menu has gotten more sophisticated, and that simple celebration has grown into an annual tradition. Friends gather in the late afternoon, enjoying nibbles like bags of sweet and salty popcorn. Wilma provides art supplies and blank lanterns for guests to decorate.

The signature cocktail is an apple Old Fashioned served in lantern-shaped glasses with flowing ribbon stirrers. A self-serve buffet catered by Wilma’s friends at Bantam + Biddy brings a casual vibe to the mix. The Southern menu includes pimento cheese dip with vegetables, watermelon salad, and chicken salad sandwiches. The Texas cake is always a hit. The magical, mystical light parade takes more than an hour to pass, but guests linger on to welcome the fall season.

The menu
Sothern Apple
Old Fashioned
Pimento Cheese
Watermelon Salad
Chicken Salad
Texas Cake

Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade
Photograph by Raftermen

Sothern Apple Old Fashioned
Makes 16 (6-ounce) cocktails
• 1 gallon hot water
• 16 individual-sized Earl Grey tea bags, such as Tea Stash
• ¼ cup honey
• 2 Meyer lemons, sliced
• 2 apples, sliced (use a firm variety, like a Gala or Red Delicious)
• 1 cup Apple Cardamom Shrub by 18.21 Bitters (available at 18.21 Bitters at Ponce City Market)
• 3 tablespoons Tart Cherry and Saffron Bitters by 18.21 Bitters
• 2 cups (16 ounces) bourbon whiskey
In a large pitcher or dispenser, combine water, tea bags, honey, lemons, and apples. Let steep until cool, about an hour. Remove tea bags. Stir in shrub, bitters, and bourbon. Refrigerate until cold. Serve over ice.

Photograph by Raftermen
Photograph by Raftermen

Pimento Cheese*
Serves 4
• 1 pound grated mild cheddar
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 2 roasted red peppers, peeled and diced
• 1 tablespoon Peppadew Sweet Piquant Pepper and Cilantro Seasoning
• 1 dash Louisiana hot sauce
Stir together all ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Chill until ready to serve.

Watermelon salad is a cool treat on a warm early-fall evening..
Watermelon salad is a cool treat on a warm early-fall evening..

Photograph by Raftermen

Watermelon Salad*
Serves 4
• 2 cups watermelon, shaped into balls with melon baller
• 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
• ½ teaspoon fresh lime juice
• ½ teaspoon finely chopped mint leaves
• 1 pinch salt
• 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
Toss together watermelon, olive oil, lime juice, mint, and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.

Photograph by Raftermen
Photograph by Raftermen

Chicken Salad*
Serves 4
• 1 pound chicken breasts, cooked and diced
• ¾ cup mayonnaise
• 2 slices bacon, cooked and finely minced
• 1 shallot, finely diced
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
• 1 teaspoon white truffle oil
• ½ teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill until ready to serve.

Chocolate Texas cake is always a favorite
Chocolate Texas cake is always a favorite

Photograph by Raftermen

Texas Cake*
• 16 ounces unsalted butter
• ²⁄³ cup cocoa powder
• 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 cups water
• 4 cups all-purpose flour
• 4 cups sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350˚.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; whisk in cocoa. Add oil and water; bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Combine cocoa mixture, flour mixture, and egg mixture. Pour into a greased and floured half sheet pan. Bake at 350˚ until center is firm, about 12 minutes.

• 1 cup unsalted butter
• ½ cup cocoa
• ²⁄³ cup whole milk
• 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 6 cups powdered sugar
• 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in cocoa and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; add milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir until very smooth. Pour frosting over the top of cake and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

*Recipes courtesy of Bantam + Biddy

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.