BY JON WATERHOUSE / FOR THE AJC
We all know Memorial Day weekend means more than simply the starting block of summer and a smorgasbord for moviegoers. While some make plans for a three-day weekend diversion, others tap into the holiday’s true meaning. Whether you’re focusing on one or the other, or maybe a combo of both, our Memorial Day roll call storms your calendar with options.
Military Timeline at Atlanta History Center
Call it a living, breathing American military history lesson. The Atlanta History Center focuses an entire day on our country’s military legacy beginning with the Revolutionary War and spanning to contemporary conflicts. A roster of guest speakers explore topics ranging from postwar issues to historical accounts. Panels of veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars give firsthand anecdotes of what it was like to serve. Re-enactors paint a real-life picture of war with a WWII encampment, a Vietnam patrol simulation and more. Video presentations, exhibits and an array of military vehicles will be on hand. Kids experience hands-on history by making their own ration book, patriotic war posters and other crafts. Live music comes courtesy of the Freedom Belles, who put the boogie in “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and other WWII-era songs.
10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 23. $16.50; $13 seniors 65 and older, students 13 and older; $11 ages 4-12; free ages 3 and younger; free for members. Atlanta History Center, 130 W. Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta. 404-814-4000, atlantahistorycenter.com/programs/family-programs.
Memorial Day Ceremony
This annual salute in the Park at City Center brings together area veterans groups, including the Marine Corps League and American Legion, for a special remembrance service. The brass-laden Cobb New Horizons Band provides a patriotic playlist. Don’t be surprised if they blare into “America, the Beautiful” or “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Bagpipes will be played, doves will be released and special guests will speak. March over to the Woodstock War Memorial, a 10-ton polished granite tribute to Woodstock-based armed forces veterans, installed in 2009. That’s where participants will lay the commemorative wreath.
10 a.m. May 25. Free. The Park at City Center, 101 Arnold Mill Road, Woodstock. 770-517-6788, woodstockga.gov.
22nd Annual Dacula Memorial Day Parade
According to the organizers, this holiday procession continues to be the only one of its kind in metro Atlanta, and remains the biggest in the state and one of the largest in the country. They expect more than 10,000 onlookers watching more than 150 participating groups. You’ll find veterans organizations, marching bands, active and reserve military, antique cars, restored military vehicles and more winding the streets. Look to the sky for a C-130 aerial flyover, and give a wave to the parade’s grand marshal, Charles G. Mitchell, a U.S. Army veteran of both WWII and the Korean War. It steps off at Hebron Baptist Church and wraps at Dacula High School.
10 a.m. May 25. Free. Takes place along Dacula Road and Second Avenue, Dacula. daculamemorialday.com/parade2015.htm.
Roswell Remembers Memorial Day Ceremony
A massive fleet of locals typically gather for this yearly event. Special Memorial Day displays open and music begins at 10 a.m. The Atlanta Wind Symphony and the Chattahoochee Celtic Pipes and Drums provide a harmonious homage. The ceremony, which takes place at 11 a.m., includes radio personality Moby as emcee and speaker Christina Olds, the daughter of the late Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, who was a pilot and triple ace. Participants will place a wreath on the bronze Faces of War Memorial. Prepare the ears for a 21-gun salute. As the ceremony concludes at 12:30 p.m., a picnic and concert follow. Bring your own grub or buy some barbecue on-site while the Chuck Nation Band performs bluegrass-infused tunes.
10 a.m. May 25. Free. Roswell City Hall Complex, 38 Hill St., Roswell. 770-640-3253, roswellmemorialday.com.
Marietta National Cemetery
The 149-year-old cemetery serves as the final resting place for more than 18,000 veterans. For more than 65 years, it’s been the site of this Memorial Day ceremony. On the Saturday before the event, area Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies place flags on every grave. As guests arrive on Memorial Day for the ceremony, they’ll see flags donated by families of veterans lining the cemetery’s roads. The event, laced with patriotic music, a gun salute and more, features guest speaker Maj. Gen. Stayce D. Harris. Harris serves as commander, 22nd Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. The Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association receives this year’s organization honor.
Noon May 25. Free. Marietta National Cemetery, 500 Washington Ave. N.E., Marietta. nmdaga.org.
FUN AND FESTIVE
Decatur Arts Festival
It’s artistic overload on the Decatur Square as more than 160 creators, using everything from their hands to brushes to cameras, showcase their wares. Festival food and libations reign, as do the aural and performing arts. Acoustic acts have their own tent for strumming. A slew of other acts plug in at the Community Bandstand. This includes Ed Roland & the Sweet Tea Project headlining on Saturday and Grant Green Jr. Band wrapping things up on Sunday. Dance performances and classes display fancy footwork at the Decatur Recreation Center. Actors, jugglers, puppeteers, a magician and more entertain passers-by. There’s plenty to do, so check out the event website.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 23; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 24. Free. Decatur Square, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur. decaturartsfestival.com.
Georgia Renaissance Festival
The medieval flashback fest, typically taking place on weekends during its eight-week run, gives visitors a bonus opportunity on Memorial Day. It’s another chance to celebrate the Renaissance Fest’s 30th year of inviting guests to its prefab 16th-century village of Newcastle. The staff populates the grounds’ 32 acres with knights, wenches, princesses and the like, not to mention countless artisans. The latter finds more than 150 craftspeople crafting leather, blowing glass and engaging in a kingdom full of other disciplines. Get interactive by shooting an arrow or throwing an ax, or simply sit back and watch acrobats, musicians, live jousting and other entertainment. Deaf Awareness Day takes place on Saturday with sign language interpreters at select stages. Nourishment and libations abound, but no visit can be complete without gnawing on a 1 1/2-pound turkey leg.
10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Memorial Day. Through June 7. $22; $10 ages 6-12; $20 ages 60 and older; free ages 5 and younger. 6905 Virlyn B. Smith Road, Fairburn. garenfest.com.
Diana Ross at Chastain Park Amphitheatre
The 71-year-old supreme Supreme brings her career-spanning “In the Name of Love” tour outdoors. This lady sings the blues and channels Billie Holiday one moment and sashays back onto dance floor with “I’m Coming Out” the next. Supremes staples share set list space with other stops along the resume. Ross eases on down the big-screen road with a cut from the 1978 movie musical version of “The Wiz” and duets with backup singer Lamont Van Hook for the title track to 1981’s “Endless Love.” Ever the diva, Ross still has the pipes to “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and nostalgic heartstrings.
8 p.m. May 22. $46-$76 plus Ticketmaster fees. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive N.W., Atlanta. 1-800-653-8000, ticketmaster.com.
Memorial Day Weekend — Salute the Troops at Stone Mountain Park
The troops get props in the form of heavy artillery during Memorial Day weekend presentations of the complimentary Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision. An extra-long fireworks finale synced to music tips the drill sergeant hat to those who have served our country, both past and present. The Lasershow producers amp up this year’s show with enhanced fireworks and additional flame cannons sending blazing bursts nearly 100 feet high. However, some guests may want to hit the park before the sun goes down and check out other attractions, from the Summit Skyride to a 4-D flick. All active and retired military with valid ID receive a complimentary Adventure Pass, discounted tickets for immediate family, and 20 percent savings on food and merchandise.
The following are the hours for Memorial Day weekend: 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Lasershow: 9:30 p.m. May 23-25. $15 daily parking. Adventure Pass: $24.95-$29.95 with discounts available online. Stone Mountain Park, 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain. 770-498-5690, stonemountainpark.com.
Six Flags Over Georgia
Memorial Day weekend not only kicks off daily operations for the behemoth theme park, but also introduces a pair of fresh and shiny attractions. Once your bat boots hit the park’s Gotham City section, you’ll get a load of the seven-story Joker Chaos Coaster. Riders literally hang with the clown prince of crime — upside down and 72 feet in the air — after zipping back and forth along the inside of a loop track. The more family-friendly Harley Quinn Spinsanity promises an old school Tilt-A-Whirl premise with a slight taste of super strength. A Six Flags visit reacquaints guests with old faves such as Great American Scream Machine, Thunder River and Superman: Ultimate Flight. And Hurricane Harbor, Six Flags’ in-house water park, splashes back for its sophomore season.
10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. May 22; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. May 23-24; 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. May 25. Call or check website for remaining operating schedule and park hours. $63.99; $43.99 for those 48 inches and shorter; free ages 2 and younger. Discounts available on the park’s website. Six Flags Over Georgia, 275 Riverside Parkway, Austell. 770-948-9290, sixflags.com/overgeorgia.