A sea of spectacular costumes, feathers the color of the rainbow, and thousands of masqueraders gyrating to the sweet sounds of steel drums are headed to Stonecrest on May 26 for Atlanta DeKalb Carnival.
Organizers – Atlanta Carnival Band Leaders Parade Council and Atlanta Carnival Production – say more than 20,000 paraders, musicians, and spectators are expected to revel in the festivities which kicks off at noon on Mall Parkway near Walmart with the Carnival Parade.
The event – which is relocating from Decatur, where it has been held annually on Covington Highway since 2015 – is being held in Stonecrest for the first time. In the three years since organizers brought Carnival to DeKalb County, attendance has ballooned from 6,000 the first year to 15,000 last year.
Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary is happy that his city is hosting the event.
“I love Carnival,” said Lary, who will be one of the carnival’s grand marshals and ride in a convertible during the five-hour parade. “I am happy it is coming this way.”
Masqueraders resplendent in brightly colored feathers, chiffon and tiny bikinis will dance along the two-mile parade route and rendezvous at the Festival Village, in the parking lot in front of the former Kohl’s building now owned by Atlanta Sports City.
Cilia McTush, a Carnival organizer and sponsorship coordinator, says this year’s event is going to be bigger and better than ever before.
“I’m extremely excited and a little nervous,” she said May 16. “The new route is going to be really nice, the bands are really pleased with it, and I just hope everything goes well on the day.”
The weather forecast for May 26 is partly cloudy with a high of 86 – perfect weather for masqueraders.
More than 4,000 musicians, band members, dancers and other entertainers will compete in the parade for prizes and bragging rights. Thousands of spectators, many of whom will travel from Canada, New York and Florida, will line the route to dance along and cheer for their favorite bands.
Competing bands, ranging in size from 200 to 900 people, will cross the Festival Village stage in front of a panel of judges that will award points based on costumes and liveliness.
Mas bands include Atlanta Junkanoo Group, Calabash Alley Masqueraders, Inferno Mas Band, Panamanics Mas Band, and Islandaz Mas.
The band to beat is Madd Colors from Trinidad – one of the largest to compete in DeKalb’s carnival, and a huge favorite.
This year’s carnival will also include a majorette team from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
After the parade, a lineup of local and international calypso, reggae and other artists will perform in the Festival Village until 10 p.m. Masqueraders and spectators plucked from the crowd will compete for cash prizes in a first-time-ever limbo contest.
Musical acts are traveling from Haiti, Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Guyana, Brazil, England, Canada, and from across the United States for performances in the Festival Village.
Trinidadian soca/pop music group Kes the Band will headline the show. The band, which is known for its unique blend of soulful vocals, calypso-inspired melodies, rock music riffs and island beats with hints of reggae, is making its Atlanta DeKalb Carnival debut.
The group, made up of brothers Kees Dieffenthaller (lead vocals) and Hans Dieffenthaller (drums); and Jon Dieffenthaller (guitar), along with longtime friend Riad Boochoon (bass guitar), is known for its electric and high-energy performances.
It is wildly popular in Trinidad and throughout the Caribbean, and has also performed in Berlin, Germany.
Inside the Festival Village, which requires a cover charge to get in, more than 30 food and arts and craft vendors will sell everything from island delicacies like bammy and fried fish, jerk pork, curry chicken, coconut rum cake, and mauby, to handmade clothing, jewelry, flags, souvenirs, and oils, creams and soaps.
Vendors are coming from the Caribbean islands as well as Florida, New York and Philadelphia to join locally based ones.
Despite the huge crowds attracted by the carnival, DeKalb Police has never made any arrests at the event.
McTush said the crime-free nature of the event has been a surprise to law enforcement.
“They can’t believe there are never any emergency calls whatsoever, and they can’t believe the sheer number of people we get,” McTush said. “Everybody’s just out having a good time and enjoying themselves.”
She says the Stonecrest community, businesses and officials are right behind the carnival, providing support and ample parking spaces, including in the former Target lot.
Accommodations around Stonecrest are almost already booked out for the Memorial Day weekend.
For more information, visit http://atlantacarnivalbc.net/.