By Carlen Ruth Hultgren
The East Atlanta Strut’s 25th Anniversary event in September was by all accounts one of the best festivals ever. With the return of the parade, the addition of the Kids Club area at Brownwood Park, and all the old favorites, there was something for everyone. Neighborhood hubs were brought closer to the business district, and more businesses participated than in several years.
It was the anticipation of fun, including some of our favorite competitions, which brought people out on a beautiful Saturday, and no one went home disappointed This year’s Strut Your Bake, a Rum recipe contest, started in honor of a long-time neighbor who was known for her Rum Cake recipe, was competitive, and required a run-off round. And while every entry was tasty, the judges finally settled on the three best of the field: Kelly Collins first place, Daniel Robels second place, and Jacqueline Collins third place.
Leaf Blower Madness is a kooky, but competitive obstacle course using leaf blowers, a tissue box covered in duct tape, and the Midway bocce courts. The crowd was loud and enthusiastic, and the contenders focused. In the end, Justin Stoks was the winner and Eric Johnson, a close runner-up.
The return of the Strut parade was probably the most anticipated event this year. Having been on hold for the past three years, this one came through the Village with a bang. There were participants that have been in the parade almost every year and newbies as well. There were pink Barbies and Kens, (of course!), marching bands, (what would a parade be without them?), golf carts, classic cars, kids, acrobats, pets, and anything apropos of East Atlanta, which leaves the field wide open. At the end of the day, someone had to win the prizes – Grand Winner: Krewe of Optical Delusions, Anything Goes!: Nancy Hennessey, Band: McNair High School Band, Classic/Art Car or Truck: 1950 Oldsmobile Futurematic 88 (Brandon Byrd), Kids: Burgess Peterson Academy, Street Strut: Haas Avenue.
There was food and music, vendors and artists, and all things Strut, 2.3 version. All this was put on by a dedicated group of volunteers that have already begun planning next year. Save the date, September 21, 2024.
The Strut will give back at least $40,000 to the community, including $10,000 to EACA (East Atlanta Community Association) for the Intown Cares initiative. This pilot program is a coordinated effort between EACA, EABA, the City of Atlanta, and community volunteers. A big thanks goes to Councilmembers Bakhtiari and Westmoreland who helped secure City funding for this project. In addition to the $10,000, the Strut was able to give an additional $13,000 in funding via the Strut’s community fundraising campaign. That’s $23,000 raised from the generous friends and neighbors in East Atlanta community. (see article “East Atlanta Helps the Unhoused Get Back on Their Feet” for more info)
But there is more. All volunteers earned a $50 per shift donation to nonprofits selected by the volunteers. Blessing Bags of Warmth for the Homeless was granted $1,000 from Strut Your Bake proceeds. And the Strut is not done giving yet. There are 10 $1,000 grants, and two $5,000 grants yet to be allocated. The grant application link is posted on the Strut website (https://eastatlantastrut.com/neighborhood-good-grant-application); applications close December 1. If you are a local organization, or know of a deserving one, that gives back to East Atlanta, please apply.
And this answers the question, “What’s a Strut?” Yes, the best street festival around, but the reason the Strut exists, is to give back to the neighborhood, to join with other Village organizations, businesses, the City of Atlanta, and members of the community, to make East Atlanta a better place to live.