Decatur Arts Festival and Garden Tour
Each Memorial Day weekend we have the annual Arts Festival and Garden Tour. It is a really big and wonderful event . It features arts of all kinds around the city, a children's festival, concerts and a tour of gardens in the city. The square fills with booths for arts and crafts and the last report I saw said over 40,000 attended. The photo is of the poster for the 2004 Festival.
For more info you can go to the Decatur website: http://www.decatur-ga.com/
A Beach in Decatur
Each year in mid summer when it is usually sweltering there is a Beach Party in downtown Decatur. The main thoroughfare is closed and loads of sand are dumped on it. "Moon walk" jumping tents are erected, food (and beer) vendors set up and a bandstand is built for live music. It is really a fun event for the whole family, but has gotten almost too popular. In 2005 there was hardly a square foot of sand where there were no kids and the plaza was very crowded.
Dr. & Mrs. Chet Morse moved to this 7 acre site in 1946. The built their home and began clearing the wild vines which had covered it, but left most of the pine trees and began adding hemlocks, beech and magnolias as well as azaleas and rhododendron, hydrangeas, hostas and Japanese maples. Dr. Morse went to where they were building a dam just north of Atlanta and got plants that would have later been covered by the water. He also began his "camilla patch" and today it contains over 50 varieties, many of which he grafted himself. Last year the Morses and their children decided that, rather than the children inheriting and probably having to sell the property for development, they would give it to Decatur as permanent green space. For more info see my travelogue, "Woodlands."
THE WOODLANDS IS NOT YET OPEN TO THE PUBLIC AS IT IS STILL THE MORSE'S HOME. THERE ARE OCCASIONS WHEN IT IS OPEN SUCH AS GARDEN TOURS, ETC.
Welcome to Decatur, Georgia
"Beefing up the plaza"
Decatur is located adjacent to Atlanta and about 7 miles east of the center of the city. This helps make it, in my opinion, a great place to live. It is in the midst of a metropolitan area but retains some characteristics and feeling of a small town.
Decatur covers 4 square miles and includes numerous pleasant residential neighborhoods with streets lined by very large and beautiful trees and diverse architecture including a lot of 1920's craftsman style. It also has a racially diverse population of about 18,000 and its own city government, and more importantly, its own school system which consistently rates as one of the best in the state if not the southeast US. The population tends to be above average in education, includes a lot of Baby Boomers as well as a significant number of African Americans, older people, couples with young children and a significant gay and lesbian group. It is older than Atlanta. It is home to Agnes Scott College, a small school (about 1000 students) for women as well as Columbia (Presbyterian) Theological Seminary.
The homey character of the town and the liberal political bent of its citizens led one Atlanta journalist to describe it as a combination of Berkley and Mayberry. It is not an inaacurate characterization.
In case you are interested, the town is named for Stephen Decatur, a Commodore in the War of 1812 and in Algiers during the Tripolitan conflict. He is the source of the often misused line: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country right of wrong." He was killed in a duel in 1820.
The photo is of a statue dedicated to Elizabeth Wilson, Mayor Emerita of Decatur. Elizabeth was the first female and first African-American mayor of the city. Without giving away her age, she told me recently she has lived in Decatur for 57 years so has seen a lot of struggle and change. She is one of the most gracious people you could meet and remains very active in community affairs.
For a really good website on all aspects of Decatur, go to
When we moved to Decatur (over 30 years ago), it had one decent restaurant. Now it has become something of a destination for the whole metro area for dining. We have about 90 eating places now, some mediocre and pedestrian (McDonald's, Starbucks) but some really great places.
Recently the plaza beside the square has been redone. The photo is of the redone plaza where the above statue is located. At first I was unsure of the art deco look, but the more I see it, the better I like it.
This charming old courthouse anchors the square. It is no longer used as a courthouse, but the marble lined courtroom makes a great place for rececptions, etc. During the 1996 Olympic Games, it featured a lovely wooden Irish Bar compliments of Guiness as it was the social home to the Irish athletes and their retinue who were hosted by Decatur which then proclaimed itself Hometown to the World (we are not lacking in civic pride). The obelisk in the photo is a reminder of the past. It is a monument to the honor of the Confederate Soldiers who died in the Civil War. This square was actually the site of one of the skirmishes in the Battle of Atlanta. The building now houses the DeKalb (thats our county) Historical Society and a small museum.
I obviously love my hometown as it is in essence a small town in the midst of a large city. We can take advantage of the cultural and entertainment offerings of Atlanta and yet live in a town where there are distinctive and close neighborhoods and where we know most of the City and school officials on a first name basis.
Winnona Park Cookout
"Anyone for a burger?"
Our neighborhood is Winnona Park and my son (in the photo) and his family live just around the corner from us. In the photo is the WP school playground which is just across the street from their house. His wife Leah spends a good bit of time there with their two children and meets a lot of neighborhood kids and parents. They thought a community kickball game would be a great idea so sent word to neighbors that they would cook burgers and hotdogs for the event and everyone was invited and asked to bring a "side dish." About 50 people showed up and everyone had a great time.
All the kids had a great time at the kickball game - there were about 25 per team and the little ones were allowed to star. Here are Sally (on the right) and two of her best friends Amelia and Christin after the game planning to all 3 spend the night at Amelia's house. Even though Christin towers above the other two, they are all 8 years old. Sally and Christin particularly are close friends and one of the neat things about it is the two families' history. Christin's mother and our daughter (Sally's aunt) were good friends in highschool. Christin's grandmother was the mayor of Decatur and one of the finest people you could know. Its neat to continue old friendships on to the third generation.
""Bring a side dish""
My son's wife, Leah, was the organizer of the event and as I mentioned above just asked those who were coming to "bring a side dish." One of Sally's friends who lives just outside the neighborhood heard about the party and told Sally that she was not invited. "That's okay. Just come and bring a side dish," Sally told her. On the day of the party Jeff saw the little girl coming down the street lugging a gallon jar of pickles and couldn't figure it out. Then it dawned on him that she was "bringing her side dish!" The pickles were a big hit.