By Howard Pousner
Every metro area city or major neighborhood puts on a festival, or a few, every year. But the Midtown Festival of the Arts, being announced officially today, can make a claim that separates it from the rest: It will shut down Peachtree Street.
Mayor Kasim Reed is expected to help spill the details of the Sept. 25-26 event, which will take place on Peachtree between 5th and 10th streets, at a morning news conference at Midtown’s Loews Atlanta Hotel. Peachtree has been closed to traffic for a sprinkling of permitted events in the past, such as First Night and Midtown Music Festival reveling, but organizers believe this is the first time it will happen for an arts festival.
“There are a number of reasons and ideas behind this [event], but Peachtree has always been the backbone,” festival president Leslie Johnson said. “We want people to walk up and down our street and see what we’ve got.”
Johnson wasn’t just referring to the festival, which will boast an artist’s market of about 100 booths, performing and literary arts, a kids zone, street performers, film showings, a road race, a beer garden and a culinary arts area that pulls from Midtown’s strong roster of restaurants. He was really emphasizing the increased retail and improved pedestrian friendliness of Midtown, as well as its residential growth.
“The festival area has almost 5,000 homes facing onto Peachtree, not to mention all the homes in the blocks around it,” Johnson said. “People tend to think of this area as a business district, when in fact it’s a residential district, and it’s Atlanta’s most urban and one of its most dense residential districts. So we deserve to have a festival.”
Organizers point out that all of Piedmont Park’s events, while technically in Midtown, are put on by outside interests.
The annual Peachtree Street festival is intended to help boost the neighborhood’s profile and build neighborly pride, with all proceeds designated for area improvements.
Support among businesses and residents was “virtually unanimous,” Johnson said, and a thick book of letters of endorsement was submitted to City Hall as part of the special event permit application.
Performers and artists will be announced in August.