- Photo by Becca Cook
SAVANNAH MIGHT NOT have a New Orleans Mardi Gras-level processional game, but that doesn’t mean we don’t come correct.
The exuberant krewe of Art Rise Savannah will stomp the street with style with its second Art March Parade & Festival this Saturday, July 8, bringing a colorful hoopla of costumes, crafts and celebration to Waters Avenue.
Starting from the shopping center on 37th Street and rocking a .8-mile loop from Live Oak to 30st Street back up Waters Ave. for a party in the parking lot, the parade is long enough make some joyful noise and short enough to endure on a late summer afternoon. The theme is “Wild on Waters,” so expect to see all manner of wet interpretations from ocean wildlife to summer fun, no motorized vehicles are allowed.
If the weather happens to shed a little rain on the Waters Ave. parade, well, that just fits right in to the motif.
You’ll know it’s about to go down when the drums of Samba Savannah commence; just follow the parasols and fish hats of the Baldwin Park Neighborhood Association if you get lost.
“This is DIY, human-powered, and small by design,” explains line-up coordinator Heather Whitman, a self-proclaimed parade enthusiast who helped facilitate Art Rise’s first parade in April and created the life-size Stella the Cow puppet.
A veteran of the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons who launched Atlanta’s artsy-crafty Beltline Lantern Parade that now draws up to 50,000 people, Whitman hopes Savannah’s creativity will be in full effect on Saturday.
“We want the element of art to shine,” she says, adding that her four-month old baby will incorporated into her costume.
“It’s super cheap to enter, so any business or group can get together and make something.”
Parade fees are $25 for businesses, $20 for non-profits, and free for anyone joining in just for art’s sake. While the deadline for entries was June 30, Whitman is willing to make last-minute exceptions. (Eager marchers, get in touch via the Art Rise Savannah website or Facebook page.)
The Waters Avenue Parade branches out of the Starland District, Art Rise Savannah’s usual neck of the woods, in keeping with the non-profit’s mission of extending community-fueled art opportunities all over the city. The revitalization of the Waters Ave. corridor has been the topic of plenty of discussion but little action over the last decade, and the neighborhood seemed an obvious next step for the vision.
“The organization itself is for more art opportunities in all of Savannah, not just the same places,” says Art Rise Savannah Board president Jerome Elder.
“What we’ve learned in the last few years from our success in Starland is that the community supports the arts, and we see value in reaching out to different parts of the community so they can have a voice, too. We want give people a sense of belonging and community because it is crucial to their resilience and prosperity.”
It also creates new webs of connection within neighborhoods. To drum up participation for Saturday’s event, Elder and other board members began by meandering down to chat with some of Waters Avenue’s established artists and business owners. DJ Prince spins it old school every Wednesday night at Fla’jae’s, and one meeting with the Art Rise folks led to an immediate brainstorm for sponsors and partnerships.
“This is the way we get to know each other, to learn the stories about this area and the people who live here,” says Prince, the owner and operator of Servin These Streets, a website and radio station that promotes local talent.
“It feeds into my mission of bringing new things and ideas to people, and this parade is right on the money.”
DJ Prince will serve as emcee for the parade after party, broadcasting a live stream (mixlr.com/servinthesestreetsradio) with a stellar line-up of entertainment, including performances from King Whoa, Jay Tune, and comedian Tommy Blake. He’s also invited the hoop stars of semi-pro basketball team the Savannah Cavaliers to put in a pavement-pounding appearance, and reps from Skate City Pooler will roll the streets.
“It’s so good for people to get together like this,” affirms the promoter.
“It’s what Savannah needs.”
Art Rise Savannah plans to host four parades a year in different neighborhoods. Next up on the route is the West Side’s Hopkins Corridor in October, followed by another procession from Mother Matilda Beasley Park in December.
Parade organizer Whitman hopes to see more marchers as well as porch watchers with each processional but maintains success ought to be gauged not on size but participatory spirit and the number of giant puppets.
“We are celebrating art in Savannah one neighborhood at a time,” she affirms.
“You never know, a bunch of crazy artists might be coming down your street next!”