Monday, June 18, 2018

Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time

The newest exhibition at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is exciting beyond words...you must see it in real-life! It takes you to a time when you loved playing make-believe, a time of fairy-tales, a time of larger-than-life mysterious and mythical creatures...it takes you to "Imaginary Worlds".


Dragon | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Dragon | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Atlantans and tourists were blown away when Imaginary Worlds came to the Atlanta Botanical Garden in 2013 and again in 2014. The new exhibition, Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time, far surpasses the wonderment we we knew then, as impossible as that sounds. 

The Dragon on the Great Lawn has become an immediate visitor favorite, and be sure to not miss the Sleeping Princess in the flower bed at its feet.

I've already seen the exhibition numerous times, with my 20+ years friend Jeff and fellow friends, my foodie friend Sally, my dear friend Katherine from D.C. who now lives in Florida, and I got to go on the media preview before the exhibition opened to the public...the sculptures have grown in nicely since then. And I'm going back at least a few times in the next couple of months! 

"Imaginary Worlds was just so incredibly popular with our guests that we just had to bring it back—but with an all-new twist," said Mary Pat Matheson, the Garden’s President & CEO, who had assumed leadership of the Garden only a couple of years before she bought Chihuly to to the Atlanta Botanical Garden in 2004 (the first time), the grandest visionary move since the Conservatory opened in 1989.


Pegasus | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Pegasus | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time is a storybook-themed exhibition, featuring magical and mythical creatures in more than a dozen installations displayed outdoors and indoors.

Cocktails in the Garden is back, too! That means you get to see the sculptures dramatically lit as the sun goes down. Some of the creatures have illuminated eyes, including the Pegasus, that are more like catchlight than glowing...they're spectacular! 

The hours for Cocktails in the Garden have changed to half an hour earlier. It's now 5:30pm to 9:30pm, which is great news for those of us who enjoy going straight from the office.


Phoenix | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Phoenix | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

As if the sculptures alone weren't exciting enough, Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time is a two-year exhibition! This year it runs through Sunday, October 28, but don't wait. Once you've seen it the first time, you'll want to go again and again and again.

The sculptures were created by International Mosaiculture of Montreal and were then transported in environmentally-controlled trucks more than 1,200 miles to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. It took a period of time to complete the installation once onsite.


Phoenix | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Phoenix | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Being three-dimensional, be sure to take advantage of seeing the whole of the sculptures that you can, particularly the Phoenix. You can't miss the Phoenix as you walk up the Promenade toward Longleaf restaurant. It's perched on the edge of Alston Overlook, the highest point in the Garden.

During one visit, there was a storyteller who dramatically told the story of the Phoenix and its connection to Atlanta...not a boring recant of historical facts (don't get me wrong, I love history), but a fantastical regaling of the rebirth of Atlanta!


Fire Artist| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fire Artist| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Speaking of fiery events, there was also a roving barker and fire artist who put on a spectacular show! There's lots of entertainment, a bit of it roving, so keep your eyes out! 


Camels| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Camels| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Be sure to check out the Skyline Garden, behind the Conservatory and Orchid Center, where you'll see a trio of traveling Camels, and if you're there for Cocktails in the Garden, there's another bar over there, that probably has the shortest line!


Faerie| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Faerie| Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The sculptures are not the only magical creatures in the Garden! On one particular evening, there was a violin-playing faerie!

I don't know what other entertainment is planned for Cocktails in the Garden, but it's so far been absolutely fantastical! Do say "Hello!" and ask to make a photo with them...the entertainers have all been wonderfully friendly.


Woolly Mammoth | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Woolly Mammoth | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

While I love the dragon and the phoenix, the Woolly Mammoth is monumentally magnificent! And it's a natural fit in its Atlanta Botanical Garden habitat. 

Some of the creatures are seemingly hidden, but if you miss one going in one direction, you'll see it on your return. My recommendation is that you pick up an exhibition map upon arrival so that you're sure not to miss anything! 


Earth Goddess | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Earth Goddess | Imaginary Worlds | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

We here in Atlanta have enjoyed Earth Goddess (Ice Goddess during the holiday lights show) and Shaggy Dog since the 2013 exhibition and they're as delightful as ever. 

If you're visiting Atlanta or going to the Garden for the first time for the first time in many years, Earth Goddess was one of the sculptures that we kept after that exhibition finished, like the three Chihuly glass sculptures we kept after their respective exhibitions.

Atlanta Botanical Garden Gainesville is in on the action, too! They're hosting the Ogre that we enjoyed a few years back. For a creature known to not have a terribly pleasant disposition, this Ogre is so much fun! Their exhibition is Imaginary Worlds: Ogre and Friends, some of the friends being Pandas!!!


Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a must-see to get a true sense of the wonders that Atlanta offers and Cocktails in the Garden, on Thursday evenings, is perfect for a date night, a get together with friends, and definitely for "something different" to do. See you there!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

10 Reasons to See "Freaky Friday" in the Park

Horizon Theatre's production of "Freaky Friday" is coming to Piedmont Park!


Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre
Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre

For the fourth consecutive year, Horizon Theatre is sharing one of its super-popular musical comedies at the Park's Promenade. This year's show—one of the theatre's main stage plays earlier this year—has been met with hilarity, fantastic acting, super-fun musical numbers, and awesome reviews.

With only four performances, Wednesday through Saturday, June 20-23, this is a can't miss-show! In no particular order, here are 10 awesome reasons why you should see "Freaky Friday" in Piedmont Park...

1.) It's FREE! 

That's right. Horizon Theatre is giving away thousands of free tickets to see the four-day run of Freaky Friday in Piedmont Park. There's also reserved seating, for a nominal fee, closer to the stage, and if you're not a fan of sitting on the grass, you can buy reserved seats at a table near the stage or get a private table (for 6) also near the stage! I've sat on the lawn and reserved seats...whichever you chose, you'll have a great experience!

I think it's totally awesome is it that Horizon brings free theatre to our local community, and many others visiting Atlanta. "Thank you!", Horizon Theatre!
2.) The CAST is phenomenal!

The cast from the spring performance at Horizon Theatre in Inman Park/Little Five Points are all returning for the Piedmont Park run...I'm so excited! This was the largest cast to ever perform on the stage at Horizon Theatre and they truly are phenomenal. 


There are 19 actors in every performance, performing considerably more characters than that!

If you're an Atlanta theatre regular, you'll recognize names and faces of many of the cast, several of them multiple Suzi Bass award nominees and winners!

Jennifer Alice Acker, a personal favorite, is so incredibly talented and an amazing human being! She loves her craft, loves her fans, loves life and gives everything she has to every role she performs. Driven to continually improve (she's already AMAZING!), she's going to always deliver a magnificent performance! 


The spring show was the first time I'd seen Abby Holland on stage. She's AMAZING! Her voice is bold and beautiful and her acting is brilliant. I think you'll love her, too!

Christian Magby is multi-talented the likes you don't see very often. He acts, plays multiple musical instruments, writes, and he's one of the most personable artists you'll meet.


Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre
Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre

3.) It's in PIEDMONT PARK, "Atlanta's Favorite Greenspace"!

This is the fourth year that Horizon Theatre has brought one of their mainstage shows to Piedmont Park, which is in the heart of Midtown and easy to get to! The Promenade is near the Atlanta Botanical Garden—accessible from the Garden's entry road—and the Sage Parking Deck, accessible from Piedmont Avenue and Monroe Drive.

I've attended the last three Horizon Theatre shows in Piedmont Park and can personally attest to their being great fun...the shows and seeing them in the Park! [2015] [2016] [2017]

4.) There's something for EVERYONE!

Horizon Theatre has made a commitment to produce at least one play per season that multiple generations can enjoy together, and "Freaky Friday" is exactly that! Bring the kids, bring your parents, bring your friends of all ages!


Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre
Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre

5.) You get to MEET the cast and take PHOTOS with them!
In the wonderful Horizon Theatre tradition, after the show you'll get to meet the cast and make photos with them! Being the celebrity-spotter I am, this perk is a huge one for me and I love seeing so many other theatre-goers talking with the cast, congratulating them on their performance and getting to know them a little more.

6.) You've probably seen the MOVIE(s)!

"Freaky Friday" has quite a fun history, having been a book; then a movie in 1976 starring a young Jodie Foster who would go on to win two Oscar Awards; then another movie in 2003 starring Golden Globe-winner Jamie Lee Curtis and actress/musician Lindsay Lohan


Now...it's a MUSICAL!!!


Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre
Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre

7.) There will be FOOD and DRINKS!

You're going to get hungry and thirsty, right? Of course you will!

The grounds will open at 6:00pm (show starts at 7:30pm each night), so bring a picnic and enjoy! NOTE: Feel free to bring your own food, water and soft-drinks, but no alcohol and no glass, please.

There will be concessions, and beerwinewater and soft-drinks available for purchase.

Remember, the earlier you arrive the closer you can get to the stage! But it's such a big show, they're all great seats. 
8.) The SET is awesome!

Twin sisters and Suzi Bass award winners Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay have done a magnificent job! I mentioned that this is the largest Horizon Theatre cast ever, and they brilliantly maneuvered the set at the theatre, but I'm super excited to see what they're do when it's in Piedmont Park. We're talking lots more real estate...more possibilities! 






9.) You're going to LAUGH!

Yes, it's a musical. Yes, it's about switching bodies. Yes, it's about the drama of a broken family—I come from one, so I know the hilarity that can come from that. It's ALL incredibly funny! You'll connect with this family, their friends, the wedding vendors, police encounters, and the wide range of relationships one encounters throughout life. Oh, and there's a high school scavenger hunt with a—by unanimous vote—totally hot list master...♫Aaaadddaammm!♫

10.) Horizon Theatre is GRATEFUL for your support!

Lisa Adler, Co-Founder and Co-Artistic/Producing Director, shares every opening night of every show that ticket sales make up for only about half of what it takes to run the theatre. Not everyone can see a show at the theatre, but most everyone can go to a free show...and then tell friends and family how great it was!

As a member of the Board of Directors at Horizon Theatre since August—and a patron of many years—we are incredibly grateful for your support, whether in ticket purchases, subscriptions and/or sharing how much you enjoyed your theatre experience with friends and family.

There you go...10 awesome reasons to come to Piedmont Park to see Horizon Theatre's production of Freaky Friday. I think you're going to love it!



Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre
Freaky Friday | Horizon Theatre

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Georgia Guidestones

You've heard of them, you've seen photos of them, maybe you've even watched a documentary about them, but there's nothing like walking up to the 19' 3" monument and reading the Georgia Guidestones in person!

The Georgia Guidestones were dedicated on March 22, 1980. Sometimes called the American Stonehenge or Stonehenge of Georgia—for its astrological features—the Georgia Guidestones' origin and conservation message to this day remain quite shrouded in mystery. 

Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The Georgia Guidestones are located at a remote site, on the highest point in Elbert County, the County being the owner of the Guidestones.

You can learn more at the Georgia Guidestones and at the various links in this post, but here's a little about their early history...

On a Friday in June 1979, a stranger identified as "Mr. Christian" (later "R.C. Christian") met with Joe H. Findley, Sr., President of Elberton Granite Finishing Company, indicating that he represented a group of loyal Americans from outside of Georgia who wanted to build a monument focused on the theme of conservation. Seeking a financial institution for the project, Findley sent "Mr. Christian" to Wyatt C. Martin, President of the Granite City Bank, which would hold the funds to build the monument in escrow.

"Mr. Christian" explained that he and his colleagues selected Georgia as the site for the monument because of its excellent granite, its moderate climate and because "Mr. Christian's" great-grandmother was a Georgia native.

There's more...so much more! A lot of research has gone into the Georgia Guidestones, and there's even a movie, and there's potentially a significant amount of additional research that could be done. As they say, "time will tell" if that happens. 

The Georgia Guidestones have brought contentious debate, lofty conversation, and more than marginal controversy. People have explored controlling human civilization since at least 400 BCE when Plato suggested selective breeding. The Georgia Guidestones waste no time getting to their ideas for the "conservation" of humankind, starting with keeping the population under 500,000,000, perhaps the most controversial of the 10 guidelines.


Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The Georgia Guidestones, to me, are part commandment, part advice, part common sense, and there are some that are blatant humor—probably not on purpose, but surely the author couldn't have imagined 2018 society in 1980....or maybe he could.

Here are the exact words:

MAINTAIN HUMANITY UNDER 500,000,000
    IN PERPETUAL BALANCE WITH NATURE

GUIDE REPRODUCTION WISELY

    IMPROVING FITNESS AND DIVERSITY

UNITE HUMANITY WITH A LIVING

    NEW LANGUAGE

RULE PASSION - FAITH - TRADITION

    AND ALL THINGS
         WITH TEMPERED REASON

PROTECT PEOPLE AND NATIONS

    WITH FAIR LAWS AND JUST COURTS

LET ALL NATIONS RULE INTERNALLY

     RESOLVING EXTERNAL DISPUTES
             IN A WORLD COURT

AVOID PETTY LAWS AND USELESS

    OFFICIALS

BALANCE PERSONAL RIGHTS WITH

    SOCIAL DUTIES

PRIZE TRUTH - BEAUTY - LOVE -

    SEEKING HARMONY WITH THE
           INFINITE

BE NOT A CANCER ON THE EARTH -

    LEAVE ROOM FOR NATURE -
        LEAVE ROOM FOR NATURE

That last line is not a typo. "LEAVE ROOM FOR NATURE" is indeed etched twice. Some believe the actual purpose of the Guidestones is simply to protect our planet.


"AVOID PETTY LAWS AND USELESS OFFICIALS"...LOL, right?


Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The astronomic features of the Georgia Guidestones are noted on another granite slab, laid in the ground, only a few yards west of the Guidestones, marked with N, E, S, W, on the corresponding compass directions.

This slab notes that the astronomic features were authored by "R.C. Christian" himself and it's cared in stone that "R.C. Christian" is a pseudonym. (NOTE: On this slab, pseudonym is misspelled "PSEUDONYN".)

A 2015 BBC.com article by Shannon Dell describes the astronomic features considerably better than I can, even as big a space geek as I am. Here's an excerpt from Dell's article describing the astronomic features:


"...the four main granite slabs were aligned with the celestial poles, while the centre stone was drilled with an eye-level hole oriented with the North Star and a slit aligned with the Sun's solstices and equinoxes. The capstone, having its own slit, was to act as a calendar, revealing the date at noon each day when the sun shone through."


The cool-factor that this adds to the Georgia Guidestones is off the charts, and it equally adds to their mystery. But seriously though, what do the solstices have to do with the conservation of humanity after the apocalypse? That's assuming we're not meant to cut today's population to "under 500,000,000".

Adding even more mystery to the Georgia Guidestones, this same slab notes that there is a time capsule buried six feet below the slab and that it was placed on ______ and is to be opened on ______. That's right...no dates are etched!


Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The rectangular capstone is inscribed with "Let these be guidestones to an age of reason" in four ancient languages. In clockwise order starting with the Guidestone carved in English, the capstone languages are Babylonian Cuneiform, Classical Greek, Sanskrit and Egyptian Hieroglyphics.


Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

On the vertical standing slabs, the Guidestones, the same 10 guidelines are etched on both sides of the four monoliths, each side in a different language.

In clockwise order starting with the English inscription, the eight languages are English, Spanish, Swahili, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.

Interested in linguistics since I was a teenager, I'd love to know the thought process behind the selection of this particular collection of languages. And why was only one language used on the capstone and the Guidestones...why that language?  


Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The above photo is only for proof that I was actually at the Georgia Guidestones. It was a HOT and HUMID day, but I wouldn't have traded it for anything else. It was a great day...sweat and all. I went with my friend Wayne, a State Parks and State Historic Sites expert. Our last excursion was great fun and who knows where we'll go next!

Behind me on the left you can see the edge of a marker that shares a little history about the Georgia Guidestones. It was placed some time after the 1980 dedication of the Guidestones and was not authored by "R.C. Christian".


Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

While we were there, a couple arrived with drone in-hand making me super jealous, but all the same excited about what they were doing.

There were no personally-owned drones in 1980, so aerial photography and videography had to be done by helicopter or plane...not an everyday occurrence four decades ago.

The husband and wife team were making photos of each other and my friend Wayne offered to make a photo of them together, an offer they happily accepted. I love it when that happens and it saddens me when people say, "No thanks". Just think of all the amazing photos people are missing out on!

Not too long later, after hearing him telling someone else that there were no etchings on the top of the Guidestones, I asked if they were going to publish the drone video. Sure enough, they were! And they did! Check it out here.

We had met Wesley Hall and wife and they were absolutely delightful! His website, Wesley Hall, has the awesome tagline of "urban drone pilot and aerial photographer | digital analytics pro"...do check him out!

Just gotta say, a simple "Hello" or "Would you like a photo together?" can lead to anything from a delightful encounter to a lifetime friendship. Give it a try!  


Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Like the diverse languages on the Georgia Guidestones, the visitors when we went were also incredibly diverse...it was awesome! There were bikers, gays, younger, older, and people of every skin tone and ethnicity you can imagine...for such a small footprint, it felt like we were on a United Nations field trip...all the representatives curious about the guidelines for the planet's future!


Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Elberton, Georgia is only two hours northeast of Atlanta. Being the tourist I am—and at Wayne's recommendation—we made it a triple tour. We had lunch at The National in Athens, one of celebrity chef Hugh Acheson's restaurants; then we went to Watson Mill Bridge State Park, made some photos and hiked a bit; and then we went to the Georgia Guidestones. We made a day of it and what a fun day it was!

The Georgia Guidestones are out in the country. You can see them from the street, but they're also set against picturesque countryside, and there were a couple of donkeys in an adjacent pasture. It's a beautiful setting and you can get quite a few photos without the nearby telephone poles and wires.

FYI, the site is under video surveillance, so don't do anything you wouldn't want your mother to see on the 6 o'clock news! 


Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Georgia Guidestones | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Some of the stones have etched into them "EGA" enclosed with a circle, representing Elberton Granite Association. It might be etched on each of them, but I was too distracted by the whole of the Guidestones experience to investigate beyond seeing a handful of them.

Elbertton, Georgia is dubbed "The Granite Capital of the World". The town is only four square miles, but boasts approximately 45 granite quarries! Elberton Granite Association even created the Elberton Granite Museum, so be sure to stop by there, too!

You'll have to visit to make your own assessment, but some believe that the Georgia Guidestones are an elaborate hoax to increase tourism to Elberton, Georgia, which they have—and some believe that they're exactly what they claim to be—guidelines for the conservation of humanity.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Beyond Giant Turkey Legs...

The Georgia Renaissance Festival is so much more than giant turkey legs and high-energy jousting, although both of those are totally awesome! The Festival brings a sense of community to its visitors, a sense of connecting with something so monumentally fun that you want the day to go on and on and on. 

This year I went with my friends Matty, Sara, and Cody—Cody and I went with other friends last year—and proceeded to laugh, watch some jousting, laugh, eat some giant turkey legs, and laugh some more, until we were totally exhausted. Great fun!


Washing Well Wenches | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Washing Well Wenches | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

At the top of your GaRenFest entertainment list should be the Washing Well Wenches! Sprout and Gerty are my favorite people at this Festival. After seeing them last year, we couldn't not see them and we went to the first available show!. 

Matty and I, the brave souls that we are, sat on the front row. No matter where you're sitting, you're going to have a great view and some of the entertainment comes into the audience, too! These incredibly talented women bring you non-stop laughter! 


Sprout and Travis | Georgia Renaissance Festival
Sprout and Travis | Georgia Renaissance Festival

I look terrified and Sprout is just having a great time! I was, too, I just looked terrified when the camera clicked. (laughing inside) Tips aren't required, but they're certainly appreciated, and...you get strategically place your tip in one of a few different places depending on the bill's denomination. 


The Arena | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
The Arena | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Of course we went to the jousting tournament. But this time we got the VIP tickets ("Very Important Peasant"), received a crown and sat on cushions with royalty! They were, of course, perched above we VIPs, but we were right there next to them!

There are three jousting tournaments throughout the day:
  • Joust of Chivalry
  • Queen's Royal Joust
  • Joust to the Death 
Be sure to pick up a schedule and map (double-sided) when you come in the main gate so that you can plan accordingly and not miss something you'd have loved to have seen. We're already making plans to go back this month...for the fun and to see some things we've yet to see and do.


Jousting Hostess | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Jousting Hostess | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I didn't get her name, but this was our hostess for the jousting tournament, a very friendly lady. In fact, every staff member I've encountered at the GaRenFest has been gracious, delightful, hilarious and just super fun! That's a huge part of why I go back. "Thank you!" to all the GaRenFest staff for being so awesome to all of us!


Sara and Matty | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Sara and Matty | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

This might be the best photo-op of all...the Game of Thrones throne! That's Sara and Matty pictured above. 

Anyone care to venture a caption?


Parrot | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Parrot | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The 'Parrots of the Caribbean' is a free-flight aviary featuring exotic birds that have been rescued from being abandoned, orphaned, or unwanted. The minimum donation of $2 goes toward food, shelter, and care for these beautiful birds. I highly recommend stopping in here!

This awesome experience is presented by the non-profit organization EarthQuest.


Barely Balanced | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Barely Balanced | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Watching Barely Balanced is an adrenaline rush! Everything he's standing on is moving...it's edge-of-your-seat entertaining! And that they're hilarious is a huge bonus!

That's Cameron Tomele doing the balancing in this photo (above). You might have seen him already...he was featured on the cover of the April edition of WhereTraveler/Atlanta!


The Craic Show | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
The Craic Show | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The Craic Show is another must-see, especially if you enjoy live music, of a different sort. Watch their official promo video to get a taste of what you'll hear and see!


Mona or Sara | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Mona or Sara | Georgia Renaissance Festival | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

There are photo-ops galore throughout the GaRenFest, including this Mona Lisa!!! Sara is such a great sport, too! I wonder what Leonardo da Vinci would think about Sara's stylish glasses? They totally go with the outfit, right?


Travis and Ded Bob | Georgia Renaissance Festival
Travis and Ded Bob | Georgia Renaissance Festival

I love The Ded Bob Sho!!! This year I got a photo with Ded Bob! You never know what's going to come out of his mouth! Er, his jaw bone, rather. Some of Ded Bob's jokes are cleverly subtle, some are over the kiddies heads, but hilarious for the older folks, even the ones that are close to Ded Bob's age. The Ded Bob Sho is an perennial treat for me!

This post covers only a fraction of the fun to be had at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. I highly recommend going as soon as you can, because, like me, you very well may want to go again before the last day on Sunday, June 3.

Enjoy some more photos on the wanderlust ATLANTA Facebook page


"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."
                                                                                                       - Leonardo da Vinci


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Once-in-a-Lifetime Tour of the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama and Texas Locomotive

For a short time, you don't have the have the fame of Clark Gable to see the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama painting up close, and you don't have to chase railroad saboteurs to take a 'ride' on the Texas Locomotive. On Saturdays, until sometime this fall, you can tour the future exhibition space and aforementioned historical icons on an exclusive, private guided tour at the Atlanta History Center.


Texas Locomotive | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Texas Locomotive | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor

The Atlanta History Center announced in 2014 that it had acquired the Texas Locomotive and the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama.

The Texas was sent to the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C. for restoration before being moved to the Atlanta History Center.


"After many years of limited view in the basement of the Cyclorama building in Grant Park, we are putting the Texas in a place where it is going to be front and center," History Center Vice President of Properties Jackson McQuigg said of the locomotive, which will be illuminated at night and clearly visible from West Paces Ferry Road at all hours. "This engine that has been at times forgotten in its long lifetime is going to become a focal point."

Even though the exhibit doesn't open until this fall, even now when you pass by the Atlanta History Center after dark, you'll see the Texas front and center, brilliantly illuminated behind a floor-to-ceiling glass window...it's a striking sight!



Texas Locomotive | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Texas Locomotive | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor


Major funding for the new gallery showcasing the Texas was provided by the Gary W. Rollins Foundation. CSX Corporation is major sponsor for the exhibition that will interpret the Texas’ remarkable history.

The Texas and the General, the General being the star attraction at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia, are the sole surviving locomotives that once served the Western & Atlantic Railroad, a company key in Atlanta's early development.

While the Southen Museum does a great job discussing the locomotives' roles in The Great Locomotive Chase, the Atlanta History Center selected to restore the Texas to its 1886 paint scheme—black, gold and some red—to complement the Battle of Atlanta painting, which was completed in 1886. The Center will focus less on The Great Locomotive Chase and more on the role of transportation's role—specifically railroads—in growing Atlanta.

If you're a fan of the Miami Dolphins, you're going to love this! During the restoration process, conservators discovered that the Texas had previously been painted teal and orange! There is currently no evidence why it was painted those colors. What a sight it must have been!

That's only one of the cornucopia of facts you'll learn on this 90-minute tour. Bring your camera (no flash photography, of course) and sense of adventure


Texas Locomotive | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Texas Locomotive | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor

It was on April 12, 1862 that Union Army loyalists commandeered the General from the town of Big Shanty (now Kennesaw) and drove it north toward Chattanooga, wreaking destruction to the W&A line, until finally being caught by Confederate forces who had pursued aboard the Texas.
The Great Locomotive Chase lives large in pop culture as the subject of a 1926 Buster Keaton film and a popular 1956 Disney movie of the same name, as well as in dozens of books.
My big Sheldon moment: I got to ring the bell on the Texas Locomotive! 
You can, too! Tour participants, with great excitement, get to 'climb aboard' the Texas, stand where her engineers once stood, and can ring its bell and let their imaginations wander through the train's adventures from 1856 until it was retired in 1907.


Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor

The wonderful thing about this tour right now is that you'll be one of only a hand few of people who got to walk right up to the Cyclorama and explore it in great detail.Once the dioramas go in, that opportunity will be erased from possibility.


Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor

New structures have been built to display the Texas Locomotive and the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama. The structure was built around the Texas after she was moved in place, and the Cyclorama was placed in its display room from above.

This fly-through animation was an early concept video of what the space would look like and much of what's been built-out does indeed look like this, except for the placement of the Texas.

You'll notice in the video that visitors pass through a tunnel before venturing up to the viewing platform to see the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama. That tunnel will be built on the lower level and lead to the escalators you see in the photo above!

That's one of the things that makes THIS tour unique and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once that tunnel is built and the dioramas are in place, there's no more up-close-and-personal with the Cyclorama painting. That experience is now or never!


Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor

The artist in me totally geeked out seeing a restoration professional's painting palette. The talent, precision, and insight required to restore priceless artifacts almost boggles the mind. More than that, it's impressive and admirable. I am grateful for those who have chosen to make restoration their life's work. 


Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor

The tour goes through more than just the Battle of Atlanta. You will hear about the hand full of other Cycloramas around the world—there aren't many! You will hear about the designers and painters and today's conservators. Based on a number of factors, this incredibly insightful tour takes more than an hour with some extra time at the end to explore more!


Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor

If you're a fan or a regular visitor at the Atlanta History Center, you probably noticed that the new space encompasses the gallery where the Centennial Olympic Games Museum once was. I've been told by multiple sources that it will return, but have no further details at this time. I've stood in the modern Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece, and attended soccer games during the 1996 Olympic Games...I'll be super-excited to see the return of that exhibition, but I'm loving this one, too!


Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor

If you're a local, you'll immediately recognize our Stone Mountain (East of Atlanta) and Kennesaw Mountain (Northwest of Atlanta) in the painting's horizon. You'll see a number of houses, too, that your tour guide will share the significance of. 

It was 20 years after the war that artists from Milwaukee came to Atlanta to sketch our terrain for the painting. Although you see a capital building in the Atlanta skyline, it wasn't until four years after the conclusion of the Battle of Atlanta that Atlanta was even made the capital of Georgia. During the war, Milledgeville—about and hour and 40 minutes Southeast toward Savannah—held that distinction.

There are other oddities points of interest that your tour guide will share with you. I think you'll be completely and totally fascinated!   


Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor
Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis. S Taylor

The group I toured with was great! There were youngsters and retirees, locals and visitors. And our tour guide Jami was magnificent! She's well-versed in the history of the Texas Locomotive and the Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama and she's incredibly hospitable. She made sure to keep the group together and to speak to 'all of us'...she made it a fun group experience!

I'm told that these tours will be offered for as long as they do not interfere with the conservators' work, which is expected to be until near the time of the opening of the exhibitions to the public this fall. 

But don't wait. The last time I know of that anyone getting this close to the Cyclorama was in 1939 when Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and Olivia DeHaviland toured it the day after the premiere of Gone With the Wind. For a short while, you don't have to have Hollywood fame to see one of only a few handful of remaining Cycloramas in the world.

Tours are available at 1:00pm on Saturdays or you can call and make prior arrangements. The cost of the tour varies based on your involvement with the Atlanta History Center.

Go see some history, and two remarkable artifacts that are being brought back to new.

(NOTE: Although I'm a longtime member of the Atlanta History Center—a membership that I use frequently—the Center treated me to a ticket for this tour. All opinions are my own, not influenced by the Center or anyone else.)