BROOKHAVEN, Ga. — One of Metro Atlanta’s most popular festivals is back this weekend after last year’s “pandemic break.”
The Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival is normally in the spring every year, but was delayed this year until summer. It is coming back as a block party--a street festival with free live music and, also, with a message: Please stay away if you haven’t received the COVID vaccine.
The city is expecting thousands of people, and masks will be encouraged but not required.
“It’s the beginning of us coming out of the pandemic,” said Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst.
Ernst described the festival as a way of celebrating medical frontline workers and first responders and others, and celebrating everyone getting back to normal, with music Friday and Saturday on a stage in the parking lot of the Brookhaven MARTA station located off of Peachtree and North Druid Hills and Dresden Drive.
The event will have nationally known performers, including Collective Soul, Better Than Ezra, The Revivalists, Rick Springfield, and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls performing as the Amy Ray Band.
Also, Dresden Drive will be pedestrian-only Friday and Saturday, so restaurants and bars can put tables on the street. It's one way the city is trying to provide a boost to the businesses.
The city is asking people who have not been vaccinated against COVID--please stay away from this event, this year.
“The numbers are going up for the folks who are not vaccinated,” Ernst said. “I think everyone should get vaccinated.”
Overall, COVID cases in DeKalb County are far below what they were at the beginning of the year, but they are rising quickly again.
According to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health, DeKalb's 7-day average is now 142 cases per day. One month ago that number was 15 cases a day. That's an increase of 846%.
Statewide, cases are up 923% over the course of the past month.
“I am excited to come back to business, after all this 18 months of no working,” Ertan Makara said as he was setting up his restaurant near the performance stages at the festival site.
Makara said he is well-aware of all of the increasing COVID numbers, but he is still hoping for the kinds of crowds -- tens of thousands of people -- that have filled the festival in pre-COVID years.
“I feel happy, man. We need the money, you know? We all became broke! I’m trying to make some money. Trying to make some business. Yeah, the COVID is coming back, but we gotta deal with it, right? We gotta do what we gotta do.”
A festival of the vaccinated, in Brookhaven? Possibly; but no one with the city will be checking, no one will be enforcing anything. Everyone said they’re just hoping that the festival will help the City revive and survive safely, after a disastrous year for everyone.