Spring’s in full swing, and in Normal Times Atlanta, that would mean an explosion of large social gatherings—most of them free—in neighborhoods across the city.

Rewind to 2019, and these temperate weeks gave Atlantans the option of attending the Inman Park Festival & Home Tour, Decatur Lantern Parade, Shaky Knees, Sweet Auburn Springfest, Kirkwood Spring Fling, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Chastain Park Arts Festival, plus a 10-mile Atlanta Streets Alive route and a multitude of other happenings.

Anyone who moved to Atlanta in the past year might not know what those events are—or what they meant as traditions and neighborhood showcases, and how their cancellations have left a void.

But that’s slowly starting to change.

watermark The always-quirky Inman Park Festival parade in 2017. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

watermark Kirkwood's Lanta Gras parade and festival in early 2020. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

Following last year’s clampdown forbidding gatherings of 10 people or more, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order last week increasing the capacity for large outdoor events to 9,999—although anything larger is still prohibited.

In March, Bottoms had issued another order lifting a moratorium in the city on permit applications for large-scale events such as festivals, though that measure capped gatherings at 2,000 people or less.

Neighborhood leaders and organizers of long-running events have taken notice of relaxed restrictions.

This weekend, for instance, will see the inaugural Virginia-Highland Porchfest bring people and music to the streets from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Taking a page from Oakhurst’s playbook, Va-Hi leaders say porches throughout the neighborhood will host bands of varying genres beginning at noon. A “Rock n Run 5K” is also planned that morning, with “Food Truck Way” operating later along Barnett Street.  

“Walk from house to house and watch bands from the sound-filled sidewalks. Choose your favorite music genre and porch vibe to fit your mood,” urge organizers of the free event.

watermark One of a couple hundred porches that participated in Oakhurst Porchfest 2019. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

Meanwhile, in Kirkwood, the local neighborhood organization voted unanimously last month to seek permits for a scaled-down Spring Fling, the community’s signature May festival that was cancelled like most others last year.

The festival would occur later in the year and won’t have a barbecue competition, Tour of Homes, kids’ play area, or alcohol sales, as Decaturish reported.

Kirkwood's traditional 5K would also be capped at 600 participants or less.

Last month, Inman Park transformed its popular annual festival and zany parade—held the last full weekend in April, per tradition—into a tour of gardens with live art performances.  

Tickets for the Inman Park Tour of Gardens, a socially distanced outdoor event with a mask mandate, began at $25 per head.

watermark ABBA cover band The Neon Queen performs at the Candler Park Fall Festival in 2019. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

Looking further ahead, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival—one of the Southeast’s largest events, held for more than 80 years—has been rescheduled for August in Piedmont Park.  

LaToyin Rollins, Dogwood Festival board chair, told WSB-TV that organizers will be working to amend their permit application to allow for more people in light of Bottoms’ recent executive order.  

Meanwhile, another event typically held in the spring, the Beer, Bourbon & Barbecue festival, has been bumped to September in Atlantic Station.