There is nothing like springtime gardening and festivals in Atlanta. Winter (well, whatever winter we have—I’m from Chicago. I’m just sayin’). Everything is green, the rains have come, the flowers, dogwoods, and azaleas are blooming, and there is so much to do outside and inside around the city. Last weekend for me was about two great festivals –the Dogwood Festival and the Atlanta Film Festival– and some gardening.

Last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was the 73rd Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival. The Dogwood (pictured left in pink, though most dogwood flowers are white) is the unofficial state flower of Georgia (the Cherokee Rose is the Official State Flower; the State Seashell, in case you were wondering, is the Knobbed Whelk). The Festival was back in Piedmont Park this year, after a drought-induced hiatus to the Lenox Mall Parking Lot last year. The weather was gorgeous! I went on Friday, played Frisbee, and walked around to some of the more than 250 artist booths, which were really spectacular. I’m a woodworker, and I was very impressed with the number and quality of wood turning, carving, and furniture booths. I might have to get one for next year…. In 2006, the Artist Market was ranked #16 out of the Top 200 Shows in the Country by Sunshine Artist’s Magazine.

Last weekend was the best weekend so far this year for gardening. On Saturday, before the Atlanta Film Festival, I went to pick up a pick-up truck-full of horse manure! I know, it might sound kinda gross, but this stuff is all natural, totally organic, and better than gold to gardeners and farmers! You can use manure as a top-dressing, mixed into soil directly (do this at least 2-4 months ahead of any planting), or thrown in your compost bin. And it was FREE!

I went to Vogt Riding Academy, located about a mile from the Emory campus. My friend Colin and I had the truck filled in 20 minutes, and they had TONS of free manure. Just go by anytime they’re open (8-5 M-F; 8-3ish on Sat), and they’re happy to help out. They’ll even load your truck for you for free (you should tip the guy five bucks, in my opinion) if you go earlier in the day. Loaded up with horse apples, Colin and I grabbed a cup of coffee at a coffee shop, where they gave us free used coffee grounds for the garden.

We saw Farmer D’s organic garden shop across the street, so we went over and bought some vegetables and herbs to go into the ground. The workers there were friendly and knowledgeable and Farmer D’s website is fantastic. For instance, they’ve got a great video on the process and benefits of composting.

Lastly, The Atlanta Film Festival (AFF) was fantastic. I only caught the Drama Shorts, but there were 183 films total being screened between April 16-25. Since 1977 the AFF has screened early films from directors such as Steven Spielberg, Victor Nunez, Spike Lee, Julie Dash and Robert Rodriguez. The Drama Shorts that I saw were all good, and several were great. They were between 12 and 19 minutes long. I can say that I had previously seen less than five short films in my life. But the shorts were powerful and unlike most Hollywood movies. Three of the six were filmed in Atlanta, with many of the actors, directors, and production people sitting in the theater with me! I particularly like Magellan, the story of a bright and awkward young boy living in a smokestack in Atlanta with his artist father. The festival website says:

Magellan, a scrawny seventh-grade outcast, has a precarious friendship with the popular but insecure girl he walks to and from school with everyday, but that friendship ends at the school boundaries until one day Magellan gathers the courage to ask her to the Spring Dance.

Check out the trailer on the website and go see the movie! It was fantastic! The rest of the The AFF website is very interactive, and most of the films have trailers and/or comments sections.

So the festivals, gardening, and spring have arrived in Atlanta. Sometimes all on the same weekend. You can see why it’s my favorite time of the year!!!