In 1982, Catherine Carter and her family attended an overcrowded Fourth of July event in Stone Mountain. “When I got home I called a friend and asked her what she thought of the idea of having fireworks and a parade in Decatur. She thought it was terrific.” And so the seeds of Decatur’s rich festival tradition were planted.
Catherine Carter remembers when the Decatur square after dark was, well, dark. “They rolled up the streets in the evening,” says Carter. “There was no activity or event to go to in downtown Decatur.” Now, the city of Decatur attracts thousands of visitors each year to its numerous festivals and events. This tradition of celebration is due in part to a small group of long-time residents, including Carter.
After spending the Fourth of July at a fireworks show in Stone Mountain with her husband and kids, Carter had an epiphany. “I called a friend and asked her what she thought of the idea of having fireworks and a parade in Decatur. She thought it was terrific.”
And so, in 1979, the City of Decatur Fourth of July fireworks and parade began. “We didn’t know how to do a parade,” says Carter. “We knew someone who had horses and they agreed to let us use them if we cleaned up after them. My children dressed up like clowns and followed the horses, scooping poop and dumping it into a little red wagon.” Afterwards there were “very meager” fireworks, she says. “But everybody had a good time.”
By 1982, the “Discover Decatur Arts Committee” was formed. They launched the first Concert in the Square, rounding up people who wanted to perform and setting up chairs on the courthouse lawn. “We had no money. We passed the hat, it filled up, and I took the proceeds to the bank on Monday morning.”
Carter remembers those donation days fondly. “We just wanted some things to do and a way to bring people together. We did it, and it was fun. Those were our heydays.”