Stone Mountain to host its first-ever Juneteenth celebration

City of Stone Mountain seal on the historic railroad depot. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Stone Mountain, GA — Stone Mountain is preparing a large downtown celebration of the Juneteenth holiday in the city known for having the world’s largest Confederate memorial.

Fireworks, dancers, drummers, local vendors and more are being considered for the annual holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. A potential catchphrase for the event is “The New Stone Mountain,” according to City Councilmember Jasmine Little.

“We’re looking at the new vibe of what we’re doing and what we’re bringing to the world and not being what we’ve always seemed like in the past,” she said at a council work session on Tuesday.

The council approved Juneteenth as a commemorative holiday last year, but this would be the first time the city hosted an event marking it, according to City Manager ChaQuias Miller-Thornton.

City officials are considering closing portions of four downtown streets for the celebration on June 19. And they hope to shoot off fireworks that the city was unable to use from a Christmas event that got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re also looking at honoring [late U.S. Rep.] John Lewis and having some dignitaries speak,” Little said.

The council will vote on a budget for the event at its April 6 meeting.

But one event that won’t be happening this year is the Color Vibe 5K chalk race. The council approved the June event at its regular meeting earlier this month, but Color Vibe officials pulled out.

“Due to the COVID situation and the fact that they’re in Utah and the lead time it takes to advertise, they have pulled their events for the whole nation,” Tourism Manager Kim Cumbie said.

It will be the second year in a row that the event is canceled due to the pandemic.

City expands pandemic relief program by $165,000

A contentious debate broke out during Tuesday’s work session over a proposal to expand a pandemic relief program for commercial businesses, micro-businesses and non-profits. The city launched the program in February, capping the funding for commercial brick-and-mortar businesses at $150,000.

But business owners flooded the application process, with 50 of them requesting $7,500 grants for a total of $375,000 in requested aid. Only 20 of the businesses received the grant, so the council was voting Tuesday to extend the $7,500 grants to 22 more eligible businesses for a total expansion of $165,000.

But City Councilmember Clint Monroe was unhappy with the vetting process. He expressed concern that some businesses could just be “mail drops” or that some applicants were “double dipping.”

“If they’re more than a mail drop, what kind of vetting does this do to determine that, other than determining that they have a business license?” Monroe asked.

Miller-Thornton and Mayor Pro Tem Chakira Johnson said that the applicants were properly vetted.

The council voted in favor of the program expansion, with Monroe being the sole vote against it.

Stone Mountain resident Michael Schaaphok railed against the decision during the public comment portion of the work session, calling the $7,500 amount an “arbitrary number.”

“All they had to do was show they had a business license and say they’ve been affected by COVID,” he said.

In other news from Tuesday’s council work session, Police Chief Chancey Troutman presented crime statistics from January and February.

There was one homicide in January and none in February, one aggravated assault in January and none in February, seven simple assault and batteries in January and 10 in February, no burglaries without forced entry in January and one in February, and one car theft in January and one in February. There were also nine larcenies each in January and February.

There have been no rapes, attempted rapes, robberies, burglaries with forced entry or attempted burglaries so far this year.

And a portion of Third Street will close on March 22 for filming of the TV show “MacGyver.” The filming will take place at The Village Corner German Restaurant & Bakery, Mike’s Body Shop and in the parking lot of Ol’Skool Flava, according to Cumbie. There are also two more potential filming opportunities for April and May.

“We’re excited about having another film present with us,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified one of the speakers. This story has been updated with the correct information. 

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