Georgia Drummer Keeps the Beat for Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil's KURIOS - Cabinet of Curiosities

See Cirque du Soleil’s KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities in Atlanta through May 8, 2016.

A man with accordion legs, a gentleman whose giant belly is the residence of a 3.2-foot tall woman, aquatic contortionists, an invisible circus, rola bola aviator… just a few of the quirky and diverse characters Georgia-born drummer Kit Chatham keeps the beat for in Cirque du Soleil’s KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities, showing at Atlantic Station through May 8.

Cirque du Soleil has visited Atlanta 17 times with 14 different shows since 1991. Based in Montreal, Cirque features some of the world’s most talented individuals who perform reality-defying feats to live music. 

Chatham, who has performed in six different Cirque du Soleil productions since 2005, graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in music education and taught in Cobb County before joining Cirque du Soleil. We caught up with Chatham to find out what he likes most about performing in his home state.

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Kit Chatham in costume for KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities

Having grown up here, are you excited to be performing back in Georgia?

“Definitely. The last time I performed here was 2007 with Corteo, also a Cirque du Soleil show. I moved out in 2009 to Las Vegas so I am super excited to be back.” 

This year, Georgia is celebrating the Year of Music, what does Georgia music mean to you?

“It depends on the area. I am an Athens boy, so R.E.M. and the B-52s, but then again I moved from Atlanta for my last years in high school and I was closer to Augusta, so James Brown. When I was in college, I used to record in Macon in the Allman Brothers studio. It’s widespread – Widespread Panic, they’re also from here. It’s tough to summarize Georgia music. It’s got roots in the South. It’s also got soul. It’s got everything — gospel, country, hip hop. It’s very cool to see how much music comes from Georgia that you wouldn’t expect.”

How does live music contribute to the overall Cirque experience?

“With every Cirque show, you’re dealing with things that can happen with acrobats at any given time. So, in order to flow with the acrobats, the music has to be able to adapt and change, maybe go back, maybe jump ahead. It changes every night.”

How does touring with Cirque du Soleil differ from touring with a band or as a solo musician?

“With arena shows or Broadway, you’re in a place one night, two nights, then you’re out. Your one day off is your travel day, which really stinks. With the tent show, we’re here 10 weeks, which is really great. I’m getting a lot of time to explore.”

Chatham performing in Cirque du Soleil's KURIOS - Cabinet of Curiosities

Chatham performing in Cirque du Soleil’s KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities

Does this cast rely on you in this location for input on what to do in Georgia?

“I gave them a long list of what to do in Georgia. You’ve got to go to The Varsity. You’ve got all the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attractions, Ebenezer [Baptist Church]. The Georgia Aquarium. The World of Coca-Cola. Stone Mountain. The barbecue places to go to. Athens. Savannah. I gave them a huge list of things to try to guide them.”

What is your favorite thing to do in Georgia?

“I am a big barbecue fan. Brunswick stew — you can’t find Brunswick stew anywhere but in Georgia. Every time I come here, I get Chick-fil-A. I love how the brewing industry is starting to pick-up here. But, the biggest thing for me when I come to Georgia is usually family.”

How does this show differ from other Cirque shows you’ve toured with?

“The theme of this show [KURIOS] is steampunk, and it deals with the age of invention and creativity. Going from that steam era to electricity, everything is experimental. The scenery, the stage, all has that steampunk feel. The music is somewhat eclectic. There is a lot of presence of electro swing, which is associated with that theme. There are some more swing elements, classical, rock-and-roll. … With every show the music is different, the styles are different. That’s the one thing that drew me to Cirque, is there are so many different styles within the show and the uniqueness to the music, the overall characteristics to it in each show.”

KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is at Atlantic Station until May 8. Shows are Tuesday-Sunday in the afternoon and evening. Individual tickets range from $35-$170. Visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/kurios for more information or to purchase tickets.

nicole-webNicole Rateau provides marketing and communications support for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. She would love to go on tour with Cirque du Soleil, but she would miss Georgia and collard greens!

Georgia State Parks Birthday Bash Geocache Game

Georgia State Parks Geocaching Gopher

Georgia State Parks Geocaching Gopher

Celebrate the 85th anniversary of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites with a fun Birthday Bash Geocache game! The treasure hunting game encourages people to get outside and explore some of Georgia’s most beautiful destinations. Players use handheld GPS devices to search Georgia’s parks for 12 hidden caches placed by the Georgia Geo-Campers.

Each geocache contains trinkets to trade and a special stamp for the gameboard. The challenge is simple, and players receive a trackable, commemorative geo-coin at the end of their adventure.

1. Mark gameboards with the stamp found in each geocache.

2. Find at least 8 of the Birthday Bash geocaches.

3. Spend the night in a participating park or attend a Georgia Geo-Campers event.

4. Mail in the completed gameboard to receive the geo-coin prize.

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Chattachoochee Bend State Park

The Birthday Bash Geocache game takes players on an unforgettable tour of Georgia featuring waterfalls, historic landmarks, scenic views and a variety of recreational activities from the mountains to the coast. Participating parks include Cloudland Canyon, Red Top Mountain, High Falls, Fort McAllister, and many more.

In addition to the 12 Birthday Bash Geocaches, Georgia State Parks host over 60 other geocaches as part of the Parks and History Trail GeoTours. Grab GeoTour Passports at any of the participating parks and begin the quest to find them all. Players receive custom Georgia State Parks geocoins after finding 15, 30, and 40 caches.

Geocaching in Crooked River State Park

Geocaching in Crooked River State Park

candycookCandy Cook is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Three Gardens for Mother’s Day with the Kids

Looking for beautiful blooms and a world of color for Mother’s Day? We’re sharing three of our favorite Georgia gardens that are brimming with color. Take a break and visit on your own, or bring the entire family for a day of exploring these magnificent marvels.

Dunaway Gardens in Newnan, Ga.

Dunaway Gardens in Newnan, Ga.

Dunaway Gardens

This haven in Newnan was once a large theatrical training ground for producers, directors and performers. It’s the South’s largest natural rock and floral garden, with 12 scenic spots, three waterfalls and several ponds. Check the website before you go; it is not open to the public everyday. I must say, it is one of my favorites in the state — pure heaven. Bring your camera! Meat ‘N Greet on the nearby square is a great stop for lunch. See this post of my visit to Dunaway Garden with the kids.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw, Ga.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw, Ga.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens

Tucked away in Kennesaw is a hidden gem with flowers, trails, sculptures and more. My family loves the waterfall, children’s garden and koi pond. We recommend bringing a picnic to enjoy under the shade trees. If you can’t make it for Mother’s Day, then consider visiting during one of their programs for children: young chefs, garden stories or the young explorer’s lineup. See this post of my visit to Smith-Gilbert Gardens with the kids.

Photo courtesy Gibbs Gardens, Facebook.

Photo courtesy Gibbs Gardens, Facebook.

Gibbs Gardens

220 acres in Ball Ground include 24 ponds, 32 bridges and 19 waterfalls. You’ll spy blooming annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees all year round, plus enjoy educational events, musicians, festivals and more throughout the year. We have a season pass here and enjoy every season with anticipation for the next. Mother’s Day features strolling musicians and Brunch in a Box for an affordable $15.

For many more trip ideas to beautiful Georgia gardens, visit ExploreGeorgia.org.

LesliLesli Peterson is Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

What’s New and How to Save at Georgia Theme Parks

Looking for a thrilling weekend adventure? How about a visit to one of Georgia’s theme parks? This year, there are even more reasons to visit, too. Here’s a taste of what’s new at your favorite Georgia theme parks, and how to save on a visit.

Photo courtesy of Six Flags Over Georgia

Photo courtesy of Six Flags Over Georgia

Six Flags Over Georgia
What’s New:
Revolution at Dare Devil Dive. The existing Dare Devil Dive roller coaster has added a thrilling new element: virtual reality. Now while you are dropping, twisting and going upside down, you can fight aliens using special virtual reality goggles. For the younger set, Bugs Bunny Boomtown has seven new attractions, and DC Super Friends is a new themed area that opens this summer.

Money-saving Tip: If you plan to visit Six Flags Over Georgia twice this year, purchase a season pass. It will pay for itself in two visits, and you’ll also get admission to White Water, a water park in Marietta.

Wild Adventures

Photo courtesy Wild Adventures theme park, Valdosta, Ga.

Wild Adventures
What’s New:
Dinosaurs are invading Wild Adventures! Guests can interact with 20 life-sized moving, roaring dinosaurs. Wild Adventures has also added nine play spots throughout the park with games like giant checkers and drum sets for families to play. In the Animal Kingdom, they’ve also added a South American exhibit.

Money-saving Tip: Bring a picnic lunch and save on food in the park. Wild Adventures has picnic tables outside the gate and allows guests to leave and return provided they get a hand stamp.

Geyser Tower at Stone Mountain

Geyser Towers at Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain Park
What’s New:
The Jump is the latest attraction added to the Crossroads at Stone Mountain near Sky Hike. Guests free fall 10, 15 or 20 feet from a tower.

Money-saving Tip: Stone Mountain often partners with Kroger. Look for discount coupons to the park at local Kroger stores. You can also visit after 4 p.m. and purchase a Sunset Pass for less.

Photo courtesy Lake Winnie and SoakYa Water Park

Photo courtesy Lake Winnie and SoakYa Water Park

Lake Winnepesaukah
What’s New: The Twister! Can you stomach it?

Money-saving Tip: When planning your trip, visit the Lake Winnie website and click the “specials” tab where you’ll find money saving coupons. Be sure to plan ahead though; coupons are for specific days.

SueSue Rodman is Georgia’s official Smart Travel Explorer and the editor and publisher of the award-winning family travel blog Field Trips with Sue. Click here for more Smart Travel content from Sue.

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Sing the Blues Like Blind Willie in Georgia

Hear an impressive lineup of blues musicians at the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival May 7 in Thomson, Ga.

Hear an impressive lineup of blues musicians at the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival May 7 in Thomson, Ga.

Thomson, Georgia’s claim on Blind Willie McTell’s legacy hasn’t gone uncontested. While the Piedmont blues legend was born in Thomson (35 miles west of Augusta), he moved as a young man to Statesboro, taking the town as the namesake for his classic Statesboro Blues,” later famously covered by the Allman Brothers. That college town embraced McTell by naming a walking trail in his honor. And a bit further down the road, a long-running Atlanta blues club also borrows his name.

A little competition is a good thing, though, and Thomson rises to the challenge in staging the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, which returns for its 23rd year on Saturday, May 7, 2016. The all-day party attracts roughly 2,500 revelers to a “10-acre setting, with a natural amphitheater layout,” according to Elizabeth Vance of the Thomson-McDuffie County Visitors Bureau. “It’s a totally grassroots festival,” she adds. Discounted tickets can be purchased in advance at the festival website.

Sculptures of guitars are located throughout Thomson, paying tribute to Blind Willie McTell.

Sculptures of guitars are located throughout Thomson, paying tribute to Blind Willie McTell.

This year’s impressive lineup includes diverse names like Buckwheat Zydeco, highly decorated blues guitarist Ronnie Earl, Chicago’s authentic and electric Cash Box Kings, New Orleans up-and-comers the Deslondes, and another Georgia legend in his own right, Colonel Bruce Hampton.

Adding to the local flavor, the county commissioned area artists to customize 7-foot sculptures of McTell’s trademark Stella 12-string guitar, which are now on public display throughout Thomson. “We wanted to find a way to give him an everyday presence in town,” Vance explains about the newly minted installation. “A lot of folks saw them during Masters Week.”

On the Friday night before the festival, the Visitors Bureau will offer a free screening of the documentary “Blind Willie’s Blues,” with director David Fulmer in attendance for Q&A. Since the music starts early Saturday, this film may provide the nudge needed to turn Blind Willie Fest into a full weekend trip.

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.