Sunday in the Park : The Backstage Beat Traveled Back to Victorian Atlanta and Spent Time with Steampunks

Historic Oakland Cemetery is an amazing outdoor museum capturing the history of Atlanta by preserving one of the most amazing burial grounds in the nations.  Founded before the Civil War, the cemetery includes the final resting places of many of Atlanta’s most famous residents.  Recently, Oakland Cemetery, located off of Memorial Drive near Boulevard,  hosted thousands of guests who gathered to celebrate a simpler time during event known simply as “Sunday in the Park.”

Founded in 1979, Sunday in the Park is considered a Victorian Street Festival. This family friendly event fills the cemetery with life.  It may seem unusual in modern times to have a party in a cemetery, even one as beautiful as Oakland, but in the Victorian days it was common place to picnic in cemeteries. This ritual was the original inspiration for Sunday in the Park.

This year was the biggest and best Sunday in the Park ever. A record number of costumers donned top hats and mourning coats to recreate Victorian fashion.  Costume contests were held in several categories to be able to recognize as many amazing costumes as possible.

Vendors lined the walk ways with trinkets, costumes, arts, and crafts available at reasonable prices. Along with the historical re-enactors were thousands of moms and dads pushing strollers in comfortable jeans and sneakers and open minded citizens enjoying the beautiful weather, amazing funerary architecture and shopping.  Musical acts played both in the main stage area, and in smaller venues around the park.  The pleasant tunes of The Vauxhall Garden Variety Players could be heard from a small tent near the park visitor center. This popular local string ensemble can always be guaranteed to add that special touch of class to any event.

One thing many of the attendees enjoyed mightily was the food trucks. Food trucks have never been more popular, and the selection at Oakland for Sunday in the Park was outstanding. The most popular food truck would have been from the longstanding Atlanta favorites the Varsity, except for the appearance of the Pallokaville truck, providing Sunday in the Park with outstanding corn dogs, and causing very long lines.

Many more activities were taking place, but Oakland is so large it is hard to cover it all. Toward the end of the afternoon though, there was one sight that was completely unexpected:  A group of Victorians were being filmed for what is apparently a potential PBS documentary.  If more news on that arises, the Backstage Beat will keep you informed.


Steampunks Represented

This year the costume contest added a new category: STEAMPUNK. Where Victorians gather, steampunks are not far behind. This modern science fiction take on Victorian fashion blends fantastical ideas with the trappings of steam power and creates a motif that Jules Verne would surely embrace. If you are familiar with it, you are aware of the omnipresent gears, goggles, and steamships of steampunk.

There is a saying that steampunk is what happened when Goth’s discovered the color brown.  The clever turn of phrase does not lend justice to the beautiful outfits of the 1st Steampunk Costume Contest, Gretchen Jacobsen and Jennifer Jarrell.  Gretchen wore a fetching green dress in the style of the 1880s, and Jennifer wore a stunning gold bee keeper’s outfit, stylized to accommodate the Steampunk sensibility.  Jennifer noted that winning had a special significance. “I had been denied admission to a steampunk contest in the past because I did not have a proper accessory with my costume. Today I was justified and grateful that my costume was recognized.”

Famed Steampunk novelist Emilie P. Bush was having brisk sales day, and when I caught up with her for a brief chat on her involvement with steampunk, I found she was in the company of the popular steampunk band, The Extraordinary Contraptions, and Atlanta’s steampunk maven, Cindy MacLeod.

The Backstage Beat was glad to get the chance to cover this fun and festive event. Make room on your calendar now for Sunday in the Park, 2012!



Historic Oakland Foundation

248 Oakland Avenue SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 688-2107


More about Oakland Cemetery

The Cemetery is open 365 days a year from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The gates are now being locked at 8:00 p.m.

The Foundation office is open Monday – Thursday 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. and Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., except holidays and the week between Christmas and New Years. The office is located on the second floor of the Bell Tower Building in the center of the cemetery.

Tour Season

Our 2011 weekend tour season begins Saturday, March 12 and continues through November 27.

Private group tours for 5 or more may be scheduled year-round. Contact Mary Woodlan at (404) 688-2107, extension 15, to arrange for a group tour.


Upcoming Events:

Halloween Tours (Check link for details from 2010)

October 28, 29 and 30, 2011


Run Like Hell 5K Race & Run Like Heck Fun Run (Check link for details from 2010)

October 22, 2011