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September 12, 2006

Getting Amped for the Atlantic Antic

(Originally Posted on The Brooklyn Record):

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On Sunday, September 17th, car traffic will vanish on one of Brooklyn's busiest stretches of road. Downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods will ring out the summer with a huge celebration — it's time for Atlantic Antic. The street festival, which will be celebrating its 33rd year, runs for a mile and a half along Atlantic Avenue between 4th Avenue and Hicks Street. This stretch of Atlantic is a nexus of Downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods. It brushes against Fort Greene, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Brooklyn Heights. A sea of Brooklynites pour out onto the streets to eat, drink, and revel at the party...

Unlike every other street festival in the city, this one is made up of actual neighbors. Local shops open out onto the street selling their wares, and churches draw in passers-by with song as they sell food made by the congregation. There are stages on every block and bands, drums circles, and soloists perform for their neighbors. At Clinton Street, the local Middle Eastern community hosts traditional music and belly dance performances sponsored by Sahadi's.

It wouldn't be a party without booze and the bars along Atlantic graciously oblige. The Brazen Head, Last Exit, and a few others set up cordoned-off "beer gardens" for party-goers to relax and sip a pint. New York's open container laws, tightened under Giuliani to include festivals, are technically still in effect, but enforcement is lax. Grab a Brooklyn Lager or a Six Points and celebrate the borough the right way.

Atlantic Avenue's diverse range of cuisines offers food from the world over. Have a po' boy or a shwarma or some fried chicken as you enjoy the Brooklynest crowd you're likely to find. Finish off with some zeppoles, deep fried and doused in powdered sugar, or sample some key lime pie straight out of Red Hook. At Hank's Saloon, you can throw a burger on the grill and cook it up on your own.

With so many Brooklynites in one place, politicians are never far behind. Past years have seen Freddy Ferrer, Chuck Schumer and of course "Mister Brooklyn," Marty Markowitz, kissing hands and shaking babies — or something like that. Grassroots groups also take the opportunity to recruit. So, if you've been hoping to sign petitions against the Ratner development, Ikea in Red Hook, or the re-opening of Brooklyn House of Detention but didn't know where to go, this is your chance.

For the kids, there are huge inflatable playgrounds on both ends and face painting stations every dozen feet. There are also plenty of vendors selling balloons, cotton candy, toys, and comic books, so come with child-size blinders if you want to hold on to your money. — clay williams