Toco Hills Purim Parade and Festival Celebrates 30th Year
Costumed marchers and cleverly decorated floats entertained hundreds of spectators, then capped the parade off with an outdoor festival.
Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.
On a chilly Sunday in March, a crowd cheered on floats and costumed local groups parading down LaVista Road in Toco Hills. This was the Purim Parade and Festival’s 30th year, a high-spirited celebration organized and hosted by Congregation Beth Jacob.
The March 13 event brought together Jewish day schools, synagogues, organizations, families, youth groups and local businesses to share the joy of the festival of Purim. Just as significantly, the festivities created opportunities for socializing among Jewish Atlantans of all ages and backgrounds.
The parade route, just short of a mile, began at the Toco Hills shopping center and made its way to Congregation Beth Jacob, where police estimate that around 1,000 people were on hand to enjoy kosher food, carnival rides and entertainment. A stilt-walker, costumed Purim characters and jugglers entertained the audience, while many of the families arrived in costume, creating an animated, playful atmosphere.
There were 20 floats in the parade, led by flagbearers and escorted by members of the DeKalb County police and fire departments, who worked closely with event organizers, as they do every year, to keep the crowds safe.
Food trucks from Kosher Gourmet, Formaggio Mio and Adamah Foods — in addition to concession stands featuring Ali’s cookies and Cotton Cravings — created an outdoor food court in front of Beth Jacob, near the rides. The popular train, pony rides and petting zoo for younger children were located in areas on the Beth Jacob campus safely away from the carnival area.
Work on Beth Jacob’s iconic event began six months ago, in October 2021. Co-chairs Sara Davis and Melanie Frank focused on organizing the petting zoo, pony rides, food vendors, ticket sales and recruiting volunteers.
Sarah Faigie Berkowitz, Beth Jacob communications and marketing manager, oversaw all aspects of the event. She initiated grant requests, managed design and marketing, sponsorships and recruiting floats and marching groups. The trio was supported by nearly 100 volunteers of all ages, including a team of 9-year-old students and teens from local high schools who served as ticket sellers, food sellers and event helpers. “It’s an absolutely beautiful mishmash of ages, backgrounds and tasks, and everyone had a great time!” Berkowitz reported.
In contrast to the previous 29 years, this year’s parade and festival featured new floats and marching groups, more rides and entertainment and thoughtful additions such as complimentary hot drinks to combat the chill, free flower bouquets, coloring sheets and crayons to occupy kids while they waited to have their face painted and stationing all activities outdoors. Beth Jacob partnered with families whose children are members of the special-needs Friendship Circle to provide “no-wait” bracelets that could be used at any of the rides.
Berkowitz, Davis and Frank said they plan to repeat the fully outdoor festival model next year. “It will be tough for us to top this year’s Atlanta Purim Parade and Festival, but that’s the goal! We’ve got the date locked in — Feb. 26 — and twelve months to pray for nice, sunny weather!”