2021’s Big Shanty Festival celebrates community through the union of Kennesaw locals


Amber Roldan

Downtown Kennesaw embraced its esteemed Civil War history this weekend as locals emerged themselves in downtown Kennesaw’s rich heritage amid festival activities. With food appealing to everyone’s unique taste buds and products for varying interests, the Big Shanty Festival constitutes an eagerly anticipated event every year.

Amber Roldan, Features Editor

Sweet sounds of live music intertwined with savory scents of iconic festival food at this weekend’s Big Shanty Festival. The highly anticipated annual event unites artists, musicians, performers, food connoisseurs, and consumers alike providing people from all walks of life with an ideal opportunity to showcase their talents. The festival takes place in the heart of downtown Kennesaw. White tents featuring unique products available for locals to purchase lined the streets of downtown Kennesaw. The tents boasted products from jewelry, upcycled clothing, hand-crafted soaps, and BBQ rubs, to puppets, fresh produce, and custom-built woodworking items. 

The two-day festival kicked off at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. Early birds could grab a cup of coffee from local vendors like Apotheos Roastery while strategically avoiding crowds and the peak of Saturday’s heat. Festivities persisted all day before coming to a close at 6 p.m. Saturday evening. Activities reconvened Sunday at noon until 5 p.m. when the festival began to wind down and came to a close. 

After over a year of separation at the hands of COVID-19, 2021’s Big Shanty Festival safely celebrated community. The orchestrators of Big Shanty prioritized the health and safety of all participants. Social distancing stickers lined Kennesaw’s streets alongside hand sanitizer stations that promoted frequent handwashing as advised by the CDC. Numerous vendors evolved to the world’s current climate and sold homemade face masks and coverings.

Ultimately, the achievements fostered by the Big Shanty Festival would not occur without the exemplary efforts of the Kennesaw Business Association, Superior Plumbing, and the city of Kennesaw. The closely aligned aspirations of the three groups allowed 2021’s Big Shanty Festival to prove extremely successful. Festival attendees could locate Kennesaw’s generous mayor, Derek Easterling, engaging with the community as he visited vendors and swept the depot’s stage in between performances.

NC’s Tribal Connections student government organization worked closely with the leaders of Kennesaw Mountain high school’s student government, Mane Link, to diligently keep the streets of Kennesaw clean throughout the weekend. Students tidied up the festival grounds by picking up trash that littered the streets and frequently emptying garbage cans.

The Big Shanty Festival highlights the importance and impact of shopping locally. The festival allows artisans to sell products, gifts small business owners with a platform to grow their brand, and lets consumers shop locally while simultaneously putting money directly back into Kennesaw’s economy. 

The Big Shanty Festival embraced people of all ages and dogs of all sizes. Free admission and innumerable goods for sale attracted a multitude of visitors. Booths manned by vendors including The Horned Owl served alcohol to visitors over 21. Bouncy castles, ice cream, snow cones, and free prizes thrilled younger guests. The festival enthusiastically welcomed furry friends of all kinds. Several booths exhibited homemade dog treats, creative collars, fashionable leashes, and colorful toys.

NC Magnet junior, Trinity Klock works in the center of downtown Kennesaw at Honeysuckle Biscuits and bakery. Her proximity to downtown Kennesaw always allows her to fully experience the true spirit of downtown Kennesaw. Klock spent the majority of her Saturday working at Honeysuckle’s booth, where she sold delicious desserts and baked goods for humans and canines alike.

Amber Roldan

“I love getting to talk to people, I get to see a lot of different people and interesting things. I also get to see people who put forth so much effort into their artwork which I think is so rewarding. Big Shanty provides me with the perfect opportunity to talk to new people and learn about them,” Klock said.

The Big Shanty festival always places an admirable emphasis on performers. A stage located at Kennesaw’s depot allows performers to display their talents and exemplifies months of hard work and preparation. Numerous NC students found themselves on stage this weekend performing at the Big Shanty Festival. 

Amber Roldan

The Great Gig Dance Company performs at the Big Shanty Festival every year. The festival holds fond memories for the majority of the company’s members. Seven graduating seniors danced across the Big Shanty stage for the last time this weekend. Aside from the Big Shanty Festival and normally scheduled recitals, Great Gig dancers perform in front of Kennesaw’s community at numerous public events including the Taste of Acworth. The last Great Gig dance routine on Sunday constituted the seven graduating senior dancers’ last public performance. Leaving a piece of their hearts on the stage, the bittersweet weekend provided all seven girls with memories that will last a lifetime.

“Performing at the Big Shanty Festival is always so enjoyable for me, I love having the opportunity to share what we have been working on in the studio with our community. It’s amazing to see so many vendors and people with different passions in one place. You can feel that energy when you bring something you enjoy to the scene, and with us, it would be dance,” NC Magnet junior and Great Gig dancer Angelina Sisouphanh said.

Long hours and high temperatures failed to diminish the efforts of all involved in 2021’s Big Shanty Festival. Visitors went home with full stomachs and numerous goodies while vendors returned home with high spirits and the new business of many Kennesaw consumers.