The sirens of police motorcycles alert you to look up Main Street. On any other Saturday morning you might just happen be standing on a street corner in downtown Kennesaw at 9:30 a.m., but THIS weekend — April 14 and 15 — is the one I wait for all year. It’s the Big Shanty Festival kickoff parade.

Big Shanty festival

Welcome to Kennesaw’s Big Shanty Festival –look for the information booth under the stoplight.

The streets are full of jumpy slides and ice cream trucks, bbq tents and craft vendors — you have to park and walk a block or two but everyone is in a festive mood, anxious to get to the cotton candy and music playing, the dance groups tapping and the spin-to-win prize booths. It’s streets full of children in strollers and holding their parents’ hands, holding balloons.

More than 200 booths of crafts, clothing, jewelry, musicians, outdoor decor and plants will fill the streets and the parking lots in the center of town. Whether you like to meander along and see everything or zip through to your favorite booths (the Fudge tent! with free samples!) or claim a chair and watch the tappers and dancers on stage — there’s almost no way to see it all.

Strolling through the streets of Kennesaw at the Big Shanty Festival.

Too much fun — that’s why The Big Shanty Festival lasts for two days.

It’s two days’ worth of singers, bands, and square dancing, plus some special guests this year like ALLIGATORS!! Seriously, you can see and learn about alligators at Kachunga and the Alligator show. Or what about a clown juggling and entertaining the children at Lew-E’s Comedy Circus act?

I’ve got to see Robinson’s Racing Pigs and Paddling Porkers — they will race and swim for an Oreo treat! And if you see a REALLY tall person, it could be Carrie McQueen the Stilt walker — she will be juggling and dancing on stilts.

Take as much cash as you can spend … but maybe a credit card too because you will see the best crafts for Christmas gifts and want to bring home some of the cinnamon almonds and try the bbq, ice cream and of course, the fresh lemonade.

Can't sit still -- gotta dance!

Dancing in the streets of Kennesaw during the Big Shanty Festival.

I love seeing my friends, neighbors, fellow business owners and the couples strolling hand in hand, the babies in their carriers and lots of dogs all enjoying the sounds and sights of the best festival of the year. It’s never complete without a couple toots from the train engineer as they go through — it just adds to the ambiance! See you there!