By Amy Wenk

amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

The city’s biggest celebration will be even bigger this year.

Organizers of the 24th annual Sandy Springs Festival expect to draw 30,000 people Sept. 26 and 27 with new offerings like an organic food market and high-flying canine stunt show. That projection is a significant increase for the two-day event that began as a small picnic gathering and last year brought 20,000 to Heritage Green along Sandy Springs Circle.

“During this economy where people are not traveling and going away as much, they are attending more local things,” said Deborah Craft, special events director for Heritage Sandy Springs, the nonprofit that plans the festival. “It’s an affordable way for people to get out, celebrate and have fun. Generally this year, festivals have been garnering good attendance, better than ever.”

New activities and events, Craft added, will also encourage attendance, as there will be “literally something for every age.”

“We are user-friendly for all people,” she said.

Perhaps the freshest offering will be the Georgia Made, Georgia Grown Market, which brings locally grown and made products such as seasonal jams and jellies, basil lemonade and grass-fed beef to the festival.

“It’s the direction people are heading,” said Craft of the market that is sponsored by Whole Foods. “It’s new. It’s fresh. It’s green.”

Pets will also catch attention at this year’s festival. The Kiwanis Club of Sandy Springs will host its annual pet parade, a favorite festivity that awards the most unusual or the best-dressed owner and pet.

After the parade, expect to be wowed by a new show called “K-9s in Flight” where rescued and adopted dogs perform impressive tricks like leaping high into the air to catch Frisbees.

Another pet event is the “Me & My BFF” photo contest that will benefit animal charities as well as Heritage.

“People know us for being a pet-friendly festival, and they like that because it goes along with being a family-friendly event as well,” said Andrea Mickelson, director of marketing and private events for Heritage. “You can bring your kids. You can bring your friends. You can bring your dog, cats, whatever. People like that.”

The festival will not forget traditional components like the business and civic expo, which will showcase the services of about 100 local companies this year. That is more participants than last year, said Craft.

The expo “gives businesses an opportunity to look into someone’s eyes, shake their hands, share with them what they do at a very affordable price” to the company, she said. “In this economy, we felt that was very important.”

The artist market will be slightly smaller with 85 vendors. In 2008, there were near 100. But a new antiques and collectables market will offer attendees new items to peruse and purchase.

As for music, the festival will feature 70s and 80s hits from Yacht Rock Revue, as well as Beatles’ songs from tribute band The Mystery Trip.

Other performers include the Riverwood Singers of Riverwood International Charter High School, Atlanta New Horizons Band of the Dorothy Benson senior center, the teen group Blue Moon Awakening, North Springs Charter High School marching band and FAAME Arts Youth Acting Company of Woodland Charter Elementary School.

Activities are available for all ages. For instance, kids and teens will enjoy a new interactive game zone with Wiis and Guitar Hero competitions; Dad can drool over at least 30 hot rods and classic automobiles at the collector car show; and Mom can bid on gift certificates and jewelry at the silent auction.

All in all, the festival “is going to be the most fun you can possibly have in 2009,” Craft said. “It is going to smell good, taste good, feel good and sound good.”