Photos by Caleb Barrett

Some things are predictable when Seed & Feed comes to town. What started as a surprise performance during the ’90s turned into more than a decade-old tradition of Atlanta’s Seed & Feed Marching Abominable performing at Piccolo Spoleto. The marching band comes prepared every year with uplifting live music and quirky-bright costumes, bringing cheer and fun to the festival. 

“You’re always gonna see tutus. You’re always gonna see glitter. You’re always gonna see some hats or false eyelashes and lots, lots of shiny stuff,” Seed & Feed Band manager Joann Cebulski said. 

These are the main ingredients Cebulski, who’s from Conyers, Georgia, described as the “visual extravaganza” awaiting three separate Piccolo Spoleto audiences this year. Seed & Feed will bring celebratory fun to the festival with more than 100 members in attendance. Its goal is to leave the audience with a sense of community by sticking to its mission: spreading joy through shock, awe and wonder.

The Seed & Feed Marching Abominable members will wear … well, anything. | Photos by Caleb Barrett

The Seed & Feed Abominable will start Piccolo Spoleto’s first weekend by playing in the Farmers Market parade at 11 a.m. on May 27, followed later that day with the Midnight Pajama March at the U.S. Customs House. The band will wrap up on Sunday at the Patriotic Concert.

What you’ll hear

The band’s music selection committee chooses a yearly roster of 40 to 50 songs to play throughout the season before its final gig that culminates at Piccolo Spoleto.

Drum major Karen Parker said the crowd should expect to hear anything from 1960s and 1970s tunes to swing to rock to P!nk and the Black Eyed Peas.

“It’s my favorite gig for the whole season,” Parker said of Piccolo. “I’ve led the band once for the pajama march, and I’m very excited.”

Parker is also the band’s co-czar for Piccolo Spoleto along with her husband, Darrell Webb. Both have been Seed & Feed members for more than a decade and live in Lawrenceville, Georgia. As co-czars, they help organize and get the band to the festival.

Family and inclusivity are essential parts of Seed & Feed’s framework. With members ranging in age from 14 to their mid-80s, the band accepts all talents, regardless of age and even location.

“We have a saying, ‘Once an Abominable, always an Abominable,’ and it’s true,” Parker said. “We usually have some out-of-town members join us for this. It’s the end of our season, so it’s a big celebration for us.”

Last year was the first year of performing at Piccolo Spoleto for Atlanta residents Meghan McCloskey and her daughter Marissa Rainey. At 14, Rainey is the youngest musician in the band. Alongside the musicians, crowds will also see the band’s non-musician traffic cops, called the Despicables, who also help keep the peace and make sure the band stays together in crowds. McCloskey acts as a Despicable alongside Cebulski, who is the band’s Queen Despicable.

“It’s just pure fun,” McCloskey said. “When I’m driving home from a gig with my daughter, and we’re both just kind of in that warmth of having a great time, and it is something that I get to do with my child, I just really can’t beat that feeling.”

Photo by Caleb Barrett

For Rainey, Seed & Feed has become an outlet where she can express herself musically, and she says performing at events like Piccolo Spoleto makes her feel seen as a young musician.

“It’s really great to be out somewhere and have people telling you how special you are because you’re able to provide that joy for music,” Rainey said.

Whether they are dressed in tacky tourist costumes for the Family Day parade or red, white and blue for the patriotic concert, the Seed & Feed musicians say they are looking forward to putting smiles on Piccolo Spoleto listeners’ faces.

“There’s nothing like coming up those stairs and running out onto that big plaza and seeing all the people sitting on the steps waiting for you,” Parker said. “It’s a great thrill.”

Cobb is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications Program at Syracuse University.

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