Fall Festivals Downtown
Think of September. Think of fall, the falling of leaves, the recessional of summer, and the time before winter. Actually, September is party time. September in Washington and the surrounding area is festival time, big time. It’s what makes living in a city like this, with its center-of-the-world, center-of-the-body-politic bigness, so exciting.
In fact, this September is so exciting that you almost can’t stand it. It’s like living in a house equipped with a big buffet, a bar, a major-league flat-screen TV, a dance hall, a bandstand, and the biggest book and record collection — sort of like living in the Internet.
September has the Washington Redskins opening their season against Dallas for God’s sake, and September is when Washington’s world-class theater community begins its productions. All the big orchestras and cultural institutions from the Kennedy Center, to the D.C. Arts Center, to the Atlas Theater, and to the Music Center at Strathmore begin their seasons. September 14 is when D.C. voters go to the polls for that every-four-years political bloodletting called the Democratic Primary. September is when the colleges open their doors yet again.
Also, September is the time to go to the neighborhoods to get a flavor for the city’s widespread, oh-so-diverse cultural offerings. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorite Washington area festivals. Look around for more. They’re everywhere.
Arts On Foot
There’s September 11 — this Saturday — where an ever-expanding Arts on Foot Festival spreads itself out in the Penn Quarter’s downtown area, around the Seventh Street corridor from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. This major league downtown revelation wraps itself around the city’s cultural, culinary and art offerings with both indoor and outdoor presentations.
The annual Art Market (already in progress) features the arrival of a host of local and regional artists offering everything from jewelry to painting, photographs, sculptures, woodwork art, and clothing. Look for the market in front of the National Portrait Gallery, along with musicians like Seth Kibel, folk group The Sweater Set, and guitarist Dave Chappell. On bigger stages there are performers like progressive hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon, CariTango, Dizzie Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue, swing music performers Gina DeSimone and the Moaners, Kid Goat, and Memphis Gold.
For foodies there’s the return of the O Organics “Cooking As Art Pavilion,” with D.C. chefs demonstrating their specialties. From an area rich in restaurants, there’ll be 25 top D.C. restaurants offering samples of their signature dishes at low prices in the restaurant sampling courts.
New this year is a special showcase of the District’s theater offerings at the Harman Center for the Arts, with short presentations from some of the very best theater and performing arts companies the Washington area has to offer. Among the 25 groups are the CityDance Ensemble, Ford’s Theatre, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Arena Stage, the Washington Improv Theater and the Washington National Opera.
The meteorologists say the weather is perfect that day. (At F Street between Sixth and Ninth Streets and Eighth Street between E & F Streets.)
Kennedy Center Open House Arts Festival
The weather forecast also bodes well for the 26th Annual Kennedy Center Open House Arts Festival, also on September 11 (this Saturday) from 12 to 6 p.m. That makes for a rich menu for cultural mavens, with performances heavily geared toward celebrating “Celebrate Mexico 2010,” — a festival inside a festival so to speak. Celebrate Mexico 2010 events include performances by Eugenia León, El Gran Silencio, the Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad Veracruzana, Nayas, Sherele (a klezmer a quartet from Guadalajara), Eugenio Toussaint with the National Symphony Orchestra, El Rincón de la Marimba, and the Macari-Sotelo Ensemble.
Also part of the festival is the annual Washington Chalk Festival, a gospel salute to Pastor Walter Haskins from Grammy Award Winner Richard Smallwood, the members of the Dance Theater of Harlem Residency, featuring young students ages 8-18, and the 16th Annual Multicultural Children’s Book Festival.
The National Book Festival
Even in the age of the Kindle, the National Book Festival, founded by former First Lady Laura Bush 10 years ago and sponsored by the Library of Congress, has to be a book lover’s go-to. It’s on the National Mall on September 25, it’s free, and it’s a celebration of books, authors and reading for everyone. Additionally, the festival features the presence—for signings and talks — of some of the best-selling authors plying their trade today.
Among the many authors are renowned Chilean novelist Isabel Allende (“The House of the Spirits”), best-selling legal thriller author Scott Turow, novelist Jane Smiley, Richard Rhodes, Edward O. Wilson, Ken Follett (of “The Pillars of the Earth” fame), Diana Gabaldon, Martha Grimes, Scott Spencer, Wil Haygood, David Remnick, Evan Thomas and Jonathan Franzen, whose long awaited novel “Freedom” is the major literary buzz of the year.
The Latino Festival of Washington and Adams Morgan Day
Two terrific, colorful and fun-filled neighborhood-flavored festivals that celebrate the city’s diversity and its Hispanic community can be found in Mount Pleasant and Adams Morgan — neighborhoods within smelling distance of the other’s ethnic restaurants. On September 12 (this Sunday) it’s the 32nd annual Adams Morgan Festival, which celebrates its own identity with the theme of “A Global Community of Diverse Interests.” Held along the length of 18th Street from Columbia Road to Florida Avenue (where the two main performance stages are located) this festival is so aromatic that you’ll feel like you’re a fried pepper after strolling through it.
The music has everything: latino, caribbean, reggae, salsa complete with a salsa contest, as well as soul, rock, afro-pop, blues and the Elikeh Band. From 12 to 7 p.m. it will be rock and roll and ola time.
There’ll be a health pavilion, dozens upon dozens of food vendors, and opportunities to shop from local stores and pavilions.
In Mount Pleasant, the Latino Festival of Washington will be held September 26, from noon to 7 p.m. There are five performing stages, but more importantly there’s the colorful Parade of Nations, which will include hundreds of dancers from 30 folkloric groups from Latina America, Spain and the Caribbean. There’s also a children’s festival, science fair, a diplomatic pavilion and international cuisine. Plus, as always, it’s free.