October 2011

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Barracks Row Fall Festival Recap

Festivals and fairs crowd the metro area calendar as summer fades into fall. Every neighborhood loves to celebrate this time of year in that delicious four-week moment between the extremes of heat and cold. But, among all the area attractions Barracks Row Fall Festival on Capitol Hill remains a stand out among worthy competitors, a completely authentic snapshot of an historic neighborhood brought back from the brink.

Our Fall Festival is a unique present-tense, 2 block long happening –a sample of the personality and physical reality of our home town commercial hub.  Every day both residents and employees living or working nearby meet, shop, run errands, celebrate a birthday and grab lunch, exactly as DC’s original urban planner, Pierre L’Enfant, intended us to.

Focus on the larger six block long corridor, now known as Barracks Row, and you’ll discover a multicultural group of entrepreneurs and their staffs s traveling to 8th Street, SE every day for jobs as architects, consultants, realtors, insurance agents, dentists and chefs.  We are home to not one but two active military barracks. Beginning in 1798 America’s founding fathers sited facilities for both the United States Marine Corps and the United States Navy on 8th Street, SE. To this day men and women of the military, some dressed in fabulous medaled uniforms, some in everyday camouflage, mix and mingle with all the rest of us as we make our way up and down 8th Street conducting the business of life.

Barracks Row Fall Festival reflects this diversity. It’s the one day in the year we come together, hold up a mirror to ourselves and enjoy and marvel at the reflection. Whether it’s the Home of the Commandant’s, open for tours during the festival or our 8th Street psychic, ready to reveal your future, we have something for everyone at the festival. Here’s a photographic rundown of the cast of characters found along the midway on Saturday, September 24, 2011, starting with Chesty the Marine Corps bull dog mascot who found the heat a bit much and had to lie down for a while.

Hard not to notice the aerialists wrapped in yards of “Silks” as they hold poses twenty feet above the asphalt, silhouetted against the elm trees. They train at Trapeze School New York, located right off of 4th and M Street, SE and walk over to 8th Street every day for lunch.
The Model T Ford and antique truck (where you could have your picture taken) are owned by Capitol Hill Village, the local nonprofit committed to aging in place. Their headquarters is on 7th near E Street, right around the corner from Barracks Row.

How about that giant papier-mache head? The mask and man-behind- the-mask, who greeted fair-goers represent the artists at The Fridge, a gallery and performance space located in the alley right behind Shakespeare Theatre Administration, 516 8th Street, SE.  This classic Second Empire building forms the centerpiece of 8th Street architecture.  At the festival sword fights were performed by Shakespeare Theatre’s actors right in front of the stage- hopefully not causing any long term distress to the under 5 year old set who seemed to think it was very much for real.
We have to admit the petting zoo is not local, but the crowd of children and parents enjoying the zoo live right around us. The zoo is a yearly ritual, an integral part of every single Fall Festival from the very beginning in 2003. Here we see a baby boy learning the word “pig.”
We had a new attraction this year, United Social Sports, a nonprofit organization which runs local bocce, shuffleboard, corn hole, and ladder golf leagues. They set up their games opposite The Ugly Mug and Molly Malone’s and they were busy all day long.  Want to join up? This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Not only does the United States Marine Corps help support our festival by sending Marines volunteers to help us to set up and break down the fair, but Marine Barracks Washington also plays host to the Military Chef’s Cook Off.  Each year, in cook tents pitched on 8th Street, teams of chefs compete in a black box competition as crowds watch the action. After the lightening round a winner is declared, Top Chef in the US Military. This year’s trophy went to a last minute throw together joint services team of Three Gunnies and a Specialist from the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps. The main entrée of their spectacular menu was Pear Glazed Duck Roulande served with Pistachio and Rosemary Crusted Lamb.

The stage at the corner of 8th and G Street was center of action. We began with rock band The West End then, after opening ceremonies including patriotic tunes by the Marine Corps Brass Quintet, we showcased singers from Saint Marks Players, witnessed a rousing Zumba performance,  met the DC Roller Girls,  and by early afternoon, we enjoyed the smooth Big Band sound of the Blue Sky 5.  Staying in that mid- century moment we then had a visit by the Georgetown Chimes, an all male a capella group who sang old favorites from the 50’s and 60’s. A special new treat: the Georgetown Chimes then left the stage and serenaded the crowds at our many sidewalk cafes.
Other good ideas from Festival also continue on- Signature Sponsor CSX was planting daffodil bulbs in cups all day long at their tent.  We will need volunteers to help plant these in the ground in late October! Watch www.barracksrow.org for more information.

For a complete scrapbook of images of this year’s Fall Festival on Capitol Hill see www.barracksrow.org.