Celebrate 2012 Barracks Row Fall Festival on Capitol Hill

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Celebrate 2012 Barracks Row Fall Festival on Capitol Hill by Sharon Bosworth

It started quietly but summer 2012 quickly earned its place in the record books:  The hottest summer in recorded history, it proved just the right temperature for our neighborhood’s Nationals to become this year’s winningist team in baseball. By August we were spellbound by Phelps, Felix, The Fab Five and Clarissa Shields, American icons of the London Olympic Games.  German, Oscar Pistorious, “blade runner”, the first man to compete in the Olympics with prosthetic legs shattered our perceptions about “limitations” and Bolt, the well-named Jamaican, demonstrated how far we are from knowing our own speed limit. These champions stand for us all - all who dream the impossible dream, and then go out and get it.

Barracks Row Fall Festival hosted by Barracks Row Main Street stands for us all, too.  A local celebration of our complex, beguiling, 212 year old neighborhood, we charge no entry fee and we invite everyone’s participation.  On September 22 arrive at Eastern Market metro plaza and stroll our three block midway; you’ll be impressed and proud to be a citizen of Capitol Hill and The District. We personify the age-old come-back saga: A rundown, decrepit corridor, written off by smart money, we battled the odds and won. Today we’re the go-to street, a destination when your family arrives to visit, the epitome of an urban oasis.

Actually - There Is a DC State Fair

DC State Fair joins our festival this year along with long term partner, the Military Chefs Alliance.  Friends of the Barracks Row Fall Festival always include Marine Barracks Washington, home to Marine volunteers who help set up and breakdown the festival, an Olympian race-against-time:  The fair ends at 5:00 pm and the street must be open to traffic at 6 p.m. for restaurant patrons. We salute Commandant and Mrs. James Amos for graciously opening The Home of the Commandants for hourly tours and to Colonel Christian Cabaniss, base commander of Marine Barracks Washington, for allowing fairgoers, led by docents, to take a generous peek beyond the gates of the “oldest post in the Corps.”

Didn’t know there was a DC State Fair? The organizers managed to overcome that little statehood technicality. Just like in Iowa or Nebraska, there are pie and vegetable judgings. There are best pickles, photography, home brew, and heaviest fruit awards; all contests offer small cash prizes, ribbons and glory.  Eventually the judges face the colossal task of crowning the Funkiest-Looking Vegetable Grown in the District of Columbia.  Inspired by Curiosity, that fresh, multi-talented Mars rover, there is even a Best Bike Accessory in DC championship.  There’s still time to participate - most DC State Fair contests are open until September 20 at www.dcstatefair.org/2012-contests.

Black Box Cook Off Determines Top Chef

This year the Military Chefs Alliance is fielding five cook tents on the midway near the gates of Marine Barracks Washington.  Dishes are prepared live in front of the festival audience. Starting at 7:00 a.m. the first flight of chef teams (3-5 chefs per team) gets a look at their black box of ingredients; the teams cook up a storm until 10 a.m. when sequestered judges are presented with the chefs’ masterworks.  After the winner is declared the next flight of chefs begins at 10:30 a.m.  By 1:30 p.m. winners of the second flight are determined.  By 2:00 p.m. the lightning round begins:  two winning teams cook off to determine the Top Chef in our armed services.

This year, for the first time, our Wounded Warriors will be competing. The Military Chefs Alliance’s mission is to showcase all military chefs including the chef skills of Wounded Warriors. In the Wounded Warrior Cook Off each individual entrant competes consecutively throughout the day to produce dishes to be sampled by that same hard working panel of judges. Winners of all Cook Off competitions will be announced from the festival stage at 4:45 p.m. at the trophy ceremony.

Girl on Trapeze in the Trees

Like the Olympics our Fall Festival requires both participants and an audience.  We are counting on YOU! Don’t let September 22, the first weekend of fall, prime sidewalk café season, slip by without a visit. Over twenty of Barracks Row’s diverse eateries are located inside the festival footprint which begins at E Street, SE, and runs three blocks south along Barracks Row to I Street, SE. Plan a relaxed afternoon in ringside seats enjoying your favorite international fare with inspiring beverages. Watch Trapeze School New York as they work at treetop height, holding impossible poses while wrapped in rivers of flowing silk. Trapeze School performances begin at noon and continue until 5 p.m. See Roller Girls twirl on skates and Marines marching the midway outfitted in Historic Uniforms from 1798 through the Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, and onward to today.

Listen, what is that? Not music? Not a machine? Not a human noise at all… of course! It’s a pig. Every year we host a zoo full of baby animals to meet and greet Capitol Hill’s burgeoning population of baby humans.  Our extensive children’s area will be produced by Playseum, 545 8th Street, SE, and The National Community Church, 535 8th Street, SE.  You’ll find crafts, games and an entire air conditioned movie theater so you can catch your breath for another go at the midway. For older kids, theres a full array of games including corn hole, shuffleboard, as well as brain games at the intriguing Labyrinth booth (store location 645 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.)

Essence De Provence on 8th Street, SE

Shop Fall Festival for early Christmas presents: Consider a story book for the grand kids by Little Ned or a smart bib necklace from DC’s own Cara’s Creations. The Med beckons with gourmet oils, vinegars and salts at Sapore’s booth (store location 660 Pennsylvania Ave, SE) and all things lavender at Essence de Provence.  Need something new for your weekend wardrobe… perhaps a T-shirt from Sharp Shirter sporting a message from that other you … or wrist-wear from Fisticuffs?  Love our street? Artist Joe Snyder creates building portraits - many of iconic Barracks Row edifices.

Performers grace our stage located at 8th and G Street, SE, beginning with the opening ceremony at 11:30 a.m. when the Marine Corps Brass Quintet presents patriotic tunes. At noon the Marine Corps Color Guard will present the Colors; then Barracks Row’s president, Tip Tipton, will cut the ribbon to begin Fall Festival 2012.

After eating, shopping, watching our performers and voting in some unusual contests we hope you’ll be inspired to become a full participant in Fall Festival 2012.  How about swing dancing? Seriously!  In mid afternoon, Swing Band Blue Sky takes the stage and brings us back to the 40’s and 50’s with vocals from Frank Sinatra and arrangements by Tommy Dorsey. This year dance teachers are waiting to coach you with the basic steps in swing.  Bring your sweetie and dance the afternoon away at 8th and G Street, SE.  If the Greatest Generation could do this, we can, too, Dancers of all age welcome!