And one of the weekend’s most anticipated festivals, The H Street Festival, is back for its eighth year to throw a party on one of the city’s most exciting streets. WTOP caught up with Anwar Saleem, executive director of H Street Main Street, to discuss the history of the festival and what to expect this year.
How long has the H Street Festival been going on and why was it created in the first place?
This is our eighth festival. The event was started to celebrate the uniqueness and vibrancy of the H Street Northeast area.
What can visitors of this year’s festival expect to see? What are some of the highlights?
This year the festival will feature more than 50 artists and 80 performances on 10 stages, accompanied by an array of local, regional and international cuisine, shopping, arts exhibits and educational events. The festival will span the 10 blocks of H Street NE.
More than 150 local restaurants, vendors and food trucks will offer a bounty of food selections. The festival will also have several beer gardens and vodka tasting areas featuring a libations from breweries and distilleries.
There will also be art cars, artist booths and installations. At the D.C. Fashion Week stage, area designers will kick off their annual celebration of fashion. And the kids and family zone will be serving up kid-friendly entertainment and interactive events. The festival will also feature a fitness area with a climbing wall sponsored by REI, as well as other health-promoting events and vendors.
What makes H Street such a unique neighborhood?
H Street is a story of remarkable urban transformation. Over the last decade we’ve undertaken a major revitalization effort to save H Street as an authentic place, and we’ve garnered a lot of attention for our work. The effort has been a complete success and has happened faster than anyone expected.
We have the best of everything the city has to offer: food, culture, shopping and fun. By giving the community a strong voice in shaping the identity of H Street, we’ve built a neighborhood that has a distinct identity and set the foundation to continue with sustainable change in the future. It’s been great to be a part of the journey that the corridor has experienced and will continue to experience.
How many people have attended the festival in past years? How many are you expecting this year?
Last year’s festival attracted about 75,000 visitors, and this year we expect the festival to attract more than 100,000 people.
Who organizes the festival and how long does the typical planning take?
H Street Main Street organizes the festival. Established in 2002, H Street Main Street works with private and local partners to encourage and support small business growth and revitalization along the H Street NE Corridor.
Over the last decade, the organization’s work has supported the creation of more than 140 new businesses and 1,500 new jobs in the District. H Street Main Street’s work has been so successful, earlier this year the organization was presented with a 2013 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA), recognizing H Street as an outstanding example of urban commercial revitalization.
We will start planning next year’s festival as soon as this year’s is over. It’s truly a year-long planning process, in which we partner with local organizations, neighborhood residents, the city government, restaurants and other businesses to showcase the H St NE neighborhood.
What do you see as the future for the festival and the neighborhood, in general?
Since the first year we held it, the festival has grown by leaps and bounds. We feel that there really is no limit as to what we can accomplish as a community and what the H Street Festival can become as an event.
There is also no limit to what the H Street neighborhood can become in the coming years. We’ve attracted more than 140 new businesses over the last decade and are receiving new interest every day. The area is becoming one of the premier neighborhoods in the city and we plan on building on our past success into the future.