H Street Festival returns to DC’s Northeast neighborhood

People grill at the H Street Festival on Sept. 18, 2021.

Festival-goers walk down the H Street Corridor on Sept. 18, 2021.

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The annual H Street Festival returned to D.C.’s Northeast neighborhood on Saturday after COVID-19 caused the festivities to go virtual last year.

The festival stretched 11 blocks on H Street in Northeast, from 3rd Street to 14th Street. Festival-goers enjoyed various staging areas featuring music, dance, interactive children’s activities, fashion and much more.

The pandemic has changed this year’s festival, though. Organizers said this festival had fewer vendors, fewer stages and smaller performances to allow for social distancing.

Festival coordinator Wuiping Yap said business are excited about being back and making up for last year’s lost revenue. She also said the city committed to keeping the festival safe with the ‘Justice for J6’ rally taking place only blocks away.

“The [D.C. police department] has committed enough personnel to guarantee that the festival can go on as usual,” Yap said.

The festival is one of the city’s largest; event organizers estimate it draws 150,000 people. Last year, because of the pandemic, organizers held a virtual event.

Organizers said the festival has helped utilize art as an engine for economic growth in the historic neighborhood. Jeanine Prime, co-owner of Cane, a participating vendor, said the street fair brings in bigger day crowds than usual.

“We want to support the community and be part of this tradition [and] support all the other businesses,” Prime said.

She and other vendors are taking health and safety precautions, including providing hand sanitizer for customers and spacing out tables.

Visitors said they are excited to be back.

“I think it’s a great outdoor festival where you can really feel what the city is. It’s still got the heart of the old school as you can hear the go-go in the background but then there’s also a lot of gentrification. It’s a mix of both and there’s always good food,” said David McMillin, who was at the festival with his wife and son.

McMillin added that they would be leaving early to beat the large crowds because of COVID-19 concerns.

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