By: Kyle Hudson
The streets of Northeast D.C. were packed this weekend as 150,000 people took on one of the most highly anticipated and attended events of the year.
Stretching 11 blocks long and featuring 14 staging areas, H Street Festival was one of the most well-attended and foreseen events in Washington, D.C. Featuring an array of vendors and performances, H Street Festival incorporated something for all attendees while simultaneously benefitting the surrounding Ward 5 community.
Debuting in 2005, H Street Festival was introduced to Washington D.C. as a 500-person block party. Since then, the festival has grown immensely and has had a direct impact on the community’s upward mobility. According to the festival’s website, the event was responsible for decreasing the commercial building vacancy rate in the H Street Corridor from 75 percent to 5 percent. The festival also served as a platform for local businesses, small and large, to gain a bigger following.
iPrint, a printing company based in Baltimore, Md., has been attending the festival for three years. This year the company had the opportunity to partner with the festival and produce the official 2017 H Street Festival t-shirts as well as the t-shirts worn by the volunteers. Azaroje’ James, an employee of iPrint, said that the festival gave the company “more exposure.” Although not located in D.C., iPrint took pride in uplifting both H-Street and the local community.
“This is our region, it is important that we really reach out to our region before we actually expand our brand to other places,” said James. “Everything is local so you don’t have to go out of state to print your flyers, t-shirts, and menus anymore which means much cheaper prices.”
Local businesses made an heavy impact at this year’s festival. Esther Asamoah, owner of Esther’s Designs, a women’s clothing company that specializes in authentic African garb, said that the festival was her way of sharing her culture and selling her quality product. The owner and designer of Esther’s Designs, all of the bags, jewelry, and dresses in her catalog are handmade from scratch. “[Today] Everything is made in China so people appreciate things that are hand made versus something that is made somewhere else,” said Asamoah. Not only does Asamoah appreciate the foot traffic that the festival brought to her business, she also admired the festival’s ability to bring people together.
Local businesses are not the only people excited for H Street Festival every year, the local residents also keep the festival going. Charles Raymond Barber Jr., a former resident of the H-Street community, says that he’s been attending the festival for years. “I lived in this neighborhood for seven years way back when. I worked right in the Welfare building,” says Barber. However, it isn’t the nostalgia of his old job that keeps him coming back year after year.
“It’s great because it brings a lot of people together from all different races, cultures, and creeds.”