If Adams Morgan–or “AdMo” like the cool kids (read: me) call it–was a member of the DC family, it would be that crazy, hipster cousin who listens to bands with names like “The Ambiguous Lampshades” and tells you about the coolest hole-in-the-wall restaurants where you can find some of the best Jamaican jerk chicken DC has to offer. Adams Morgan would be cool with wearing mismatched socks with locally-produced leather sandals, and people would admire his personal flare and style as he sauntered, organic cotton satchel thrown casually over his shoulder, down the crowded city block.
If Adams Morgan is that cousin, then Adams Morgan Day would be his piéce de résistance. Located on 18th Street between Columbia Road and Florida Avenue, the festival is a day-long celebration of all things Adams Morgan has to offer: arts, music, culture, food, and community.
In the spirit of Adams Morgan Day, I donned my flowy harem pants, slathered on some SPF 70 sunscreen, and enlisted a group of friends to split an UberX ride to the northern entry point of the festival at the corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road.
The vibrancy of Adams Morgan captivated me immediately. The multicolored city buildings were lined with banners advertising businesses and restaurants to festival-goers; a woman danced ardently in front of a live reggae-rock band at the corner of 18th and Columbia; the interwoven smells of fresh-popped kettle corn and grilled kebabs drifted over the sunny street. All I could see looking down the road were rows upon rows of white-topped tents– the beginnings of the arts faire that stretched the length of 18th street.
Underneath the white tents was every variety of wares imaginable. A yoga and meditation outreach tent stood next to a henna and handmade earrings stand, which was pitched up next to a tibetan fabric booth. Hundreds of passerby sifted through sterling silver rings, locally hand-made vegan soaps, and screen-printed t-shirts. Vendors sold items from all corners of the art world: hand-sketched prints of DC neighborhoods, glazed ceramic (microwave safe!) mugs and bowls, Peruvian alpaca fur scarves, and hand-painted designs on bird feathers.
Going to AdMo2014 was one of the most sensorily engaging and wonderfully overwhelming excursions I had experienced in a long time. In the process, I meditated with Mahamad Das from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in D.C., and was gifted a free copy of the Bhagavad Gita, and prayer beads. I sampled amaretto rum-cake from Rumalutions, then watched David from The Capital Candy Jar (who makes appearances at our very own GU Farmers Market!) make a peanut-butter cup, hazelnut coffee s’more with a blowtorch. I tried on some homemade rose-scented shea butter from a vendor in Maryland, and I met Amber from 2322 Designs, a company that sells an eclectic mix of vintage clothes collected from all parts of the United States. I learned about Amani ya Juu, a non-profit that teaches marginalized African women trade skills, then helps them sell their fabric wares.
I also had a chance to talk with a few of the vendors: Michelle, from MotherBored Jewelry, started making rings, necklaces and cufflinks out of pieces of computer circuit boards after she opened them up to see all of the beautiful colors that are so frequently hidden from view. Jamie from Seeing in Fabric found oil painting to be too messy and started to experiment with fabric paintings– now she creates fabric art on canvasses, using a 1968 Singer sewing machine. Marcella came from a family of artists and now produces watercolor food-art, including posters, cards, and an illustrated Latin food cookbook (with food as her inspiration, she said, the possibilities are endless).
As I stepped into the “non-profit” section of AdMo2014, I was given fliers advocating for an end to human trafficking and other human-rights abuses. Volunteers handed me campaign stickers, asking me to vote for their candidate in the upcoming elections. Adams Morgan community members set up a white-board, asking the crowd what they loved best about the Adams Morgan Community, and how they could make it better. Local businesses, advocacy organizations, and nonprofits shared their origin stories and impact dreams with tourists and locals alike.
The food was an equally impressive part of the festival. Restaurants along the festival’s outskirts opened up their storefronts to serve portions of signature dishes, including pizza, falafel, ribs, and Korean barbecue. Food stands scattered throughout the festival offered up grilled corn, freshly made butterfly chips, strawberry lemonade, funnel cakes, and hot dogs. Local restaurants shared the likes of grilled up sausages, drunken noodles, paella, and fresh Caribbean cuisine, all while providing full menus from their respective restaurant locations– many just a few blocks away from the festival. Adams Morgan Day offered a space for many of DC’s vibrant cultural communities to come together and share their cuisine.
When we called the second UberX two an half hours later with 21 fliers in hand, my friends and I still hadn’t seen the entire festival. More than anything, the expansiveness of the Adams Morgan Day festival is a testament to the effervescent community it celebrates– a community of countless artists, musicians, activists, foodies, and all-around friendly people, looking to impact the community in their own unique ways. Whether it is a non-profit looking to affect global inequalities, a local chef preparing her famous lamb kebab, or an artist from the DC area sharing the love of her craft, everyone contributed to a wonderful festival that brought together all members of the DC family.
Although Adams Morgan isn’t always as crowded and lively as it was this past Sunday, it is still a vibrant place, very much worth a visit for its restaurants, shops, art, and culture. You can reach Adams Morgan by taking the GUTS bus to DuPont circle and then walking to 18th Street and Florida Avenue NW, where you can embrace everything this great community has to offer.
Photo: Erika Bullock/The Georgetown Voice