On Saturday, Dupont Circle played host to the first 17th Street Festival, attracting families, dog-walkers and dancing transvestites. The Street Festival brought together the 17th Street community with artists, musicians and locals who celebrated the end of renovations on their street.
“I have never seen the community from young to old get together and really strive to make one event a huge success,” said festival co-chair Stephen Rutgers. “No matter who you are in the neighborhood you had something to benefit from the festival.”
One group who stood to benefit were local artists, who jumped at the opportunity to display art in front of such a varied crowd. Over 50 artists participated in the Fine Arts Show, hoping to gain new customers. Although it wasn’t the first art show for many of these artists, they shared enthusiasm for the new festival.
“Just the experience when you hope someone will buy something is a great learning experience,” said Jay Schiffres, one of the artists.
The art shoaw was just as varied as the festival’s visitors. One of the most popular art exhibits was “The Republican Doppleganger,” in which programmer Jim Webb matched photos of people’s faces to various Republican politicians using a facial recognition program.
“It’s just fun for the festival,” Webb said. “It’s my creative outlet.”
John Johnson was helping Webb take photos of the participants.
“People love it,” Johnson said. “We’ve been getting huge crowds.”
The Fine Art Show was only a subset of the festival, which was created to celebrate the end of a $4 million stimulus project to renovate the street-scape. Substantial construction and revitalization efforts have made the formerly-ramshackle street into the perfect venue for an art festival.
“The festival was a way to show off the street and all of the businesses,” Rutgers said. The festival committee, in an effort to convince as many businesses as possible to participate, even gave out free banners for them to hang outside.
In addition to local businesses, there was a Pet Zone, kid’s activities, a beer garden at JR’s Bar and Grill, and various music performances by bands such as Double Life.
“There was a great turnout, with lots of great vendors. They did a fantastic job with this festival,” said No Kings Collective artist Peter Chang.
The local community played a large role in the celebrations. When the 17th Street Festival was first getting off the ground several months ago, it received support from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and Dupont Circle Citizens Association, as well as the D.C. Council Members and the mayor.
“Everyone really came together and supported the event,” said Rutgers. “We had an amazing response from the community and it really brought everyone together.”