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Adams Morgan festival on track

(Published August 9, 1999)


Staff Writer

The much-contested Adams Morgan Community Festival will take place Sept. 18 and 19, coinciding with the opening of the Columbia Heights station on Metroís green line and the inauguration of the Adams Morgan shuttle between the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan and U Street-Cardozo Metro stations.

The tone of this yearís festival will be a departure from the beer bashes of previous years. For the first time, alcohol will be banned in the streets during the festival, but temporary legislation passed by the city council earlier this summer will allow restaurants and bars on 18th Street to expand their outdoor seating across the sidewalk to the curbs. Restaurants and clubs will be able to serve alcohol in these expanded seating areas, but alcohol will still be prohibited in the streets. Merchants also will be permitted to set up shop across the sidewalks to sell their goods.

Planned events on Saturday include architecture walks organized by the Smithsonian Institution and an invitational soccer tournament featuring four Latino and four Ethiopian youth teams. The Sunday events include a kids fair in Kalorama Park, a fine arts fair on Belmont Road and music by local groups. The festival will close off 18th Street NW on Sunday to accommodate the music stages and food and craft vendors.

Festival planners were given the final go-ahead by the festivalís steering committee Aug. 2. Festival organizer Tom Oliver said the steering committee is not concerned that it has only about $10,000 in cash on hand at this stage of the planning. He said the in-kind contributions and sponsorship commitments he has gotten convinced the committee that the festival could succeed. Originally, Oliver said he hoped to have $30,000 cash on hand at this point. Oliver said it would take about $100,000 to stage the festival.

Oliver said the festival could still be scaled back if there is not enough financial support to stage the full-fledged event. Options for scaling back the festival include reducing the number of music stages from three to one or only partially closing 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan. Oliver said he is still confident the festival will go on as planned.

Controversy surrounding the festival erupted when Oliverís for-profit company, Western Public Interest, broke from an original group of Adams Morgan businessmen organizing the event and proposed its own alternative festival to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The merchants, headed by Chief Ikeís Mambo Room owner Al Jirikiwicz, accused Oliver of bad faith dealing and of stealing their ideas in order to turn a profit. Oliverís company won the ANCís approval, as well as that of three neighboring citizens associations, but the merchants association declined to support the effort.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator