Scenes from the Old Takoma Street Festival

by MAX BENNETT
photos by Eric Bond and Bill Brown

Slideshow at bottom

Sunday, Oct. 6—Despite temperatures upwards of 85 degrees, Carroll Avenue is thick with festival-goers all day. The 32nd annual Takoma Park Street Festival has transformed Carroll Avenue into a bustling bazaar with delights for the eye, ear, and tastebud.

“We like hearing the music, seeing friends and vendors,” says Takoma Park resident John Blount, who has been attending the Street Festival since it began in 1981. “We don’t come with an agenda,” says Adrienne Blount. “We just wander.”

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This year’s festival has attracted 224 vendors—with dozens turned away because of lack of space.

One end of Carroll Avenue features an inflatable slide and a Scooby Doo bounce house.

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Both ends host food trucks with Maryland crab cakes, pad Thai, vegan burgers, deep-fried Oreos, and a dozen other tasty options—running the gamut of nutrition. On the healthier side, Takoma Park’s Middle Eastern Cuisine, a beloved Old Takoma restaurant, has set up a stand in front to keep their offerings of baba ganouj and stuffed grape leaves at the ready for grazing visitors.

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Tebabu Assefa lures coffee connoisseurs into his Blessed Coffee booth with the aroma of freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee beans. Since 2011, the Takoma Park-based company and has been selling coffee at co-ops, community events, and festivals to gain a foothold in the community.

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“Coffee is a social drink,” Assefa said. “It is a platform for social interaction.”

For those who prefer to take their caffeine through a different medium, Sunyatta Amen from SiTea in Takoma, D.C., proffers tea blended from family recipes.

At a less fragrant booth, the Compost Crew spreads the word about composting and sell bins and countertop buckets for kitchen scraps. On nonfestival days, the Compost Crew gathers food waste from about 700 homes. Every six months, customers get a return on their investment—45 pounds of enriched soil, says crewmember Anna Lourie.

Suddenly, music blared from a stereo and a cadre of young ladies from Princess Mhoon Dance Institute giving an impromptu street performance.

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The Sharp Shirter tent sees a constant flow of young patrons rifling through their $10 box for offbeat T-shirt designs, from sloths hanging from stripper poles to old-timey hipsters throwing haymakers at bears.

Pamela Fields and Becca Pattie have set up a curbside shop, selling food-safe serving trays and lazy Susans decoupaged with Japanese prints, 1920s postcards, and stationery. “The Japanese collection is made with authentic Japanese washi paper,” explains Fields.

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These are just a handful of the vendors who comprise this tent city—along with Washington Chiropractic, Music for Life, Takoma Park Quakers, the Takoma Park Nuclear-free Committee, a host of political candidates, and more than 200 others.

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The festival’s many bands keep the crowd moving—whether from Djesben’s deep jazz or from the U-Liners’ straight-ahead rock and roll.

The day ends with a heated rumpus in front of the Columbia Avenue stage where Chopteeth, Takoma Park’s Afrofunk house band, transports the town to another continent entirely.

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About the Author

Max Bennett
Max Bennet is from Sayre, Pa. He earned his bachelors degree in English from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania in 2011. After graduating he worked as a copy editor and sports stringer for the Morning Times in Sayre. He currently is working towards a masters degree in journalism at University of Maryland, College Park.