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Category Archives: Festivals
The nearly two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival officially began Wednesday night, aptly on the first day of spring, with nearly 650 guests attending the seventh annual Pink Tie Party at the Renaissance Washington DC, Downtown. The party is the first of a series of events in the annual festival, which honors Japan’s gift of cherry-blossom trees to the United States in 1912. As a result, cherry and springtime elements were infused throughout the cocktails, decor, and food provided by the more than 30 restaurants that participated this year. Miami-based chef Lorena Garcia hosted the event.
Here’s a look at the decor, catering, and entertainment at the spring-themed party.
Participating restaurants included Todd Gray’s Watershed, Edgar Bar and Kitchen, Georgetown Cupcake, Boqueria, The Majestic, and Founding Farmers. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Amaryllis provided the decor.
**Originally published on BizBash.com on 3.22.13, Ron Engle/Courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival (geisha, garden, cupcake, tree, lounge)
The Taste of D.C. returned to Pennsylvania Avenue this past weekend for a three-day food festival that began on Saturday. After a seven-year hiatus, the event returned last year under new ownership and direction resulting in nearly 500,000 attendees. With each event lessons are learned, and for the 2012 iteration organizers put a larger focus on crowd control, opting to fence in the 10-block festival.
“We wanted to make sure that we can provide a better event for our vendors so they aren’t getting bombarded,” said Taste of D.C. C.E.O. Steuart Martens. “Last year there were just too many people, and we didn’t want to overwhelm the vendors or the amount of space we have.”
Martens and his team at DKSM Productions turned to Sonco Fence and the Metropolitan Police Department to section off the festival from the street and sidewalk traffic and keep the crowds, which Martens estimated to be around 100,000 for all three days, under control. (Final attendance numbers were not available at press time.) Additionally, nearly 300 volunteers per day—comprised of interns, friends of Martens’ and his business partner Dan Kirner, local organizations looking for volunteer hours, and those recruited via Craiglist postings—helped keep the event running smoothly. Martens received positive feedback from vendors on the overall event and operations, despite Sunday’s dampened attendance—a result of rain and local national sports teams’ home games.
Before event day, interns from local universities like Georgetown, American University, and Howard University played a large role in pulling together the festival, beginning with the 13 who worked during the summer finding ways to improve upon last year. Then about three weeks before the festival, a new lot of 30 or so joined the mix for an intensive training under the respective Taste of D.C. team members for their desired areas of expertise, such as event management, culinary aspects, production, and the like. Come last Saturday, these staffers served as the liaison between the planners and the vendors within their respective areas of concentration.
Organizers also restructured the ticketing process, moving away from selling tickets to purchase food items to instead selling a $10 or less entry ticket. Pre-event sales began at $5, with eventgoers handling their purchase transactions directly with the food vendors. “It makes it easier on us and on the vendors,” said Martens. “Before, when you got to the event, you had to wait in line to get tickets, but you didn’t know how many to buy and what 10 tickets would get you at one vendor versus another. This streamlined the process.”
Although the attendance intentionally shrank this year, sponsorships overall improved about 25 percent with 49 corporations like Ford, Werther’s Original, and PNC Bank signing on and bringing on-site activations.
As for the future, Martens and his team are considering moving the start of the event to a Friday, as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to fill the last day—currently a Monday—with attendees as less people take Columbus Day off work.
(Originally published in BizBash Washington)
The National Cherry Blossom Festival held a performance-filled opening ceremony Sunday night at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for 6,000 residents, visitors, foreign dignitaries, and local and international media. The night of American and Japanese music and artistic performances is one of more than 100 events in the festival this year, which expanded from two weeks to five for its centennial celebration of the gift of trees from Tokyo.
“We’ve been planning for the centennial for a long time, and about five years ago we started thinking strategically of what we wanted to do to recognize a gift of international friendship,” said Danielle Piacente, the festival’s communications manager who helped coordinate the 11 signature events planned in-house. “We knew we wanted to make it something that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Sunday night’s lineup included remarks from deputy director of operations for the National Park Service Peggy O’Dell, festival board chair Susan E.S. Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray, and Ambassador of Japan Ichiro Fujisaki, as well as representatives from sponsors MetLife and the Japanese company Daiichi Sankyo. Performances by top Japanese recording artist Misia, drummers TAIKOPROJECT, the Washington Ballet, a finale from Sara Bareilles, and others came between the speeches. “[The night’s] really meant to tell the story of how this gift of trees became the greatest springtime celebration through performance,” said Piacente.
Other events coordinated in-house by festival organizers include last week’s Pink Tie Party and the Cherry Blossom parade on April 17, which will be hosted by Alex Trebek and Katie Couric and syndicated for the first time to 18 of the top markets around the country. More than 50 local organizations and cultural institutions host the remainder of the nearly 100 sanctioned events that include lectures, art and cultural exhibitions, and musical performances through April 27. Throughout its run, the festival is expected to draw more than one million people to Washington, with nearly 45 percent coming from outside the city.
Top corporate sponsors include MetLife, EventsDC, Canon, and Daiichi Sankyo.
(Originally published in BizBash Washington on 3.27.12)
**Photos: FotoBriceno LLC
(Originally published 7.8.11 in BizBash Washington)
The 46th Smithsonian Folklife Festival kicked off on June 29 with a private party for 450 hosted by the Embassy of Colombia, this year’s featured country, at the Smithsonian Castle. Each year, the Smithsonian Folklife and Cultural Heritage committee selects a different country to highlight during its 10-day run on the National Mall.
“The opening reception serves to honor the participants traveling from Colombia to represent us [at the festival] and to invite people in the U.S. and policy makers to know more about Colombian culture,” said Denisse Yanovich, culture and education attaché for the embassy.
André Wells of Events by André Wells designed and produced the affair, which highlighted different aspects of Colombian culture across its four event spaces at the castle. Wells worked with A Vista Events to decorate the main hall and a tent in the garden with a bright palette of green, yellow, orange, purple, and blue. Colombian artists who traveled to Washington for the event set up an arts market in the venue’s Schermer Hall, showcasing basket weaving, pottery, and other works commonly produced in the country. Music took the spotlight in the commons, with singers, dancers, and musicians from Colombia performing throughout the night.
Guests’ cultural immersion continued with the food and cocktails, with Windows Catering Company serving traditional Colombian dishes, beginning with passed hors d’oeuvres including arepas con queso (mini cornmeal pancakes topped with cheese), yucca fries with guacamole, and coconut shrimp with a ginger dipping sauce. The main dinner buffet station held heartier fare like beef empanadas and three kinds of ceviche. A dessert table of arroz con leche, flan cups, and other small bites opened simultaneously outside in garden tent. The four decorative bars served signature cocktails like a mango martini and a Colombian beer cocktail mixed with soda, and fresh mango, pineapple, and passion fruit juices.
Speakers during the night’s educational program included Gabriel Silva Luján, ambassador of Colombia, Minister of Culture of Colombia Mariana Garcés Córdoba, and a video presentation about the various elements that make up the country’s culture.
(Photos: Eli Turner Studios; food/musicians/night tent: Neshan Naltchayan for BizBash)
(Originally published 6.15.11 in BizBash Washington)
The D.C. Jazz Festival drew to a close on Monday night, following 13 days of more than 100 performances in 50 venues around the city. The finale performance, A Night in Treme: The Musical Majesty of New Orleans—a national jazz concert tour based on the HBO series Treme—sold out the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with 2,300 people.
“Treme features New Orleans musicians, some of whom we’ve featured over the years,” said festival executive director Sunny Sumter. “Our founder and executive producer Charles Fishman knows a number of [the A Night in Treme musicians] personally, as well as the producer of the tour, so we were actually one of the first people they called when the put the tour together to coordinate the Washington leg.”
Following the two-hour performance—which had attendees dancing in their seats and the aisles—AT&T hosted a finale dessert party at the center’s Roof Terrace Restaurant. Waiters served traditional New Orleans desserts like bread pudding, king cake, and pralines. Bacardi and Southern Wine & Spirits also served cocktails inspired by the Big Easy, like the Grey Goose L’Orange Summer Tea—orange-flavored vodka, simple syrup, sweet tea, and crushed mint—and red wines from France.
Though the original time line had a representative of the festival giving remarks during the post-party, Sumter scratched that part of the program at the last minute to keep guests energized and mingling following the concert until nearly midnight.
Organizers estimate that the festival overall attracted about 120,000 people, nearly double the amount in 2010, when funding from the city had been cut and the event lost its concert on the National Mall—one of its biggest draws. Sponsorships also grew this year with 24 companies, twice as many as last year, donating $10,000 or more; first-time sponsors included American Airlines, Bing, and Verizon.
**Photos courtesy of FritzPhotoGraphics.com (atmosphere); Ronald H. Green (trumpeter, Pierce)
(Originally published 5.6.11 in BizBash Washington)
“This started as a block party in our parking lot and got considerably bigger this year, with a new venue and bigger name bands,” said Jonathan Neman, one of Sweetgreen’s three founders. “Music is a big aspect [of our brand] and something we love personally, so it’s a great avenue for us to reach customers and show you can throw a festival in a sustainable way.”
The company partnered with O-Power, an energy efficiency and smart-grid software company, to calculate the event’s carbon footprint and offset it through means like an on-site activation with guests riding bicycles to create energy. Additionally, Sweetgreen worked with Charm City Hospitality, Eat to the Beat, and Applegate Farms to overhaul the concession stands and serve only organic meat in its burgers, hot dogs, and other sandwiches and wraps.
Along with the move, Sweetgreen sold tickets for the first time, with $55 providing general admission to the first-come, first-serve lawn seating and $100 getting you into the V.I.P. area to the left of the stage (which sold out). Sponsors like Stoneyfield Farms and PopChips provided complimentary snacks to guests. Additionally, table tennis company Joola sponsored a gaming area with multiple ping-pong tables that remained occupied throughout the day. Nearby on the grass, AFR Event Furnishings created a lounge area with multiple groupings of heavy-duty red plastic club chairs and rattan sofas with cream couches.
The festival raised funds for the Jamie Oliver Foundation, a charity that promotes healthy eating.