Arts Desk

Fiesta D.C. Fence Mystery: Solved!


An extra from an Of Montreal concert? Nah. It's Fiesta D.C.!

As I noted in my roundup this morning, I had a great time at yesterday's Fiesta D.C. Latino street festival in Mount Pleasant—I didn't eat any food, which was a shame, but I enjoyed the parade and feel bad for thinking about it mostly in indie-rock analogies. I noticed something weird, though, which was that the stage sitting at the corner of Mount Pleasant Street and Argonne Place was fenced in, with barbed wire. It was one of those Department of Parks and Recreation trucks that fold open into a stage—if you've seen them at a neighborhood street festival, you know crowds can usually stand right up against them.

fiesta2What gives? Here's what gives. John Stokes, a spokesman for DPR, says the agency just rents out the truck—there are three: a small, a medium, and a large—but it wouldn't have had anything to do with the fence. Ivonne Rivera, the president of the nonprofit Fiesta D.C.'s board, says it's for safety reasons, and a condition of the festival's insurance. The festival sometimes books well-known bands that can excite the crowd.

Rivera called the festival a success and said that 70,000 people attended—a big accomplishment in a still-struggling economy. The festival costs about $200,000 to put on, she says, and in the past it has received much of its funding from the District government. Those funds came via the Office on Latino Affairs, says Rivera, but this year Fiesta D.C. had to raise funds from elsewhere. "We haven't seen a dollar" from OLA, she says, although the office promised some funds. (Look at the list of sponsors, which does include the District government.)

As for that price tag? "It's expensive but politically it sends such a message," Rivera says. "We’re here, our kids are U.S.-born...We’re part of this city.”

Rivera says this year is the festival's 39th, and sixth under the brand Fiesta D.C. The festival didn't take place the two years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Rivera wasn't involved in the festival then, but says the hiatus was due to the difficulty of obtaining a permit for public events during those years.

Photos courtesy of my BlackBerry.

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  • SteveK

    It is too bad that Cuban band Bamboleo did not perform. The soundman told me that their flight from NY got cancelled, so they took a bus down (but did not arrive in time. They may have made their nighttime show at the Star Lounge in Annandale).

    So you didn't even have a fresh coconut drink? The guy just slashed off the top with a machete and stuck a straw in.

  • Jonathan L. Fischer

    Awesome. I should've but I'm allergic to lines.

  • Native JD in DC

    Wait the fence sends a message? About immigration?

  • Jonathan L. Fischer

    The festival sends a message. The fence prevents trampling.

  • Mt. Pleasant Born & Raised

    Sorry so late, but just saw this. You mean to say the fence was put up to prevent the trampling that has never happened during the Festival's previous 39 years? What gives? I'm not buying it! Mr. Fischer, Ms. Rivera, is the Mt. Pleasant Festival really rowdier than any other in DC?