Under a banner reading, "Togetherness Gives a Community Clout," more than 500 Southeast residents gathered for the second annual Congress Heights Day festival Saturday afternoon.
"Togetherness is a beautiful thing," said Rudolph Blyther, 17, a senior at Chamberlain Vocational High School. "If everybody put all their energies together, things would be all right -- like they are right now."
The festival drew an estimated 500 people -- including many youths -- to the Congress Heights Elementary School for a day of carnival games, speeches, dancing and music provided by two local bands.
Due to the threat of rain, the festival was held inside, with the activities centered in the school's multipurpose room. At tables lining the walls, residents were offered information on voter registration, blood pressure checkups, and the distribution of used clothing. At other tables, there was a bake sale, free balloons and a historical exhibit on the 82-year-old Congress Heights community.
Congress Heights, which borders on Anacostia, is a residential community of about 15,000.
Looking around the room, watching youngsters and adults mingling, was a satisfied Chuck Logan, president of the Congress Heights Civic Association, which sponsored the festival. Logan was gald to see things going as planned. "Everybody's got something to keep them occupied and entertained," he said. "This event brings people together; it gives the community a sense of unity and pride."
The association presented more than 40 "good neighbor" awards to area residents and Mayor Marion Barry was on hand to praise the community for holding the festival. City Councilwoman Wilhemina Rolark (D-Ward 8) read a Council resolution proclaiming Oct. 4 Congress Heights Day.
Then, the music of the "Black Ace" and "central Funk" bands brought the crowd to its feet, dancing and singing.
For many, the festival was more than just another community celebration. "This is the first time since last year that there have been games to play with," said a breathless Melissa Jones, 9.
Mary Jones, her mother, said, "The kids had someplace to go for recreation today. We need more recreational activities and facilities in Congress Heights."
Outside the school, at the corner of 7th Street and Alabama Avenue SE, a festival banner and colorful pennants were fluttering in the wind. Glancing up at the decorations, Ballou High School senior Veronica Lewis, 18, said, "I'm real glad I didn't miss this. Everybody had a good time together."