For thousands of Washington area residents, yesterday was a day of cultural celebration and basking in the sun.
Hispanic Americans showed off their heritage at an annual festival in Adams-Morgan and television soap opera fans took to the Ellipse and soaked up rays with the superstars whom they spend suspenseful hours watching on weekdays.
Meanwhile, at Crispus Attucks Park of the Arts in Northwest, a festival to mark the beginning of African Heritage Month served up African art and history to an eager crowd.
There was plenty to take pride in there and at the 13th annual Hispanic American Festival, which continues through today with what is expected to be a colorful and musical parade down Columbia Road NW.
Yesterday, natives of Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Bolivia, Mexico, El Salvador and other Spanish-speaking countries set up a string of booths and grills on Columbia Road, selling everything from fresh fruit to leather boots. Between 16th Street and Kalorama Road NW, families and friends stood at the plywood vending stands, cooked delicious, mostly spicy, specialties from their homelands and sold them to the hungry and the curious at prices ranging from 50 cents to $3.
Three small parks that dot the Columbia Road strip were enlivened by the rhythmic and irresistible maracas, conga drums, guitars, trumpets and singing of several Hispanic bands.
Ricardo Dias, singer for the Fiebre Amarilla band from El Salvador, looked out on a large audience of mostly Hispanic peoples and smiled. "Once again we're all together," he said. "This is the best part of the year for us. We get together for the music and the food from the different countries. We sing about our Latino pride, we dance and we remember home."
Seteria Johnson, who is not Hispanic but works as a counselor at a multicultural career program for high school students, stood at a booth selling punch and watermelon and greeting passersby with a cheerful "buenos dias." Said Johnson, "This festival helps those who have come across the waters retain their culture and it helps the little ones coming up identify with their heritage."
At The Ellipse, U.S. Park Police estimated that 2,500 soap opera fans were on hand to gawk at, question and try to get close enough to touch 1983 Emmy Award winners Bob Woods (Bo Buchanan) of "One Life to Live" and Louise Shaffer (Rae Woodard) of "Ryan's Hope," who were joined by dozens of other stars yesterday for a tribute to daytime television. After meeting their fans, the stars attended a reception at the Smithsonian Institution where memorabilia from several soap opera series were presented to the institute for display.
Park Police estimated that about 10,000 people gathered in Anacostia Park yesterday where a lively concert featured local bands. At Crispus Attucks park, Ras Efrayim, 27, of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, founded by Marcus Garvey, wore a white flowing robe and sold red, black and green t-shirts featuring a pyramid and the words "Black Brotherhood" in bold print.
"We want the commuity to understand its own heritage . . . and to determine its own destiny," Efrayim said.