Douglas Arnold leaned hard on his push broom to shove along a small mountain of beer cans, soda bottles, paper plates, corn cobs, bits of taco shells and other half-eaten food. It was the morning after the big Hispanic celebration in Adams-Morgan and Arnold had his assignment.
"This is a lot of trash and my job is to clean it up," he said cheerfully. "I didn't come to the parade because I was sleeping, getting ready to work a double shift."
On Sunday, more than 200,000 people gathered for the final day of the festival that featured a parade with floats and several hundred ethnic food stands along 18th Street and Columbia Road NW.
Arnold and 26 other Department of Public Works employes spent the early morning hours yesterday ankle deep in the pungent-smelling garbage and litter that overflowed the dozens of trash cans placed along the parade route. By the beginning of rush hour Monday, the fleet of city dump trucks, street washers and a new $72,000 mechanical sweeper had cleaned the main streets and removed close to 80 tons of trash from the festival area.
Organizers of the festival, which has been plagued in past years by slow cleanups, warmly praised the workers for performing their thankless job swiftly.
Pat Patrick, past cochairman for eight years of the Adams-Morgan Day Festival, a board member of the local business association and a cochairman of the Hispanic Festival booth concession, called this year's cleanup efforts on the part of the city "the miracle of the night."
"I defy you to go to 18th and Columbia today and say there was a festival there yesterday," he said. "It is spotless."
The four-hour hustle on the part of city employes working on an overtime basis ended up costing the city $4,125, said Joe O'Donnell, chief of the streets and alley cleaning division for the Department of Public Works. He said the Hispanic Festival generates more trash than any other Washington festival or official celebration, including Adams-Morgan Day, the Cherry Blossom parade and the presidential inauguration.
The street litter from the popular festival has been viewed as a problem for years in the congested Adams-Morgan community, where festivals are welcomed by some and criticized by others for the crowds they draw and the parking and trash problems.
Kim Enferadi, one of the event's coordinators, said her office was "under extreme obligation to have no sign of the festival visible by rush hour Monday."
"We had hundreds of meetings with the city and they always stressed the importance of the cleanup," she said. "The trash from the festival is incredible."
Neighborhood activist Walter Pierce was part of this year's success story, according to both Enferadi and O'Donnell. Pierce was waiting for O'Donnell when he arrived at Columbia Road at 2 a.m. to give a report of the cleanup efforts.
Pierce, founder of the Adams-Morgan Ontario Lakers basketball team, was under contract with the committee to pick up trash during the festival.
He employed about 20 of his players to push large cans through the crowd to collect debris and to distribute trash bags to booth operators.
"We filled the Supercans every night so they wouldn't get stolen," he said, gesturing toward the line of green cans waiting to be emptied. "And we handed out 1,900 trash bags. We worked."
As O'Donnell's crew pushed and shoveled the trash into a compacter, Walter Siguenza-Escobedo snapped pictures of the trash and the workers. Having spent 12 hours at the festival, he now said he wanted to spend the rest of the night watching the cleanup operation.
"It is fun to watch everything to do with the festival," he said. "But I worry that it is getting so big that it will move to where the monuments are. I am making pictures just in case this is the last year for the festival here."