By Horus Alas
Despite the cold, a crowd of hundreds came out on the evening of Feb. 13 for the first annual celebration of Mardi Gras in D.C.’s District Wharf neighborhood. The newly-finished development sports posh bars, eateries and residential spaces along an attractive mile-long stretch of the Potomac waterfront.
Tuesday night’s celebrations began with a 6 p.m. parade running down Wharf Street to the District Pier. Tenants and associate organizations of the Wharf marched floats to the end of the street near Maine Ave. SW. Spectators were encouraged to vote for their favorite parade float via text.
After the parade’s conclusion, attendees were invited to a dance party at the District Pier. The evening’s festivities were closed out by a fireworks show at 8 p.m. on the waterfront.
Residents from across the D.C. area gathered to bask in the festive ambiance of the Wharf’s first-ever Mardi Gras party.
Speaking about the recent development of the Wharf neighborhood, Chris Scott, 33, of Arlington, Virginia , noted, “Up until 2013, I used to work over by the Coast Guard headquarters … And even then, [the Wharf] was not an area you wanted to walk around in.
“But within the past two years, as you can tell, they’ve done a lot of work and spent a lot of money to get this place up and running. It’s beautiful, and right around the stadium, it’s a prime area. It’s a great spot for people to hang out, have fun and bring their dogs.”
Ashley Craig, 31, of Guntersville, Alabama, remarked that Mardi Gras in D.C. is, “Usually just a way to get people to go to the bars.”
“I live down close to the Waterfront Metro,” Craig continued. “I’ve been here for about five years and the change is phenomenal. And I love it; it’s become safer and easier to walk around in.”
“I think the whole idea of Fat Tuesday,” Scott observed, “is that it’s supposed to be this very traditional Catholic observance before Lent. So I think it’s kinda cool that even though there’s not really a religious theme to it, it’s still a big party that everybody’s celebrating together.”
Billy Harless, 53, of Arlington, Virginia, said the Wharf’s transformation into a swank waterfront neighborhood played a role in getting him out to celebrate.
“I’ve lived in this area for 25 years … This is beautiful. They have changed this. Ever since the Nats came to town—the Nationals have changed this whole area.”
Sarah McEntee, 42, of Arlington, Virginia, claimed that Mardi Gras, “… [has] become quintessential American culture. It’s such a melting pot holiday. You have Brazilians who are in on it, and you have so many people in this country who have celebrated it one way or another from where they’re from.”
“That’s the beauty of D.C.,” Harless chimed in.
Other attendees also stressed the importance of diversity and inclusivity in holding Mardi Gras celebrations in Washington.
Monique Taylor, 48, of Bowie, Maryland, said, “It’s so diverse here. It’s the nation’s capital. It’s time to bring people together on one accord.”
As the last of the fireworks began to fizzle out of the skyline on the waterfront, spectators milled and shuffled about to the nearest restaurant or bar to escape the cold.
The Wharf’s first annual celebration of Mardi Gras was over. Beads, cups and venetian carnival masks were dispersed throughout the one-mile stretch of cityscape overlooking the Potomac.
The stone-paved surface of Wharf Street slowly began to grow quiet. No, this celebration wasn’t exactly Bourbon Street on the same evening. But for those who had come to take in the sites and festivities, it was certainly enough.
Featured Photo Credit: Many performers walked on stilts throughout the parade, rising high over the crowds on the cold night. (Julia Lerner/Bloc Photographer)
Horus Alas is a freelance writer and can be reached at email@example.com.