Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September is FESTIVAL TIME in the SSRC Area!

With summer coming to an end, the earth no longer shaking, the lights (mostly) back on, the mud drying out, the heavy rains moving on, and the high winds but a fading memory, it is time to turn the calendar to September. Cooler weather, dryer air, and FESTIVALS galore!

Seven festivals are scheduled in the Silver Spring Regional Center Area within three weekends in September. (Believe it or not none on Labor Day weekend... That weekend is relatively quiet; a nice time to enjoy strolling on Sligo Creek or the variety of culinary experiences in Long Branch and Langley Park.) And, don’t forget: In mid September the Fillmore Silver Spring opens with an amazing lineup for the first week alone: Mary J. Blige, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band, John Legend, Guerilla Union, and Blondie. Wow.

The festivals begin with the amazing Silver Spring’s own Jazz Festival sponsored by Montgomery County on Saturday September 10th. This year, even the headliner is a true local talent: Marcus Johnson. This iconic Festival has become a staple event, bringing thousands of people to our downtown area. The Silver Spring Civic Building offers a beautiful backdrop to the energy felt throughout Veterans Plaza and surrounding streets during the Festival. This year the Festival ends at 9pm, leaving ample time to go dine at one of more than 30 restaurants – many independently and locally owned - within an easy walking distance that are open late for your post-festival enjoyment. These include restaurants in our own (and growing) ‘restaurant row’ on Georgia Avenue; down the street on Sligo and even on East West Highway; on Colesville, Ramsey, Bonifant, and of course on Ellsworth as well.

On Sunday, September 11th, either before or after you have your moment of remembrance, stop by the traditional Takoma Park Folk Festival.. It is a must! This year the promo card audaciously references “Woodstock”!  For those of us that live within walking distance of the venue - Takoma Park Middle School (on Piney Branch) - attending this Festival has become an annual ritual. The Festival is 100% Takoma Park, very different than any other festival you might have experienced.

From Septembre 14-18, the Sonic Circuits Festival returns with its annual exploration of experimental music and sound, film and dance performances. Most of the events in Silver Spring will take place at Pyramid Atlantic. They will also provide a sample of their sounds on Veterans Plaza as ambiance performances for the folks strolling through downtown at that time.

The same weekend, Saturday September 17th also brings the NEW South Silver Spring Street Festival to town. This Festival originally started as a block party years back by area residents. It has now grown in quality and stature, bringing folks from throughout the broader community and beyond to South Silver Spring. With its own beer garden, festivities, and ‘neighborhood’ feel, this Street Festival promises to become an instant tradition. It takes place on Kennett Street (over by Acorn Park, home of the original Silver Spring!) There’s plenty of parking all around; good people; good food; and good fun.

On that same date (Saturday, September 17th) and the following day (Sunday, September 18th) the Maryland Fine Arts Festival comes to Downtown Silver Spring on Ellsworth Drive. The words “fine arts” are intentional in the name of this festival. Artisans from all throughout Maryland come to show and sell their ‘high end’ wares. The Festival highlights the incredible talent in our State. It is quite a testament to the success of Silver Spring that this festival has chosen this local venue.

The last Saturday in September (the 24th) brings not one, but two festivals to downtown. Highlighting our area’s amazing cultural and ethnic diversity there will be not one, but two festivals: An African Festival and a Latino Festival:

- The 2nd Annual Pan African Cultural Festival will take place on Veterans Plaza on Saturday, September 24. The Festival is organized by the ACCDF (All Cameroonian Cultural and Development Foundation, Inc.) in collaboration with the African Affairs Advisory group of Montgomery County. It is part of a series of events commemorating September as African Heritage Month in Montgomery County.

- Mid September through mid October is also recognized as Hispanic Heritage Month. Thus, on Saturday, September 24th, there will also be a Latino Fiesta in Downtown Silver Spring, taking place on Ellsworth Drive (by the fountain.) This first-time festival will be highlighting Latino culture with its music, food, and fun for the whole familia.

And if all these ‘festivals’ were not enough, the American Film Institute will be running its annual Latin Film Festival starting September 22 (running through October 12.) This is truly a fantastic opportunity to ‘visit through film’ Spanish speaking lands near and far - including Spain! (The lineup will be announced early September.)

Why all these festivals? Clearly because Silver Spring is the place to be!

As we partake of these wonderful enlivening opportunities, we do so as community, neighbors, and part of the larger family that is Silver Spring. While the events are certainly loads of fun in and of themselves, they also offer a magnificent opportunity to meet new folks, reconnect with neighbors, and engage in conversations that can lead to the strong relationships necessary to build community. It is at these festivals where we may just find that next civic leader, young entrepreneur, or new business person willing to invest in our area.

It is through these seemingly ‘happenstance’ situations that we bump into each other and create opportunity to intentionally spark bigger things; start that conversation; invite someone to that meeting and community dialogue; and who knows where it might lead?!?

Oftentimes the leaders, organizers, vendors, performers and enthusiastic participants of some of these festivals do not necessarily participate in – and oftentimes do not even know about - our traditional civic infrastructure (i.e. board, committees and commissions; civic associations; etc.) More often than not these folks have their own ‘non-traditional’ civic infrastructure, working within circles and cultures that function totally separate – and oftentimes quite independent – from our ‘world’. Yet we share the same issues, the same roads, the same libraries, and the same public realm. It is these very same folks that we want to have sitting at the table when we discuss what is relevant to our community at our boards, committees, commissions, and civic associations. Somehow we have to make our process inviting and welcoming to them so they feel comfortable joining us in our civic journey…

Be brave; be bold; enjoy the festivals – and bring someone you meet at these festivals to the next community engagement opportunity so we can share the stories and continue – together - building a vibrant, stronger, Silver Spring. (We could start by inviting them to the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board Meeting Monday September 12th and/or the joint Committee meeting of the Board that will take place on Monday, September 26th … More on these to follow…)

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