The Eastern High School Blue and White Marching Machine kicked off the Capitol Hill July 4th Parade, preceeded by the Lady Gems dance line.
When the celebrated band stepped into lead the parade, they looked to fill big shoes. Marchers in the neighborhood parade are traditionally led by the President’s Own Marine Band from the starting point right outside the U.S. Marine Barracks near Virginia Avenue at Eighth Street SE.
But in June, the U.S. Marine Band announced a July 4th commitment in Boston. So, the Pride of Capitol Hill stepped off with just about as much polish –t-shirts, yes, but worn with spats– and rather more swagger.
“We were so lucky to have Eastern fill in,” noted organizer Christine O’Reilly, of Jeanne Phil Meg Real Estate, “[especially] with so little lead time.” The band was cheered by Capitol Hill neighbors as they played, stopping to drill and chant to the delight of the crowd.
Much of the crowd was clustered in the shady spots on the east side of Barracks Row to find respite from the July sun. As the Eastern Marching Band kicked off the parade at 10 a.m., with the Lady Gems leading the way it was already 83 degrees and the performers were glistening. By the time final marchers Tinkus Bolivia USA spun and lept their way down Eighth Street SE to the plaza park, the dancers in their colorful, heavy costumes and hats it had already reached 86.
But the heat got the parade cooking. Following the precision cool of the Eastern BWWM, the parade featured many local organizations, schools and businesses undissuaded by the termperatures and out to celebrate their neighborhood. Local politicians included At-Large Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie and DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, as well as Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen.
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) did not make an appearance, but advisor and former Department of Energy and Environment Director Tommy Wells appeared, marching with HSEMA Director Christopher Rodriguez and DC Fire Chief John Donnelly.
The schools were out in full force. Large contingents from Maury and Brent Elementary passed out candy to the kids; marchers from Tyler Elementary included the mascot, the Tyler Tiger. Several churches appeared, including St. Mark’s Episcopal; a float by Graceway Church included Moses and the Ten Commandments. Representation from the Ward 6 Dems, Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS) and Capitol Hill Village (CHV) was strong.
There were some new groups as well, including Dolphins from the Cheverly Swim Club and a particularly large group from the new Hill Family Biking club, which organizes family rides throughout the District. Neighborhood legend Peterbug Matthews walked the route, tossing out candy from his red wagon; Auntie Oye of education nonprofit Oye Palaver Hut walked the route with her team, letting kids play the drum. And a contingent from Mott’s Neighborhood Market LLC walked with their “Save Mott’s Market” banner.
The jugglers came out again with Sports on the Hill, and DC’s State Champion Little League Baseball team brought their banner to the parade. The Girl Scouts and two Scout Troops showed off their candy throwing arms, although these paled in comparison to Jeanne of Jeanne Phil Meg Team, when the noted realtor walked her bike and began tossing candy to the crowd.
The Shop Local Float brought local businesses together, with Leah Daniels of Hill’s Kitchen handing candy from pots and pans; Frager’s pushed a lawn mower down the parade route; Mary of Crazy Aunt Helen’s dressed in pink. But celebrity for the small set came with Labyrinth Game Shop brought Pikachu, the yellow Pokemon, to the celebration. The fuzzy yellow pocket monster was repeatedly hugged by members of the crowd.
In the middle of the parade, the beats were pickd up again by Batala DC, the all-women Afro-Brazilian band that also opened Phase II of The Wharf and later, the Potomac Gardens Drum Corp.
The fuzziest neighbors were also out in full effect, with a huge contingent from the Virginia Avenue Dog Park and also from the Doodles on the Hill marching in the parade. The leashed marchers would meander over to the crowd, nustling their noses into the hands of the crowd.
And of course, crowd favorites, the Capitol Hill BID’s Men in Blue maintained their status as crowd favorites, wheeling their large blue bins full of candy and tossing beach balls from the BID truck. Their generosity headed north was all the more remarkable since once they reached D Street SE, they turned and headed south, sweeping up all the wrappers on their way.