Update, 3:28 p.m.: A spokesperson for Ward 1 Council Member Brianne Nadeau writes in a statement, “As a supporter of the Funk Parade, the Councilmember is working closely with both the event’s organizers and the community to determine what the best parade route would be.”
Update, 2:30 p.m.: Mayor Bowser spokesperson Michael Czin says the Funk Parade is “working its way through the normal process,” and the mayor’s office is looking forward to working with event organizers. “We are a pro-funk administration,” Czin says.
A petition has started on behalf of the Funk Parade, the street festival that debuted last year in D.C.’s U Street neighborhood. The petition on change.org calls for the District to formally shut down U Street NW for the second edition of the parade on May 2, 2015 — a request that organizer Justin Rood says city officials rebuffed for last year’s edition.
The petition calls the 2014 event an enormous success, but says it could have been a lot less cramped if it had been permitted to take place on U Street.
“Nobody got hurt, but the route itself was not big enough to accommodate everyone,” Rood says. According to the petition — started Wednesday by Kevin Rooney of U Street Buzz — the inaugural Funk Parade attracted 30,000 attendees, all squeezed into a route that followed Vermont Avenue NW to V Street, winding up in Ben Ali Way. (The Washington Post published a map of the route last spring.)
“That was the route the city suggested. The worst part was the alley they had it ending on was narrow and short, and there was no dispersal area,” Rood says. According to Rood, Funk Parade attendees spilled over into U Street — which would have been just fine, if the street had been formally closed.
Rood says that last fall, Funk Parade organizers submitted a letter of intent to the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency — namely the Mayor’s Special Event Task Force Group — hoping to start the complicated process of closing U Street for the event’s second edition. He says they’ve heard no response from that or any other city agency involved in handling major events. (A spokesperson for HSEMA redirected WAMU’s inquiries to Mayor Bowser’s office.)
As of noon on Friday, the petition has been signed by more than 340 supporters. Rooney says he’s hoping for 5,000, but that’s a more or less arbitrary goal. “We don’t want to antagonize anybody,” he says, “but we want to show city officials that there’s broad support” for the Funk Parade.
Mayor Bowser expressed support for the Funk Parade in her campaign literature, saying, “With iconic arts institutions like the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center, and exciting new initiatives like the (e)merge Arts Fair, Capital Fringe and Funk Parade drawing artists, musicians, creative innovators and their visitors from around the world, cultural tourism is one of the city’s growing sectors.”
At-Large Council member David Grosso tweeted in approval of the petition Wednesday, writing, “The Funk Parade was awesome last year. Definitely want to see it happen again on U Street.”
Another at-large Council member, Anita Bonds, wrote a letter to Mayor Gray’s office in support of closing U Street for the event in 2014, says Bonds spokesperson David Meadows, but he can’t yet confirm whether the council member is ready to throw her support behind it again. He adds that Bonds “understands the concerns of closing such a major corridor.”