Otakon Coming to D.C.

Fans of anime will flock downtown this weekend for Otakon, an annual convention celebrating Asian pop culture, specifically, anime, manga, music, movies and video games.

Serious fans will dress up as their favorite anime characters in bright and beautiful costumes and wigs or full-on Pikachu or Sonic the Hedgehog suits.

Otakon is an anime-lovers mecca, drawing thousands of devoted fans from far and wide for a weekend of immersion in fantasy and fun.

Activities include cosplay, gaming, karaoke, dancing, a manga library and meet-and-greets with artists, musicians, designers and others. Marvel at the beautiful creations in the art show, attend musical performances and try your hand making crafts.

Check out the gaming hall, featuring new and classic video games, and enter a tournament if you’re feeling brave! Don’t miss the separate section of indie video games — you can say you played it first!

Featured presenters at Otakon this year include Weeb Palace (anime, video games and cosplay), Dollfille (makeup artist and Living Doll) and Super Art Fight (live art wrestling), among others.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, pick up pre-registration badges 3 – 10 p.m. Thursday; preregistration $95/adult $50/9-12 years old (8 and under free) full weekend, $50/adult Friday only, $60/adult Saturday only, $70/adult Sunday only, all prices higher at the door; Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW


Take One Small Step Toward the Apollo 50 Festival

Flat Earthers and moon landing conspiracy theorists beware: the Apollo 50 Festival kicks off today on the Mall, three days of fun celebrating the day U.S. astronauts landed on the moon and planted the stars and stripes in its craggy surface.

Headlining this Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum event are performances by characters from Ready Jet Go, the hit PBS Kids TV show that tries to get kids interested in STEM subjects early so the U.S. can catch up with the rest of the world one day.

Lots of reps from NASA will also be on hand to give talks about lunar science, space stations, exploring planets and more.

At least 20 tents will be set up so visitors can take part in fun hands-on activities. Bring water. It’s going to be near 100 degrees for the next few days.

Apollo 50 Festival, Thursday and Friday, July 18 and 19, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, July 20, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; between 4th and 7th streets on the National Mall

It’s Hot. Drink Beer.

Should you attend America’s Best Brewfest on July 20 and sample beers from all 50 states? It would be unpatriotic not to.

Capital BrewFest has been hosting festivals for five years strong now, and they’ll be bringing yet another show-stopper to The Bullpen. A $50 ticket grants you unlimited tastings, so you can road trip across the nation without having to pay for the gas. Get your tickets here.

Check the list of beers often, as more are being added each day.

In addition to beer, there will be wine, cider, games, live music, food vendors and more!

Pick from two three-hour sessions: 1-4 or 5-8 p.m.

Feeling like a boss? Go VIP for only $20 extra. This will let you cut the line and grant you access 30 minutes early. That’s three and a half hours of unlimited sampling! Going VIP will also allow you to sample five high-end beers (including Saison Ale from Allagash and Rare Vos from Ommegang) and three high-end wines from France.

Your souvenir tasting glass will be supersized, about 4 oz. larger, so you’ll be able to enjoy those exclusive beverages in all their American glory. Finally, it will get you a koozie to hang your beer around your neck, rendering your beer-sampling experience hands-free. For only $20, what could be better?

Avoiding gluten? No problem! There are plenty of gluten-free options, including 25 wines, 10 ciders on tap, and a gluten-free beer from Lakefront Brewing.

Don’t have the dough for a brewfest? You can still join in the fun with volunteer options. Volunteer during the first shift to get free admission into the second shift, or volunteer during the second shift to get three free tickets to the next Capital BrewFest event on Sept. 7.

The event is rain or shine. Dogs and babies are not allowed — it’s better to have both of your hands-free to sample more beers, anyway.

Sample Some Culture This Weekend

If you’re not worn out from all the celebrating on the 4th of July, take a look at all the fun that’s happening in and around D.C. this weekend.


Dance the night away at the Reggae vs. Soca Carnival After Party from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. at Karma D.C., 2221 Adams Place NE. Featured artists include JP, Bimshire and Rage. Tickets are $20 each.

Gaze upon the showy blooms at the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14 at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 1900 Anacostia Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020. Enjoy crafts, demonstrations, music for free. Food and beverages are for sale, but you can bring your own too.

Ooh la la, head over to Tenleytown on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. for the Bastille Day celebration at Fessenden Park, on Wisconsin Avenue. Sample crepes and profiteroles from Le Chat Noir and Matisse and taste some French wine, Orangina or Perrier. Bring the kids and let them try a craft project, then plant sunflowers to take home with you. Tickets are $20 each, kids 10 and under free with paid adult. Includes food, beverages, activities and entertainment.


Achtung, baby, it’s not just the French celebrating this weekend, it’s the Germans too! Take a drive up to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Timonium for the Maryland German Festival and steep yourself in German culture, music and food. From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14. Tickets are $7-$10.


Alexandria looks better than ever as it celebrates its 270th birthday from 7 to 10 p.m. tomorrow at Oronoco Bay Park, 100 Madison St., Alexandria. Enjoy entertainment, a cannon salute and fireworks finale. Free.

 Pay homage to the suffragists who fought for women’s right to vote at Tea with the Ladies from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 13, at Ellanor Lawrence Park, 5040 Walney Road, Chantilly. Listen to inspiring talks, learn about the marches on Washington, then blend your own tea. Tickets are $20 each.

Lotus Flower Festival This Weekend

The lotus flower is a symbol of hope and rebirth. It starts its life as a primitive bud submerged in murky waters. Slowly, it grows toward the light, breaking through the surface and blooming in all its glory.

Although the flower escapes its cloudy surroundings to bask in the sun’s rays, its roots keep it grounded, tethered to its humble beginnings, feeding the beauty it has become.  

This allegory may be part of the lotus flower’s appeal. Or it may be that anyone who catches sight of these plate-sized head-turners is simply wowed.

If you haven’t seen a lotus flower, this weekend is your chance. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is holding its annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14.

Get there early, before the sun opens the flowers, and you’ll have a better chance of seeing water birds, turtles, salamanders and snakes.

Festival organizers have a full schedule of activities planned, including samba, classical Indian dances, Brazilian drumming, jazz performances and yoga. Meet reptiles, birds of prey and other animals and learn water gardening for beginners. Kids of all ages can play games and do arts and crafts, including making paper lotus flowers.

Bring a blanket and a picnic basket (no alcohol) and spend the afternoon, or buy food onsite and head home when it’s naptime. Leashed dogs welcome.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 1900 Anacostia Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020; (202) 692-6080


Smithsonian Folklife Festival This Weekend

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival returns to the National Mall this weekend, but don’t expect this cultural tradition to achieve the same epic proportions this year that it has in the past.

The festival has brought a lot to D.C. in its 52 years, from live demonstrations of Catalan human towers to authentic Hungarian goulash served in Styrofoam containers to artisans demonstrating how to weave rugs, make pottery and construct fish traps.

The festival is traditionally held the 10 hottest days of the year in D.C. — usually around 4th of July — when the heat coming off the pavement on Pennsylvania Avenue is powerful enough to create a mirage of Democrats controlling the Senate.

In 2015, the festival was relegated to a corner of the Mall near the American Indian Museum and featured a single country — Peru — because the rest of the Mall was undergoing restoration.

This year, the festival has shrunk to two days — Saturday and Sunday, June 29 and 30.

The official word from the Smithsonian is that putting on the festival is expensive, money trickles down slowly from the government and it was impossible to overcome the blow dealt by the shutdown in time to put on a festival of typical scale this year.

But the Smithsonian says they will be back in full swing next year, featuring Brazil, Benin and the Baltics — three B’s on different continents!

But let’s hand it to festival organizers for pulling this one out of (ahem) the air by throwing together a show about the social power of music. According to festival director Sabrina Lynn Motley, “Performances and activities will explore music’s capacity to promote understanding, transcend differences and encourage social cohesion.”

The festival starts at noon Saturday on Freer Plaza in front of the Freer Gallery of Art with demonstrations by the D.C. Public Library Punk and Go-Go Archives, the Anacostia Community Museum, the Mayor’s Office on African-American Affairs, the National Park Service, #DontMuteDC, the DC Bluegrass Union Jam and more. A concert follows from 5 to 10 p.m. on the main stage on 12th Street between Jefferson and Madison drives, featuring:

  • Go-Go Performance: The Royal Pocket Tour
  • The Fierce Urgency of Now: Modern Troubadours, Poets, and Wordsmiths
  • Ruby Ibarra
  • Quetzal ft. Alice Bag and La Marisoul
  • Kokayi ft. Jenna Camille

The festival picks back up Sunday at 10:30 a.m. with performances by local artists honoring the late Pete Seeger. Following will be workshops on drum circles, zine making, musical innovations and maracas making. The festival wraps up at 6:30.

Food trucks will be on hand; all activities a short walk from the Smithsonian Metro station, access to the Orange, Blue and Silver lines.




Jazz, Pride, Cosplay, Sneakers and Wine in the DMV This Weekend

If you don’t have to go to some relative’s graduation this weekend where you will sit uncomfortably in your dress-up clothes in the heat, fanning yourself with a program and listening to some boring academics drone on about people you don’t know, consider attending some of this weekend’s events in and around DC:

  • DC JazzFest: This festival of one of America’s most widely celebrated music genres kicks off on Friday night and continues through Sunday, June 16. Performances by dozens of artists are scheduled throughout the city at nine venues, including The Hamilton, the Kennedy Center, the Anthem, the Wharf and City Winery. Wharf performances will feature four acts on four stages, all free. Other events are ticketed.
  • Show your true colors this Sunday, June 9, at the Capital Pride Festival downtown at Pennsylvania Avenue and 3rd Street. The annual LBGTQ+ celebration, held from noon to 10 p.m., will feature entertainment on three stages, refreshments and 300 local exhibitors. “Engage, learn and celebrate,” the organization lit says. Free, donations accepted; please leave pets and backpacks at home to help facilitate fun. Lots of local bars and restaurants are offering specials in honor of the event — don’t miss out!
  • The number of people signing up to escape reality by delving into cosplay just keeps growing, as evidenced by this weekend’s All-Star Comic Con June 8-9 at the Sheraton in Tyson’s Corner. Billed as a “weekend-long comic, art, gaming and pop culture celebration,” the fest features actors, writers, artists and at least one videogame-playing legend. Cosplay costume contests will be held for both adults and children, so break out the tights and capes! Tickets are $35-$400, plus add-on options for photo ops with your favorite artists.
  • If you’re an unemployed teenage boy, chances are, you’re familiar with SNKRMANIA DMV, an event held this Saturday and Sunday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at which lovers of all things high top and leather can gather and mingle with their own kind. Like Costco and the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival, this is an event where you pay to shop. Tickets are $20 ($30 for both days), but you can also bring sneakers to trade or sell. Vendor spaces are $60 for one day, $100 for both days.
  • The Wine, Spirits and Music Festival is back this weekend at the Gateway DC, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE. Enjoy wine, spirits, food and live music. Advance tickets, $40; $50 on the day of the event. Doors open at 2, entertainment starts at 4, festival ends at 11 p.m.

Drink, Shop, Relax

If you’re still on a vacation high from the long weekend and looking for ways to celebrate next weekend, check out these exciting local events:

Bourbon & Bluegrass: Don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and blanket to this fun event featuring live bluegrass music and specialty Knob Creek bourbon cocktails at President Lincoln’s Cottage at Eagle Gate at Rock Creek Church Road and Upshur Street NW, 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2. Tickets ($65; $35 under 21; 6 and under free) include two drink tickets, beer samples from local breweries and a tour of the grounds. VIP tickets ($100; $65 under 21; 6 and under free) include access to the VIP section of the Governor’s Mansion where you can see Lincoln’s goblet, unlimited snacks and free parking. Performers include The Fly Birds, Moose Jaw Bluegrass, By & By, Hollertown, Rock Creek Revival and Reed Appleseed. Nonalcoholic beverages and food will be for sale. Featured vendors include Geppetto Catering, Pepe food truck and Timber Pizza. All proceeds go to support the cottage.

Brunch on the Baselines: Nationals Stadium will not lie dormant this weekend when our home team is playing in Cincinnati. Fans and food enthusiasts will take the field for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch and photo op in the dugout from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 2. Tickets are $75 for 21 and over, $35 for under 21 and $20 for those 6 and under. The menu includes fruit, eggs, bacon, fried chicken, potatoes and ice cream. Drinks include mimosas, bloody marys, beer, wine, soft drinks and water. Tables will be set up along the baselines and foul lines. No strollers, heels or backpacks. Parking is $20.

Beer in the ’Burbs: Lovers of beer will not want to miss Fairfax’s first craft beer festival from noon to 5 p.m. this Saturday, June 1, in Old Town Square. Sample beers from more than 15 breweries across the commonwealth; $3 for 3 ounces, $8 for 16 ounces. The event will also feature live music, and food will be available for purchase from food trucks.

Takoma Trukgarten: If you’re closer to the Maryland side, come to this craft beer celebration on the D.C.-Maryland line from noon to 5 Saturday, June 1, 201 Ethan Allen Ave., Takoma Park, MD. Sample from among 20 craft beers and ciders, and stop by the TPSS Co-op’s wine tent. Reps from local restaurants and food trucks will be on hand to sell tasty treats. Early-bird tickets are $25 and include six drink tickets and a commemorative glass. For $35, get the glass and 12 tickets. Nondrinkers pay $10 to get in. On the day of the event, ticket prices for drinkers are $10 more. Event goes on rain or shine, kids and dogs welcome, ID required to drink.

Yoga on the Waterfront: What’s more relaxing than child’s pose? Practicing yoga at the water’s edge for free! Come learn from yogis from the Yoga Factory, then follow up your class with free juice samples from Toastique. Transit Pier, 9 to 10 a.m.

The Pink Cabbage Funky Flea: If you prefer shopping to drinking, check out the wares from more than 50 vendors at this annual flea market in Ellicott City, MD, at 11707 Frederick Rd. Enjoy live music and stop by the food tent at this fun event, held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1; rain date Sunday, June 2. Proceeds go to benefit the American Cancer Society.

Bustin’ Loose at the Funk Parade

The Godfather of Go-Go was back in spirit on the city block that bears his name — Chuck Brown Way — for DC’s Annual Funk Parade. Marchers proceeded to swing, sashay, shake and groove through the neighborhood that was once the epicenter of DC’s funk scene in the 60s and 70s.

The parade was only one segment of a three-part event that included a day fair, which featured four live music stages and two parties, and an evening music festival, with 17 participating clubs, including Busboys and Poets, The Saloon and the Velvet Lounge. An astonishing 72 artists performed — The Chuck Brown Band, The Big Ugly Truck, Three Man Soul Machine and Mark Meadows, to name a few. And to get in, all you needed was a $10 bracelet. Not too shabby.

Go-Go, a subgenre of Funk unique to DC and popularized by guitarist Brown, is just one of the musical styles that sprung from the historically African-American U Street Corridor, where the parade and street festival took place. The celebrated neighborhood was the home of Duke Ellington and Marvin Gaye as well; the images of all three grace murals on buildings in the neighborhood.

In its sixth year, the homespun Funk Parade has hit the big time, with sponsors such as Google, Lyft and T-Mobile, but has in no way lost its soul. The marshal, in a wild wig and baggy red pants, used a megaphone to stay true to this year’s theme, Keeping the Funk Alive.

“Now it’s time for everybody to get up and join in!” he announced, as bystanders of all ages and races joined the procession of beautiful ladies who strutted in feathers and tiaras or shimmied in bright green skirts and head wraps. The up-tempo percussion section, banging everything from conga drums to cowbells, made it hard not to.

Parade organizers’ scientific term for funk is the “subatomic particle of love,” defined as, “that which makes you want to move and enjoy the company of all humans.”

If people on the sidelines weren’t affected by the former, they were unmistakably feeling the latter.

“It’s amazing to see so many different kinds of people together and everyone being peaceful and no fighting,” said Bertha Dudley, watching on 8th Street, where she’s lived for 25 years. Bertha said she has been coming to the Funk Parade since it started, and that it gets better every year.

A woman who identified herself only as Gigi was impressed with the parade.

“We’re seeing the best of DC,” Gigi said with pride. “People are coming from all the other parts of the city to be here together.”

Just as the parade neared its destination at Lincoln Theater, scattered raindrops began to fall: Up in heaven, Chuck waited until the exact moment before he turned on the sprinklers. The rain got people even closer, into the diverse eateries along the corridor and into the clubs.

The Funk never stops.

Cannabis Festival 2019

People who love weed and people who hate weed have one thing in common: smoking weed.

This isn’t supposed to be some kind of glib little non-comment; I mean that if you talk to people who smoke weed regularly, you’ll find that most of them like it, but a lot of them don’t really like it. I happen to be one of the latter.

I don’t smoke every day — I’m not one of those compulsives who downs a liter of vodka in the closet in the morning and then wrings their hands about it — but I do partake when it’s offered, which, if you’re a long-haired layabout with an ironic crustache, is fairly often. And I hate it about 90% of the time.

But my fear of being thought uncool is far greater than my fear of spending the next three hours staring at myself in a mirror and muttering, “What the hell are you DOING with your life?” So I always smoke the weed that’s offered, and I always hate it.

So it was strange, being at the 420 Festival at the RFK Festival Grounds where weed — and weed smokers — were everywhere. I was with my friend Anthony, who loves weed, and within 10 minutes of us walking in, he’d seen someone he knew, who offered us their dab pen.

I took what I hoped was a small hit, but soon I was thinking about the inevitability of death, how my refusal to schedule six-month checkups at the dentist was a symptom of a profound lack of self-respect, and how everyone was looking at me.

But maybe I was just high?

“Hey,” I said to Anthony. “Are all these people staring at us?”

He looked around. “I think so, yeah.”

“Oh, God. Are you sure?”

“Yeah, they’re definitely staring,” he said. But he didn’t seem bothered.

This is sort of what I meant about how people who love weed and hate weed both smoke weed.

I used to think that I was having a different experience when I smoked weed than the people who loved it. But a little questioning revealed that, no, we were both experiencing roughly the same thing. It’s just that they didn’t seem to care, and I cared too much.

As we walked around the festival, I was struck by how many educational booths we passed. There were a lot of booths about how weed was actually good for you, like kale or flossing, which made me like weed even less.

A clean-cut young man was talking about how he microdosed a small amount of THC edibles throughout the day, to increase his productivity at work. Consuming weed to be better at your desk job? Not even the most deranged, paranoid pothead in the seventies had ever envisioned this future.

There were even booths about how weed legalization was good for the economy because it created jobs. Jobs? That’s like selling vodka to an alcoholic by telling them it’ll give them cirrhosis. I’m trying to live in a world with fewer jobs, not more.

There were also several community service booths, but unfortunately I was too high to appreciate them.

When I saw the table for the free HIV test, I immediately became sure I had HIV, and then when I saw the table about some kind of community bail project for people in jail, I became utterly sure that I’d committed some crime for which I would be sent to jail. I just couldn’t remember what. I looked around for cops, but what I saw instead was the DC Slices booth.

A few minutes later we were sitting down with slices of pizza, mango lemonades and funnel cakes. We were bent over our plates, staring at passersby as they stared at us, eating as fast as we could. This, I thought, is exactly what eating is like in jail. I made a mental note to Google, “how to make a shiv out of a toothbrush handle” when I got home — if I made it home.

An attractive woman in yoga pants walked by. “You’re staring,” said Anthony.

I tore my eyes away and thought for a minute. “You know,” I said, “being an attractive woman is probably like being high all the time. Everywhere you go, everyone’s always staring at you.”

Anthony looked at me and then stared off into the distance. “Whoa,” he said.