For the first time in two years Hamilton Street shut down in West Hyattsville for a festival. This was the first year of the Handmade on Hamilton street fest, which celebrated handmade goods with an international flair. The festival is essentially the reborn International Street Festival with a heavier focus on arts, crafts and culture.
Attendance was less than what organizers had hoped for, according to Abby Sandel, acting director of the Hyattsville Department of Community Services. She estimates that there were about 500 "unique visitors" who came to the event.
"We were hoping for double that," said Sandel. "But on the bright side, some of our vendors had great days and we brought a lot of great things to Hyattsville."
Those things included a number of reggae, funk and latin bands, an all-woman Brazilian percussion ensemble and a troupe of circus performers to entertain the crowds. Organizers had a roughly $40,000 budget to spend on the festival, much of which went towards attracting prominent regional performers.
There were also more than 30 vendors set up on Hamilton Street to try and sell their handmade products to attendees at yesterday's festival. Citing poor sales and unfavorable weather, many did not stay for the full duration of the festival.
One vendor who left early was Hyattsville resident Kathleen Hellington. She sells hand knit clothing under the name Knitblitz online (through Etsy.com). Yesterday was her first time ever trying to sell her products offline, though. By 3 p.m.–having sold only one scarf–she was packing up and leaving.
"It's cold, the weather has probably been a disappointment," said Hellington. "But, what are you going to do?"
A few stalls down was Frange Abaraka, a College Park resident who sells t-shirts and printed designs under the brand name Yakitoko. The name, according to means "something beautiful" in the Lingala language spoken in the Congo and central Africa. He describes himself as a veteran of the festival circuit and said he was recruited by a city official to sell his wares at Handmade on Hamilton.
"It's been a long day, but I would consider coming back again," said Frange. "Hopefully it won't be so cold."
But some vendors did better than others.
"I wasn't expecting such a great turnout," said Baltimore resident Julia Johnson. She was at Handmade on Hamilton selling handmade crafts from India and Nepal, and she reported steady sales throughout the day. "It's cold, but it's been nice."
When plans for Handmade on Hamilton were first unveiled, some members of Hyattsville's City Council expressed concern that holding the event in November would hurt attendance. Yesterday, Councilor Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 5) echoed that sentiment.
"It was just wonderful, except it was poorly attended," said Frazier. "This was not a good day to choose."
Sandel said that the weather, which was chilly and windy, might have kept people away. She also said that the lack of a Hamilton Street festival in 2011 could have dampened awareness of yesterday's event.
"It may take some rebuilding," said Sandel. "But we also realize that we have to go back and analyze what we did and what we could do differently in the future."