Do you notice when you travel to another city or a foreign land, even the most mundane aspects of every day life are interesting. You are hyper aware of the details and your surroundings. You are more intent on discovering the undiscovered. One of the best ways to cultivate this type of creative spark is by wandering your own city with the same wide eyes and curious appetite that comes alive when in different coordinates.
With this sentiment in mind, we teamed with Kit and Ace to create a day-long adventure that highlighted hidden gems and allowed even the most plugged in Washingtonians to adopt the eyes of a traveler in their own backyard. It also served as an opportunity to incorporate the craft and talent of individuals who are critical to Washington DC’s thriving creative economy.
The trip kicked off at the Kit and Ace pop up located in Union Market. Over thirty-five local movers and shakers gathered at the shop preparing for the unexpected. At this point guests had no idea what exactly was happening, only that canoes were involved. Guests left the shop and filed into a bus where they were dropped off at the entrance to Kingman Island (a little known island located in the outskirts of northeast Washington DC) and greeted by Lee Cain, the Director of Recreation for the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS).
Lee’s role at AWS is to get Washingtonians back on the Anacostia River. The Anacostia River has been cloaked in negative misperceptions. When he asked our guests how many had ever been on or near the river, a mere few hands were raised. When he asked our guests what were the first words that came to mind when describing the Anacostia River many shouted, dirty and polluted. The local government used to pull out cars, refrigerators, and other receptacles from the river, but has since received a massive amount of love and attention in an effort to clean it up. The goal is to have the river be swimmable and drinkable by 2025, but many locals are unaware of these efforts. It is Lee’s job to get people excited about the Anacostia and invested in the success of this river that is vital to the local area.
Lee paddled the group through a wetland restoration project that local fourth graders have helped restore. Among other insider tidbits, he showed off wild rice, nufar (a potato like root), and other various edible plants that are a foragers dream.
After a long paddle, our guests docked at an undisclosed location, the Anacostia Community Boathouse (ACBA), a volunteer led training and competition facility, nestled between the river and railroad tracks. They were promptly greeted by glasses of champagne that had been infused with locally foraged wineberries, from Element Shrub, and that served as a preview to the thought that went into every aspect of the event.
As guests shared hopes, aspirations, and fears over Real Talk cards, cargo trains rolled by every so often only a few hundred feet away. The hum of the tracks accompanied the candid discussion alive throughout the day. The sun fell and guests were unexpectedly greeted with the remnants of the Joint Base Andrews Air Force Show; pilots parachuted out of planes and slowly drifted through the pink sky. It was better than any firework show witnessed. We ate, we drank, and as the sun disappeared, stars dotted the dark sky, a novelty that only can be witnessed when you are far removed from the bright lights of the city. Somehow we were able to experience it only a few miles away from bustling downtown.
The sparkling lights in the sky were our cue to get up and dance, because how often do you get to say that you ended your night, drink in hand, dancing to local sounds fused with international beats, under the stars and into the night? Not often
The following individuals and companies are who made this night unforgettable and breathed life into the unfamiliar story of the Anacostia neighborhood.