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Smith Commons Enjoys 2nd Year in H St. Festival

Na'Tasha Jones | , Howard University News Service | 9/21/2011, 1:35 p.m.

"This is the last of the Sangria," said a man in a black hoodie, jeans and sneakers as he hauled a huge container of the beverage onto a table outside Smith Commons at the H Street Festival. Blending in with his customers and other festival attendees, no one would know that he is actually the managing partner of the restaurant and public house.

With Smith Commons founded just a year ago, Miles Gray III admitted that to prepare for the day's big event took quite an effort.

"I didn't sleep," said Gray, laughing.

On Saturday (Sept. 17), the H Street corridor was stuffed with more than 30,000 residents, visitors and local politicians, including Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chairman Kwame Brown and Council member Tommy Wells.

Local artists, vendors and businesses pack a six-block stretch from 8th to 14th streets in Northeast This year marked the second year of the H Street Festival./Courtesy Photowith tents and tables every year to showcase the best of their vibrant and diverse community.

Last year, Miles Gray offered a taste of what Smith Commons has to offer, and in his second year as a participant, brought a little more out for residents to enjoy.

"This is amazing," said Gray, who is also a Howard University alumnus. "Everyone is having a good time."

Smith Commons is one of the newer establishments in the H Street corridor, having opened its doors the end of last September. Since then it has received positive reviews from various publications like Roll Call, Express Night Out and D.C. Magazine.

Sheldon Robinson, Smith Commons' general manager, said he hopes the H Street Festival will further diversify his business's clientele.

"We have people from 8 to 80, all different backgrounds," Gray said. "We are trying to be welcoming to all people --our food, our music selection, our beverage selection -- everything we do."

In this way, Smith Commons is similar to the H Street Festival, which showcases a variety of food vendors, musical acts and even artwork including the very popular array of art cars spread throughout the blocks of the festival.

Howard graduate Charles Thompson enjoyed his first visit to the H Street Festival. "The beignets were good," Thompson said. "And I liked the variety of the music."

Variety was indeed the main offering in this much-changed section of Northeast D.C.; a sign of even more change on its way to the developing area.

"I ain't crossover; I brought the suburbs to the hood," Gray tweeted later that evening from his personal Twitter page, along with a photo he took of the crowd in front of his building.

The neighborhood, it seems, appreciates it.

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