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Capitol Hill Employees Learn About D.C.

James Wright | 2/19/2014, 5:36 p.m.
People who work for U.S. senators, representatives, committees and the support staff on Capitol Hill generally do not have time ...
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, along with Destination DC, hosted House and Senate members and their congressional staff at the annual "Ask Me About D.C." fair at the Cannon House Office Building on Wednesday, Feb. 19. Guests got a chance to meet with an array of businesses relating to tourism, entertainment and food service. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

People who work for U.S. senators, representatives, committees and the support staff on Capitol Hill generally do not have time to go out into the District because they are working long hours helping to conduct the nation's business. A few years ago, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) noticed this and decided to do something about it.

The result of her efforts is the annual "Ask Me About D.C." event that has become quite popular on the Hill. Norton said that while people on Capitol Hill work hard that is no excuse not to get to know the rest of the nation's capital.

"The District is full of live music, renowned theater, film festivals, dining experiences, museums and all the other ingredients that make D.C. one of the world's premier destinations," Norton said. "'Ask Me About D.C.' will equip members and staff with the latest information on what is happening all over the city, as we try to dispel the myth that D.C. is only a federal government town."

An estimated 1,000 Capitol Hill employees interacted with 70 vendors that step up in the Cannon House Office Building on Wednesday. Vendors such as the Newseum, the White House Gift Shop, the National Crime Museum and the Smithsonian, all based in Northwest, offered visitors pamphlets and trinkets and, in some cases, light refreshments.

People waited in long lines to taste food from such eateries as Chick-Fil-A of District Heights, Md., and the Rocklands Barbecue and Grilling Company in Northwest.

Micha Woods, the director of sales and private events at The Howard Theatre in Northwest, said that her company enthusiastically took the time to participate in the event.

"The Howard Theater is the first African American-oriented theater in the nation's capital," Woods said. "It is rich in history and we are located in the thriving Shaw neighborhood. The theater has something to offer everyone and we want people to see what we are about."

Kate Gibbs, who is a publicist for Destination DC., a co-sponsor of "Ask Me About D.C." along with Norton, said that the event brings together two of the city's biggest employers: the federal government and the tourism/hospitality industries. She said that the large turnout shows that people on the Hill are curious about the city and its neighborhoods.

Russell Grandberry, an intern for U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and a senior political science major at Howard University in Northwest, said that he learned more about the District from the vendors.

"As a Howard student and an intern, I don't have much time to go out and even then I only know a few places," Grandberry said. "I now know of places where I can go and things that I can do on my free time."

Another Hill staffer, who asked not to be quoted, said the event helped her gain information for people who visit the congressman's office and want to know what to sightsee in Washington.

Woods said that "Ask Me About D.C." helps the city's social and cultural reputation on the Hill.

"We are giving people a reason to come into the neighborhoods and to be a part of the city," she said.