- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

A steady stream of people milled up and down Pennsylvania Avenue NW yesterday, stopping to sample specialities from more than 40 of the region's most popular restaurants during the 11th annual Taste of D.C.
The three-day event the largest international food and music festival on the East Coast usually draws about 1 million gourmands to the District's downtown area to eat, drink and eat some more.
Despite overcast skies, the threat of rain and a sniper at large, people poured into the streets on Pennsylvania Avenue between Seventh and 14th, exchanging their money for tickets that enable them to taste seafood quesadillas, spicy jerk chicken with red beans and rice and charred cilantro beef satays from area restaurants.
Michael Sullivan, 34, decided to keep it simple yesterday. He got a Philly cheese steak dripping with cheese for lunch and inhaled it while standing near a bench on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"This is my first time to the Taste of D.C., but it won't be my last," Mr. Sullivan said between bites. "And I'm not letting fear keep me away," he said.
His buddy, Rickey Stuckey, 46, also a first-time visitor to the food festival, agreed.
"I'm not going to focus on the sniper," Mr. Stuckey said. "This is a fun event and a very nice diversion."
John Robinson, 35, sat on the sidewalk and savored the taste of his jerk chicken and rice platter.
"Ummm, this is pretty good," he said.
He and his fiancee, Dawn Wheeler, drove up from Lorton, Va., to sample the various types of cuisine, hang out for a few hours and listen to some music. He said he was disappointed by the cancellation last year after the September 11 attacks. So this year, the couple had every intention of attending the event despite the rash of shootings in the region.
"We are aware, but we're not going to let that stop our daily activities," Mr. Robinson said of the sniper.
That's music to the ears of William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C. Convention and Tourism Corp., which produced the festival this year.
Mr. Hanbury looked out into the crowds yesterday and smiled.
"We're doing well with the attendance so far and the enthusiasm of the crowds. I think a lot of people wanted to get out and enjoy a fall day in D.C.," he said.
"Our nation's capital is a dynamic city; we clean our streets, we teach our children and we also host festivals," Mr. Hanbury said smiling.
Hyacinth Samuels beamed, too. Ms. Samuels, the owner of Jamaican Gourmet, watched as folks crowded into long lines to get Jamaican beef patties, curried goat with red rice and beans, and jerk chicken. She's no newcomer to the Taste of D.C. This is her third year at the festival, she said.
"This is our best event of the year, but there are slightly less people than the year before last; the lines were longer," she said.
Steam engulfed cook Aharon Green, 40, yesterday as he grilled racks of chicken for Ms. Samuels' Jamaican Gourmet. But Mr. Green, a cook at the Navy Yard, wasn't sweating. He's participated in the Taste of D.C. for nine years, the past two with Ms. Samuels.
"There's a good crowd out here," he said. "People are smiling and they are coming out. The good thing is that people are here to eat, relax and have some fun. That's what the Taste of D.C. is about."


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