Perhaps it was the sea of red fabric, hip hugging pants and bare male chests that gave it away, but the throngs filling D.C.’s gargantuan new Convention Center last year weren’t your typical Washington conventioneers. Then again, it wasn’t a typical year for Cherry.
This year, however, D.C.’s annual circuit party has decided to go back to its roots. Gone is the Convention Center, gone is the focus on one “main” event anchoring one evening of the weekend. Cherry 9, organizers say, is about being in the clubs and in the community.
“As much as people enjoyed the new space [at the Convention Center], people really missed the more intimate experience of smaller, less colossal venues,” says Joe McCall, Board Chair of the Cherry Fund, which produces the party. To that effect, Cherry 9 plans to be a true weekend-long event, where no one event far outshines another. Saturday is no longer designated the “main event.”
Each event during the weekend has its own persuasions and attractions for Cherry-goers. McCall points to the location of the Friday evening party, Club Ten, which was once known as Pier 9, the original home of disco in D.C. The night also features New York “battle DJ” Chad Jack and lighting by former Velvet lighting master John Niederhauser.
Saturday night may not be called the main event, but it’s still an event to look forward to as Cherry takes over Nation for the night, with Lena Lett serving as hostess and a string of high-profile DJs, including Tony Moran, providing music.
The decision not to return to the Convention Center was made not only on feedback from attendees, but even more so on the ultimate reason behind the party: charity. Last year Cherry attracted between 10,000 and 12,000 people, or around 20 percent more than the previous year — one of only a handful of circuit events around the country to actually increase its numbers. Without such a large main venue, total attendance will most likely decrease, but the costs of the weekend will also decrease significantly.
“We reassessed our operations to better ensure that we give about 70 percent of the money we take in back to the community,” McCall says. As with last year’s event, Cherry’s beneficiaries are the Washington D.C. Center for GLBT People, The Mautner Project for Lesbian Health, The Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute and the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League.
The support for the Mautner Project has benefited Cherry — the partnership with the group has helped nurture a steady growth in the number of women who attend Cherry events every year. The third annual Cherry Women’s Event will be held this year at Union Station’s Thunder Grill Bar.
This year’s largest venue is Dream Nightclub, where as many as 3,000 partygoers will find themselves for Sunday’s Closing Event. The final party of the weekend has always rivaled Saturday night in popularity, and is a perennial sell out. That should hold true with the outstanding new venue, says Aron Wilson, Cherrry’s Marketing Committee Chair.
“Anybody who’s been in the club knows that it’s one of the most beautiful spaces anywhere,” Wilson says. That space includes an indoor/outdoor area on the third floor where San Francisco’s DJ Jamie J. Sanchez will spin.
“Cherry has a reputation for bringing DJs in who may not normally play in the Mid-Atlantic region, or who are not yet well known, as well as those with strong local ties,” says Wilson.
Earlier that day is the popular Capital Tea on the Potomac, an afternoon cruise on the Spirit of Washington boat that takes in all the sites of the city. “The boat cruise allows us to showcase the city and its monuments,” says Wilson. It will also serve as a showcase for DJ Blaine Soileau, whose local popularity has grown exponentially in the past year. But make your plans quickly if you want to cruise the Potomac — it’s limited to those with Host Passes, and there is no guarantee that individual boarding passes will be available at the time of departure.
If you find yourself looking for tickets at the start of the weekend, head over to the Cherry 9 Welcome Center at the Washington Terrace Hotel at 15th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW, where D.C.’s own DJ Rob Harris will spin on the hotel patio Thursday and Friday nights. Cherry is also sponsoring a bus that will run approximately every 30 minutes between the host hotel and each far-flung venue for a $5 roundtrip fee.
With all the parties and planning, Cherry’s organizers say that the core reason for devoting the time and energy to the party comes down once more to community. McCall points to the tireless efforts of the 25 people who make the Cherry Fund and Cherry 9 happen, along with the nearly 400 volunteers who will make the weekend run.
That level of support and dedication pay off for the Fund and the organizations it supports.
“We have a great reputation around the country,” Wilson says. “We’re attractive to a lot of people because we’re not a commercial entity trying to make a buck off of our community.”
For more information on Cherry 9, including a full listing of events, artist bios and ticket and pass information, visit www.cherryfund.org.