Part of the charm of living in Del Ray results from the interaction between business owners and
residents. Del Ray has a small town feel very much like that of Marceline, Missouri, Walt Disneys model for Main Street at Disney World. The biggest difference is that Mount Vernon Avenue, Del Rays Main Street, includes numerous shops that were once private homes, and only rarely a building that exc-eeds two stories.
Because the business owners often live near enough to be able to walk to work, what benefits business benefits the community and vice versa.
Del Ray is an audience participation community. In a way that seems different from most contemporary co-mmunities, the community encourages civic participation both passively and actively.
Residents greeting pass-ersby from their porches or inviting passing neighbors to stop by for a taste of barbecue are natural outgrowths of an area where big porches and big yards combine with residents walking everywh-ere, whether to walk the dog or the children, to go to a restaurant, or to join other families in one of the parks, dog runs, or playgrounds that dot the area. Neighbors chat as they enjoy lunch at one of the sidewalk table at the Caboose or The Taqueria Poblano, or as they buy fresh produce and baked goods at their own farmers market on Saturday mornings.
Business owners greet customers by name because they frequently are neighbors.
Local artists have a more direct connection with the businesses that double as an art gallery for their work. The Blueberry Gallery in the Calvert plaza on Mount Vernon Avenue is the latest and most formal of these business cum galleries, having had seven formal shows in the video rental shop since opening in October.
St. Elmo and the Caboose Caf also display local art-ists work for sale.
Growing in popularity each year, is the Great Del Ray Chile Cook-off (also known as the Rally in the Alley), which started as a friendly discussion about the perfect chili. Neighbors took it to the alley off Le Grande Avenue between East Howell and Bellefonte, to let their neighbors decide who created the worldswell, Del Rays best chili. Now in its seventh year, the cook-off, and its concomitant good-natured taunts and braggadocio, fills the alley to capacity with neighbors enjoying each other, the chili and live blue grass music.
On an organized level, the non-profit Del Ray Artisans in the Colasanto Center near the junction of Mount Vernon and Commonwealth avenues is a cooperative venture that has enjoyed great popularity and success for the past sixteen years.
On First Thursdays, from May through September, neighbors stroll the Avenue, where other neighbors participate in a cakewalk or enjoy complimentary hot dogs (thanks to the local 7-11 and the Del Ray Business Association) or bottled water supplied by Baptist Temple Church; they blow bubbles and enjoy the music of local bands while they sample wares or get a free massage.
One of the most popular local music groups is the Irish Breakfast Band, which might be playing on the porch of the Anne Welsh Salon on First Thursdays or serenading browsers at the Farmers Market.
First Thursdays feature a local non profit each month, and for those who tire of transportation by shanks mare, U.S. Representative Jim Moran, a longtime Del Ray resident, sponsors a trolley service from one end of the Avenue to the other.
Residents and business people are out in force to work Del Rays biggest annual event started as a block party on Mount Vernon bet-ween East Bellefonte and East Howell avenues. For the past thirteen years, Art on the Avenue has grown in size and popularity, drawing between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors to more than ten blocks of shoulder-to-shoulder artists tents and food vendors on the first Sat-urday of October.
Maybe the wackiest and most typical annual Del Ray event is the Halloween Par-ade that takes place on the Sunday before Halloween.
Forming in front of the Post Office, the Halloween Parade draws a surprisingly large crowd. Surprising, bec-ause it seems that everyone in the neighborhood is in the parade instead of on the sidelines. And that is as it is meant to be.
Escorted by motor officers and led by fire trucks from the Potomac Firehouse on East Windsor, the mayor and city council march in judicial robes, signifying their role in the serious business of judging such categories as best costume, best decorated residence and business, and best baby carriage float.
Thousands of costumed residents and their (costumed) dogs marchlike a clowder of catstoward the Mount Vernon recreation field and childrens games, live music, free hamburgers and hot dogs and a goody bag for every child. In 2007, several thousand goodie bags were distributed.
The last major event (unless the Christmas Tree lighting near Del Ray Arti-sans counts) is the Thanks-giving Day Turkey Trot.
Thousands of runners pay a small admission fee and donate a can of food to ALIVE! for the privilege of running (walking, riding bicycles) five miles through Del Ray, slipping briefly into Rosemont to make the circuit exactly five miles. Beginning at Cora Kelly School near Four Mile Run, a sea of participants swarm south on Commonwealth Avenue. Over the next hour and a half runners make their way back north on Mount Vernon, with the top winning runners claiming cash prizes.
In each of these enterprises, the line between businesses and residents is so blurred by camaraderie and good fellowship as to make distinction impossible. And everyone is having too much fun to care.