Cherry Blossom Parade Vendors Ride Tough Times

By Celeste Gregory
UJW Staff Writer

WASHINGTON— William James stood in downtown Washington selling one item: T-shirts.

James and his “Hype Man,” who helped urge people to buy his merchandise, were among dozens of vendors trying to drum up business during the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 14.

“I attend as many [festivals] as I can,” said James, 57, whose “Washington” T-shirts were draped over a chair at 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Like James, vendors were selling merchandise from hot dogs and pretzels to T-shirts and souvenirs. Prospective vendors had to complete a lottery application in order to participate. The names of would-be vendors were selected electronically and were displayed on the event’s website.

But some the chosen vendors said this year’s parade was a hard sell.

“This year is not as well as others,” said Julie Nguien, 25, who works with her father as a food vendor.

She says that she and her father have been coming to the Cherry Blossom Parade for 17 years. But this year their vending location was farther away from the parade route.

Other vendors were hopeful that they could turn a profit.

As a full-time vendor, James — the T-shirt man — travels as far west as Milwaukee to sell his products. He said he has been coming to the Cherry Blossom Festival for more than 10 years.

But as for this year’s Cherry Blossom Parade, James said he expected to lose as much as $7,000 due to soft sales.

“I would be satisfied with $3,000 this year,” he said, but he didn’t think he would make that goal.


Founded in 1975, the Washington Association of Black Journalists is an organization of Black journalists, journalism professors, public relations professionals and student journalists in the D.C., metro area. WABJ provides members with ongoing professional education opportunities and advocates for greater diversification of the profession.