Explore the rich history of the Festival Grounds at RFK Stadium.
RFK Stadium and the surrounding Festival Grounds opened in 1961. Originally known as the District of Columbia Stadium, the facility was renamed Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in January 1969 for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated the previous June.
In the early 1990s, the Stone Soul Picnic is introduced to the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds and held before 90,000 fans annually until August 2009. The late Chuck Brown was a fan favorite along with several local and national recording artists.
In July 2002, the National Grand Prix is run on a circuit designed specifically on Lot 6/7. This is the first major motor sports event in D.C. in 80 years.
In 2007, ShamrockFest, one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day festivals held in the Mid-Atlantic region, comes to the grounds. This event features over 50 bands and DJ’s on 10 stages plus food, beverages, craft vendors, carnival rides, games and other exciting activities.
In 2007, the DC Government begins hosting a free, citywide “Truck Touch.” Several DC government agencies present and demonstrate nearly 30 vehicles used to clean and repair streets, change traffic lights, collect refuse, clear snow, provide emergency services, administer mobile health care, and more.
In 2009, the DC101 Chili Cook-Off arrives to the grounds, and in 2012 has record-breaking attendance of over 31,000 for the one-day rock concert and raises more than $1.3 million to fight kidney disease in the national capital region.
In April 2011, the techno craze comes to the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds. DAYGLOW, also known as “The World’s Largest Paint Party,” features a fusion of high-energy music with art, dance and its famous “Paint Blast.” Thousands of partygoers groove to the latest house and techno music and bask in a blast of multi-colored neon paint during the spring and fall shows held every April and September.
The Military Village is introduced, a new element for the 2011 Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. Located on the DC Armory Mall, outside of RFK Stadium, the Military Village is free to the public and features real‐life military systems, such as a combat helicopter, drones, Humvees, demonstrations and more.
In September 2011, the Maloof Skate Park at RFK Stadium joins the array of venues on the Stadium-Armory Campus.
In September 2011, the first Pepsi Fan Festival is held as part of the annual AT&T Nation’s Football Classic™. The free festival includes games, booths, food and giveaways as well as performances held on the soundstage. Appearances have included Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat as well as hip-hop legends Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick.
UniverSoul Circus returned to the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds June 5-9, 2013 as part of a multi-year deal. The 2013 edition, titled the Turn’t Up Tour, featured intimate theatre-in-the-round seating, dazzling lights, energetic sounds and a cast of A-list performers from around the world under a newly designed red and yellow Big Top.
In 2013, the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds played host to several endurance races including the 5K Kettle Classic, The Biggest Loser 5K/10K/1-Mile Kids Challenge, Run or Dye 5K, Ridiculous Obstacle Course 5K, Color in Motion 5K and LivingSocial's 5K Dance Party. The Festival Grounds continues to grow in the endurance sports category with several competitive and fun runs set to hit the campus in 2014.
In 2014, Life in Color, the world’s largest paint party, was held at RFK Festival Grounds. The party featured high-energy music, art, dance, cirque-style acts, and the world-famous “Paint Blast”; when the stage blasts a large amount of paint at the audience.
Because of the continuous growing capacity, Trillectro, a homegrown music festival, moved to RFK Festival Grounds in 2014. The festival consists of twenty-five performers on two stages showcasing music ranging from hip-hop to electronic dance music.
In 2014, Events DC joined forces with Red Bull Global Rallycross in bringing professional motorsports back to Washington, DC. We showcased motorsports event at RFK Festival Grounds and worked closely on minimizing the noise impact for the surrounding community. Because of the success with Rallycross, brought in 10, 000 people, Events DC is looking to the future for motorsports events to bring into Washington, DC.
To read more, view our timelines for each of our venues listed below.