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The District’s annual Emancipation Day celebrations are back next month, but don’t expect as much extravagance this year. Maybe. If the parade and related festivities don’t continue their tradition of going over budget, the event will come in at a trimmed down $250,000 budget.
The D.C. Council lost control of the April 16 event last year, when cost overruns prompted the mayor’s office to take control in exchange for taking on the otherwise uncovered tab for police services.
The mayoral takeover left at-large councilmember and Emancipation Day mastermind Vincent Orange fuming, but he’s managed to retain some role in organizing the celebrations this year. At today’s D.C. Council breakfast with Mayor Muriel Bowser, Orange lamented that the $250,000 budget isn’t enough to cover his Emancipation Day plans. That budget doesn’t include whatever it will cost agencies like the Metropolitan Police Department to provide security and other public works for the events.
Orange listed what had to be cut from the events this year thanks to budget cuts, and thanked one vendor for accomplishing so much despite the reduced funds. Orange urged Bowser to bump the budget to $375,000 or $500,000 next year.
Emancipation Day enthusiasts will be happy to see that budget cuts didn’t slay the parade’s balloons (above). According to a program passed out by Orange’s staff, the “grand historic balloons” will return.
“There goes my balloons I love so much,” Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander said when the balloons appeared in a trailer for the parade.
Emancipation Day doesn’t just face monetary hurdles, in Orange’s telling. The parade historically has bad turnout, even though District public school students and government employees have the day off. To remedy that, Orange said he wants each councilmember and each agency director to commit to bringing 100 people each to the parade (a steep ask, LL thinks, given that these people are also in charging of running the city every day).
Photo by Darrow Montgomery