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Brace yourself, Caribbean Parade lovers: Last year’s was probably the last. Or at least the beginning of a hiatus.
The event’s president, Roland Barnes, told the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force this evening that the challenges of debt from previous years, lack of support from the city, and the pall cast by last year’s shootings had proven too great to overcome.
“Unless someone is able to wave a magic wand in the next 24 hours, there will be no parade on Georgia Avenue,” Barnes said mournfully. “The reality of the last few years was that donations and sponsorships were in one direction, and costs were in another direction.”
The parade is still about $200,000 in debt to the city, Barnes said, and would need at least that much again in order to put on the parade, which had been scheduled for June 23 and 24. While previous mayors have done what it took to make the event happen, this administration isn’t interested.
“We have seen a 180-degree turn in terms of support for this event,” added the event’s executive director, Loughton Sargeant. “It was only a matter of time before the city was going to pull the plug.”
The news comes after the release of a study by the Howard University School of Business quantifying the Festival and Parade’s impact on local businesses. Researchers estimated last year’s attendance at 400,000 attendees—-which seems high—-and figured they spent $21,637,166 total, generating $1,298,230 in sales taxes. Needless to say, every single one of the 50 businesses surveyed was in favor of continuing the parade, and even extending its route (it had to be cut short on account of finances last year).
Folks in attendance at the meeting were none too pleased at the news, and suggested that Barnes hadn’t tried hard enough to raise the necessary funds. Stacey Lincoln, a special assistant to Councilmember Vincent Orange, reminded him that the mayor had just allocated $240,000 in the budget for a flashy Emancipation Day parade next Monday. Roger Neely, a local real estate broker, suggested they hit up the area’s big developers—-he figured he could raise $100,000 between Chris Donatelli and Doug Jemal.
Barnes listened, but didn’t look optimistic that this thing could be saved. “It’s somewhat disheartening to see it fold,” he said. “It’s a learning experience for us.”
UPDATE, Tuesday, 6:03 p.m. – Organizers say they may have found a way to save the Festival—-by moving it somewhere else.
Photo by Matt Dunn