|Party, Party, Party
May 16, 2005
Until 2004, Richmond had an active Festivals Committee and City financing of three city-sponsored festivals: Festival by the Bay, Cinco de Mayo and Juneteenth. Festival by the Bay was at Marina Bay, and the other two were traditionally at the Barrett Avenue Civic Center Plaza. Attendance was mostly local.
The format for all three was similar: entertainment, food vendors, tables for non-profit organizations and public agencies to disseminate information and displays such as fire department and Army recruitment. City staff took the lead in providing the logistics, with the Festivals Committee and volunteers helping with planning and execution.
Although the City had a budget, it went principally for out of pocket expenses like music. Much of the cost was absorbed into the budgets of various City departments like Police and Parks and Recreation.
With budget crunches, City sponsorship and funding evaporated. There was no Festival by the Bay in 2004 or City-sponsored Cinco de Mayo. Juneteenth survived only when an alternate sponsor emerged (See TOM BUTT E-FORUM June 19, 2004, Juneteenth Survives Budget Cuts.
An alternate and spontaneous Cinco de Mayo event that had previously floated in both date and location around 23rd Street gained traction. In 2002, Police closed down the 23rd Street Cinco de Mayo event, and the fallout of allegations of improper police behavior are still causing legal problems and expenses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the City of Richmond three years later. The same event took place in 2003 and 2004 with fewer problems, but this year there was again an outbreak of fights and vandalism that resulted in another shutdown by police. The Richmond Police after action report cited $42,765 in police overtime and logistical costs of $6,350.
Although the City of Richmond bowed out of Juneteenth sponsorship, the same organization that largely paid for the 2003 event in Nicholl Park, the National Brotherhood Alliance, is planning a 2005 event in the same place but is protesting that the City is now meddling and scaring away potential vendors, some of them non-profits, by making them purchase temporary Richmond business licenses.
Despite these challenges, there remains a high level of interest in these festivals, and people are looking to the City to provide some leadership. As Richmond’s population continues to diversify and interest in history, the arts and community activities grows, additional festivals with wide public support may emerge.
After gathering input from a number of people, I suggest the following:
· That National Brotherhood Alliance be recognized as the official Juneteenth sponsor.
· That Nicholl Park be provided free of charge, provided NBA cleans up afterward
· That NBA be allowed to use the City’s vendor booths free of charge, provided they pick them up and deliver them back to storage.
· That NBA be provided a blanket business license exemption for any vendor
· under RMC 7.04.140, and that NBA may charge vendors at its sole discretion with any fees being applied to the overall costs of the festival
· That NBA be allowed to have a parade if it wishes along Macdonald Avenue from Harbour Way or points east to Nicholl Park.
A new way of funding and organizing festivals can point the way to a new way of handling lots of things that were formerly organized by City employees and paid for largely by the City of Richmond General Fund. In the long run, these vents will be more successful because they will be “owned” by the community, operated by volunteers, and supported by local businesses.