The financial woes of the D.C. Caribbean Carnival

She won't be walking very far this year: The 2011 D.C. Caribbean Day parade is shorter than last year's. (Photo: Island Vibes Magazine)

Good news for stilt walkers with sore feet: This Saturday's Caribbean Day parade will be shorter than last year's. It will start at Georgia and Kansas Avenues, NW, and end about a mile and a half south, at a Howard University parking lot on Bryant Street, NW. The distance is tighter because so are the finances of the DC Caribbean Carnival.

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A shorter route is more affordable, says Loughton Sergeant, the executive director of DC Caribbean Carnival, Inc. The organization stated in a press release that it still owes the D.C. Police $54,782.45 and the D.C. Department of Public Works $61,473.28 for 2010's parade.

In 2010, the DC Caribbean Carnival, Inc. paid $250,000 to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department for security and $20,000 to rent the Banneker Recreation baseball field, according to an AFRO.com article.

For years, former mayor Marion Barry allowed the festivities to operate free of charge ”because it pumped money in the city," according to the same AFRO.com piece. In the current hard budget climate, that’s pretty much impossible.

The police refused to move forward with 2011 plans until the 2010 debt was paid. “We continued to explore alternative plans and venues, to reduce costs, but without compromising the festival environment that we have enjoyed,” Sargeant says.

Desperate for financial support, the Carnival raised funds, applied for grants, and sought sponsorship. But it had no luck.

Organizers considered having a parade without a festival and holding the entire festival in Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. But conflicting schedules led them back to square one.

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham says “the city and the DC Caribbean Carnival, Inc., reached a compromise.” He says the shortening of the parade will decrease the cost of police officers for this year.

"We collaborated with city officials for a shorter route with the understanding that next year the government would restore the event,” says Rolland Barnes, president of DC Caribbean Carnival, Inc.

Sargeant said the future of the D.C. Carnival rest in the hands of city officials. “We embrace the opportunity to keep the program going here in D.C. However, if the financial challenges persist, we may have to relocate to another city,” he said.

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