Two well-known St. Patrick's Day parade committees around the U.S. are seeking their own financial bailout after discovering that a whole lot of extra cash is needed to run their annual parade - money that, in these recessionary times, simply isn't there anymore. Connecticut's largest St. Patrick's Day parade, the New Haven event, has been marching up Chapel Street for the last 54 years and hopes to do so again this year. However, according to the 2009 grand marshal, Brian Enright, this year the committee has to come up with an additional $30,000 or the parade will be in serious trouble. Due to budget costs, the City of New Haven can't afford to pay overtime to the city's police officers that are a necessary commodity for a safe parade. Along with the usual $80,000 the New Haven parade has to raise to run the event each year, this year an additional $30,000 will be required to pull it all off. A large chunk of the $80,000 goes towards the marching units that participate in the parade. Other costs include insurance, printing, portable toilets and production costs (the parade is produced for television). Despite the overwhelming additional cost, Enright, an attorney who is president of the Gorman Enright & Butler firm, said that the parade would go ahead one way or another. "Even in tough economic times, you need to preserve those events that make you a community. This is not about being Irish or about being Irish American, this is about being a community," he said. "When we walk down Chapel Street, we see faces of every denomination in that crowd and they all love a parade. Even in tough times it's very important to maintain the things that make us a community." The parade, which is due to take place on Sunday, March 15, draws between 250,000 and 300,000 spectators each year, and plays host to more than 3,500 participants. "Our parade is the largest single day spectator day event in Connecticut," added Enright, chairman of the St. Patrick's Day parade in 2008 and past president of the Knights of St. Patrick. When asked if the parade, the sixth oldest in the country and the largest between New York and Boston, would be cancelled if the necessary funds are not raised, Enright said, "We are not thinking in those terms. In our minds we are going to make this happen. "We are coming down the home stretch now. We are meeting the city on a regular basis, and in our minds we will do whatever we have to do to for this parade to go off." The committee is still $40,000 shy of raising the necessary funds to run the parade, but Enright remains optimistic. "We have a number of fundraisers coming up and other things are planned," he said. Enright is urging people to attend the "Save the Parade" fundraiser on Thursday, February 19 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Knights of St. Patrick. The event is being organized by New Haven police and fire department chiefs and union representatives from around the state. Tickets are $25. It will be a cocktail party with the proceeds going to benefit the parade committee. The event is to be held at the Knights of Saint Patrick hall at 1533 State Street in New Haven. To help save the New Haven St. Patrick's Day parade log onto www.stpatricksdayparade.org and make a donation. "If we can get everyone that comes to see the parade to donate just $5 then we can run this parade for a very long time," said Enright. Also feeling the financial pinch this year is the Philadelphia St. Patrick's Day parade, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 15. Just out of a meeting with the city on Monday, committee president Michael Callahan told the Irish Voice for the parade to proceed as usual, they must now raise an additional $60,000 to cover costs that are normally funded by the city. "Costs are spiraling rapidly, we just learned," said Callahan. The cost of running the Philadelphia parade, the second oldest St. Patrick's Day parade in the country, usually run about $70,000. "The city, in the past, has helped us out with sanitation and policing, but now they are saying we have to pay for everything. Now our costs have gone from $70,000 to about $130,000," said Callahan. "We know that it is tough financial economic times and we understand that the city of Philadelphia is under some real restraints to tighten their belt. We want to work with them and they will work with us too." Not only is the parade committee under extreme pressure to raise the extra funds to run the event effectively, they were told by the city of Philadelphia on Monday that their usual parade route, which will be led by Grand Marshal James Coyne, will need to be cut short. "The route, which is usually two and a half miles in length, will this year be cut back to two miles. This will save money on security costs," said Callahan. Callahan is adamant that the parade, which has 25,000 participants and 300,000 spectators every year, will go ahead as normal this year. He said to put an end to the St. Patrick's Day parade would be to mess with history. "History is on our side. The Irish have been the backbone to the city of Philadelphia forever, down from the tradesman even through the political and religious scene," Callahan said. There will be several fundraisers in the coming weeks to save the Philadelphia parade. On Sunday, March 8, a fundraiser will take place with the Irish group Blackthorn at the Springfield Country Club. There will be food and a silent auction that day, and $25 tickets will be available at the door. To find out more about the Philadelphia parade or to donate to the parade log onto www.philadelphiastpatsparade.com Although the Savannah, Georgia's St. Patrick's Day parade, the second largest St. Patrick's parade in the country, has not been directly affected by the slumping economy, parade general chairman John Forbes told the Irish Voice that some of the corporate participants who normally have floats in the parade have had to pull out this year due to "budget setbacks." However, Forbes said they are looking forward to the parade on March 17 that has about 250,000 street spectators each year and added that the same amount of marching units will still participate as scheduled. "We even had to turn some away," he said.
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