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Council questions future of annual spring parade

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Posted on: June 8, 2024


People playing instruments in the College Park Parade
The city’s annual parade costs more than any other event except College Park Day, leading City Councilmembers to question whether to continue it.

Next spring’s parade in North College Park could be the city’s last.

After an estimated 1,500 performers and onlookers participated in the third annual parade on the rainy morning of May 4, some members of the College Park City Council have determined that the event might not be worth the cost.

“I’m going to be a little bit unpopular and suggest that the city strongly consider getting out of the parade business,” Councilmember John Rigg (District 3) said during an event debrief on May 21. “I just don’t think it’s working out.”

The city spent $34,000 on this year’s Star Wars-themed parade and invested approximately 1,000 staff hours worth another $34,000, Ryna Quinones, the city’s communications and events manager, said during the debrief. “This event is challenging for us,” she noted.

Rigg said the total funding for the parade boils down to approximately $47 per attendee. “That’s not good,” Rigg said. “I can’t think of any way to justify that.”

Quinones said city staff had difficulty recruiting volunteers to run the event and struggled to find performers to march in the parade.

Of the 35 individuals and groups scheduled to be part of the procession along Rhode Island Avenue, nine were paid by the city to appear. A few did not show up for the event because of the rain.

Quinones said city staff invited 200 organizations to apply for spots but received just 43 applications.

“We would love to see more participation, and we haven’t gotten it,” Quinones said. “We would love to see more attendees.”

She called parade attendance over the past three years “stagnant at best.”

Quinones also said the lack of volunteers has strained staff, who would like to rely more on students and residents to pitch in with planning, setup and staffing of the event.

In fact, the parade takes place in early May instead of on the Fourth of July, as it did three years ago, because the timing is better for University of Maryland and public school students to volunteer, perform and attend.

During negotiations for the city’s fiscal year 2025 budget this spring, the council had decided to stop hosting the parade to save money. After receiving more than a dozen emails from residents asking the council to reverse the decision, however, the council restored $33,000 to the proposed budget for next year’s parade. 

During the debrief, councilmembers offered alternatives to the parade beyond 2025.

Rigg suggested hosting a music festival, while Councilmember Susan Whitney (District 2) floated the idea of a North College Park version of Friday Night LIVE!, a summer concert series the city hosts at city hall plaza.

People walking in the College Park parade

Most councilmembers agreed that the objective of the parade is community-building.

“We do indeed need to understand what we want to achieve,” Councilmember Llatetra Brown Esters (District 2) said, suggesting that the goal is “engagement and bringing people together. My question: Is this the way we want to continue to do this, or are there other things that can be done?”

Mayor Pro Tem Denise Mitchell said the council should agree about whether to continue to host the parade — the city’s most-expensive event after College Park Day — rather than leave it to the staff to decide. However, the discussion did not result in a decision about future parades.

“We will continue to have this discussion,” Brown Esters said. “We need to engage the members of that community who live in North College Park. … We need to continue to engage. We need to be thoughtful about it.”

City Manager Kenny Young noted that “none of us wants to be delivering an event that’s not successful and wasting taxpayer dollars.”



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