When organizers of the local Puerto Rican Cultural Festival learned this year’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City would be dedicated to the state of Rhode Island, they envisioned using the event to showcase the Ocean State before an anticipated crowd of 1 million live spectators and the many more who would see the event through the media.
“Our original idea was to invite a color guard and representatives from every city and town to participate with us,” said Vivian Moreno, president of the Puerto Rican Cultural Festival and Parade of Rhode Island Inc., in Providence. “We thought it was a great opportunity to highlight the good things going on in the state.”
But a number of obstacles, primarily a lack of financial support, have forced Moreno and her nonprofit organization to scale back that vision.
Instead of a fleet of buses packed with local participants, the local delegation now plans to travel to Manhattan for the June 9 parade in a single van and two convertibles that will carry parade participants, including Carmen Bucholz, founder of the local festival, who will serve as the grand marshal for all participating states. Instead of its full performing troupe of 25 Puerto Rican dancers, the group will take just eight.
“We started out at 300 people – that’s where we started,” said Bob Cooper, a publicist for the festival. “It should have only gone up from there, but instead it’s gone the other direction.”
Moreno and Cooper say the last few months proved frustrating as they sought political and financial support from state and local agencies, and private supporters. They say while nearly everyone they approached expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity, few have been able to offer any significant financial backing.
The group’s struggles offer a window into the difficulties facing small nonprofits as public money becomes scarcer and both private donors and corporate sponsors have an ever-growing number of community organizations and events they can choose to support.
Already, the festival organization’s budget is splashed with red ink: The group is in arrears on its rent at its Broad Street headquarters and makes regular payments toward a $30,000 police detail bill with the city of Providence, only to see the bill rise again each time it holds its festival. This year’s festival, planned for Aug. 18, may be canceled as the group diverts resources on the New York event, Cooper said.