Doughman says increasing costs, loss of sponsor meant to money for beneficiary; Tavern Guild looking for ‘creative ways’ to pay for event
The 25th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade was a success by every measure — except one, the bottom line.
"It was a great week for the merchants on Cedar Springs and for the sponsors — for everyone involved financially, except the Tavern Guild. We had the largest attendance ever, both along the parade route and at the festival in Lee Park. We have estimated that we had about 40,000 people along the parade route," said Michael Doughman, executive director the Dallas Tavern Guild, which organizes and stages the parade and festival each year.
The Tavern Guild also bears the financial responsibility for the annual gay Pride celebration. Doughman said steadily rising costs and the loss this year of a major sponsor means the burden has gotten heavier and there was no money left for the parade beneficiary, Youth First Texas.
Doughman said Tavern Guild member bars will be holding fundraisers through the end of the year to raise money for the LGBT youth group. But the organization has to start planning now to avoid finding itself in the same situation next fall.
"Our costs have virtually tripled. We have to be more creative in finding money and finding new and dedicated sponsors. We’re not talking about huge donations," he said. "Our sponsorships start at $2,500."
The Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade is "one of the best run and most organized parades in the city, from what the police tell us," Doughman said. "But that means that we have to meet the highest expectations, the highest standards. We want a good, safe, fun and sanitary event. That means we have to find new sponsors, and we have to ask our existing sponsors to increase their donations. And that’s a tough thing to do with the economy in the state it’s in."
Doughman also stressed that the parade’s financial situation isn’t due to bad management.
"No one is to blame. We trimmed everywhere we could. We cut down on equipment everywhere we could. But in some places we just couldn’t cut corners," he said.
Most of the increases, he added, were forced by more stringent — and expensive — requirements imposed by the city.
Doughman said cleanup costs had gone up from about $4,000 five years ago to $14,000 this year, thanks to new city requirements enacted "after events following the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Greenville Avenue and some other parades. They require a certain number of street sweepers and trash containers and things like that to make sure the streets are clean by the next day."
The city also requires the Tavern Guild to meet certain crowd control requirements to ensure the safety of those in the parade and those watching it. That means erecting barricades between the sidewalks and the streets.
The Tavern Guild owns a certain number of interlocking metal barricades needed to keep parade watchers off the street along the parade route, and usually borrows the rest of the barricades they need from the city. But this year, Doughman said, those borrowed barricades the
Tavern Guild was counting on weren’t available.
"The city had to use them down at the convention center where they were housing all the hurricane refugees," Doughman said.
Instead, the Tavern Guild had to rent those extra barricades — an added cost, Doughman said, of $6,000 to $8,000.
The Tavern Guild also had to pay more for security forces, including Dallas police officers. The larger the crowd estimate, the more officers are required.
"That’s just not something we have any control over," Doughman said. "Homeland Security has a formula they use based on the crowd size, and we have no choice but to meet that formula. It probably doesn’t seem fair to some people that we have to have so much security and equipment that we didn’t have to have before. But that’s all a result of the continued growth and evolution of the parade."
Doughman said that the parade’s growth has been a boon for the LGBT community and the city as a whole.
"Pride Week has been a significant catalyst for our communuty. It’s been good for the businesses on the [Cedar Springs] strip. Our host hotels benefit from the number of people coming in for the parade," Doughman said. "It’s just that none of that puts money in the Tavern Guild’s pockets."
The rising costs and dropping income could sound like a death knell for Dallas’ annual Pride parade. But Doughman said the Tavern Guild has no intention to let the tradition die out.
"Dallas Tavern Guild is certainly committed to this tradition. But people need to understand that it’s much, much more expensive now," Doughman said.
"We can’t have another year like this. It would put us in the hold financially. And that’s why we are calling on our sponsors, why we are looking for new sponsors. We have got to get creative in finding funding, and we are happy to talk to anybody who has resources that can help."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 14, 2008.