What does it take to make a parade?
Well, for starters, you need people. And as Gina Dooley knows, many assume everybody wants to show off so they willingly march for nothing. That’s not the case.
Dooley, chair of the Gaspee Days Committee, says there isn’t much time to raise $35,000. If that goal isn’t met, the parade planned for Saturday, June 12 won’t happen. Colonial fife and drum units, bands and even unpaid participants need to make commitments now.
That’s not the end of the expenses. It takes $5,000 to paint the red, white and blue stripe down Narragansett Parkway and across the Pawtuxet Bridge to Broad Street in Cranston. The parade committee chaired by Karen Kenney has to rent portable toilets and arrange for Warwick and Cranston police details. All of that requires money.
Traditionally, the committee has raised the funds through a combination of events, with the biggest being the arts and crafts show held over three days on Memorial Day weekend. Because of the crowds the fair attracts and the close proximity of people, the committee postponed the festival until this September when it is hoped the pandemic will be behind us. The festival can generate upwards of $35,000.
When the committee voted to proceed with a scaled-back version of the parade – the Mummers and Clydesdales aren’t being scheduled – a month ago, it was a ray of hope that indeed we were emerging from the dark shadows of the pandemic. The committee set up a GoFundMe page and there was an instant wellspring of donations. So far, $11,000 has been raised, but it’s not enough to hold the parade.
Dooley said the committee is reluctant to dip into its meager reserves since planning has already started for 2022, which marks the 250th anniversary of the burning of the Gaspee and sets off the start of a series of state 250th independence commemorations.
Last week, Dooley turned to Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi for help. With the community having raised more than $17,000 to assist the 60 people displaced by the fire at Les Chateaux, Picozzi arranged to promote the cause through the city website and over social media. The mayor’s media director, Liz Tufts, produced a video that started appearing on social media this week.
“I know just about everyone is struggling financially during the pandemic, but even one dollar could help keep the spirit of the parade alive. Many assume people march in the parade for free, that’s not the case. It takes a lot of money to put this on every year and the Gaspee Days Committee needs our help,” said Picozzi.
As part of the community drive, Beacon Communications will give $20 of every new annual $39 subscription to the Warwick Beacon or Cranston Herald for the rest of April to the parade fund. The newspapers will publish a special Gaspee Days edition featuring stories on the parade, the celebration and the hunt being undertaken for remnants of the British ship torched by colonialists as it was hard aground on Namquid Point the night of June 9, 1772. The act is described as the “first blow for freedom.”
Ordering a year-long subscription to either of the papers can be done online at either newspaper’s website – warwickonline or cranstononline – or by calling (401) 732-3100 on weekdays.