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Philanthropy pays for 10 city parades

A philanthropic organization will pay $300,000 worth of city bills for Philadelphia's major parades through 2012, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and Mayor Nutter announced Wednesday.

The Greater Philadelphia Traditions Fund, organized by Brady and funded by philanthropist Gerry Lenfest and cheese steak maven Joey Vento, committed $300,000 toward the setup and cleanup costs for which the city began billing parade organizers last year. The money will pay bills from 2009 through 2012.

The deal covers 10 events -- from the Mummers Parade to six ethnic parades to the Odunde Festival, Gay Pride Parade and Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival. The deal is the second wave of relief for parade organizers. In June, City Council overrode a mayoral veto of a bill that precludes the city from charging parades for police costs.

The police costs for those events since 2009 through 2010 will approach $600,000 (not $300,000, as reported earlier), according to the mayor's office. Nutter began charging parades, beginning with the Mummers in 2009, saying the city could no longer afford to pay for the privately sponsored events. Parade organizers pushed back, saying fund raising to pay for the parade itself was difficult enough without having to pay for police and cleanup, and found a backer in City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, who is heavily involved in Puerto Rican Day festivities..

"This is a very important day for us," said Michael Blichasz, organizer of the Pulaski Day parade and celebration of Polish culture. Blichasz also heads a coalition of ethnic parade organizers called Ethnic Americans United that argued the parades bring people and money to the city.

What about the other neighborhood festivals in the city? Ken Smukler, a Brady ally and spokesman for the Traditions Fund, said the fund has another $440,000 in contributions or corporate commitments, on top of the $300,000 announced Wednesday, and the organization will be looking at requests "on a case-by-case" basis.

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