INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The money is in the bank for the Mummers and nine other parades and events in Philadelphia.
Cable magnate H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest will give $500,000 to the Greater Philadelphia Traditions Fund, a new nonprofit that will help the groups pay for what the city charges parades and festivals for use of streets, police, cleanup, and other costs, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.) announced Wednesday.
Brady said he believed residents equated the parades and festivals with Philadelphia's identity.
"I will not let them ever lose their traditions," he said at a news conference. "I will not let them ever lose their identity, their cheesesteaks, their pretzels, and let me add, let's go Flyers."
Lenfest's donation is the start-up money for the nonprofit. The group will continue to solicit funds from major businesses in Philadelphia. Lenfest, one of the area's most generous philanthropists, did not return a call seeking comment.
Besides the Mummers, groups that will get money from the fund are the Odunde Festival, the Columbus Day Parade, the Steuben Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Greek Independence Day Parade, the Gay Pride Parade, the Pulaski Day Parade, the St. Patrick's Day Parade, and the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival.
Some parade and festival organizers feared they would have to cancel their events after the Nutter administration began charging them for the costs the city incurred, such as police overtime.
In some cases, those costs ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Brady said other groups could also apply for help.
"This is a big day for us," said John Pignotti, president of the Philadelphia String Band Association. "This great tradition of the Mummers Parade was in jeopardy."
The fund will be a nonprofit under section 510(c)3 of the tax code. Its president will be Greg Montanaro, a friend of Brady's who has been active with many nonprofits and is executive director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, an independent think tank.
On May 20, Council passed a bill from Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez's that would require the city not to charge for traffic and crowd control by police for parades. It would even require the city to reimburse the organizers of parades for their 2009 events.
Thursday is the last day for Mayor Nutter to veto the bill or allow it to become law. Wednesday night, Sánchez said was considering a request by Nutter to withdraw the bill, working with Brady and the Nutter administration on a less-drastic solution to financial difficulties faced by parade organizers in shouldering all the costs.