NEW PORT RICHEY — The downtown holiday parade that has spread cheer for more than three decades will continue this season, as organizers reached an agreement to reduce the city's expenses for the popular event.
The nonprofit Holiday Rotary Club's annual Holiday Parade will take place Dec. 10 after planners reached a compromise over funding, according to city officials and the parade's co-chair, Greg Armstrong.
Armstrong is one of many event organizers who have been scrambling since city officials announced the possibility of pulling the plug on $180,000 in support for the city's numerous special events.
In June, City Manager John Schneiger presented a report to the City Council that listed the Holiday Parade as the second costliest event to the city at more than $26,000 a year, behind Chasco Fiesta at around $85,000. In previous years, the city has absorbed the cost of providing police officers, firefighters, public works and parks crews to help put on such events.
Armstrong said he knew the Rotary would either have to come up with creative ways to cut the city's costs or end an event the community holds dear.
"It didn't surprise me. Anyone with a checkbook knows what is going on with the economy right now," Armstrong said. "We just refused to allow it to stop us. There are more children hurting right now than ever who look forward to this every year."
Parade organizers have since made a pitch to Schneiger that will keep it on schedule, including tripling the number of volunteers the Rotary will have for setup and cleanup, Armstrong said.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office will also pitch in, bringing inmates from the Land O'Lakes jail to help set up and take down barricades, and help with cleaning up, Armstrong said.
Another change that will save money for years to come: The city will move its barricades from the Land O'Lakes jail to a former public works building on Pine Hill Road. Having them stored in New Port Richey will reduce the transportation costs every time the city has an event.
All told, the changes will bring the city's cost for the Holiday Parade below $10,000, Schneiger said.
"We had a really great meeting and they came up with a great plan," he said. "It is difficult, but it's the reality of the budget we are dealing with."
Armstrong says planners for the parade are not done looking for more ways to lower costs.
"We were told they needed us to get the parade to under $10,000, but I am shooting for getting the cost down to between $5,000 and $6,000," Armstrong said.