Lack of funds cancels 'I Am an American Day Parade' for '95

September 13, 1995|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

The "I Am an American Day Parade," a 57-year-old display of Baltimore pride and patriotism, won't be marching this year.

A lack of money and other problems prompted organizers to cancel the event, usually held on the Sunday after Labor Day.

"Fund raising is not the easiest thing in the world," said Anthony M. DiPietro Jr., the parade's chief executive officer. "I keep going back to the same well, and the well was running dry."

Mr. DiPietro said that the cost of paying performers, obtaining permits and other obligations amounted to about $7,000. He said he might have been able to scrape together $6,000, but there were other difficulties.

A former state delegate, Mr. DiPietro lost in his bid for the state Senate and had to close his office in East Baltimore. His wife became ill, and they had to move to Harford County. Finally, Mr. DiPietro learned that the platforms needed for parade officials and dignitaries had been promised to another event.

So about a month ago, Mr. DiPietro and other organizers decided to cancel the parade. This week, Mr. DiPietro promised that the cancellation is only a hiatus. "You can rest assured that there will be an 'I Am an American Day Parade' next year."

The parade was started in 1938 by the Hearst Corp., publisher of the old Baltimore News American, as a way to honor the Constitution. The first grand marshal was Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Though the event always drew veterans organizations and politicians, over the years, the parade evolved into an opportunity for Baltimoreans to show their pride in being Americans. In recent years, a naturalization ceremony for new citizens preceded the parade.

Soap opera stars and Hollywood actors came to be included among the dignitaries -- helping draw huge crowds to parades lasting as long as 3 1/2 hours -- and among the participants was the famous Philadelphia Mummers Quaker City String Band.

But financial troubles grew as the cost of entertainers, fees and permits increased.

In 1993, parade organizers threatened to move the event from the Highlandtown-Patterson Park area because of the increased charges from the city, but Edwin F. Hale Sr., chairman then of Baltimore Bancorp, came to the rescue and wrote a check underwriting its expenses. Last year, no white knight emerged and the parade was moved to Dundalk, in Baltimore County.

The crowd that turned out was smaller than in the city, but Mr. DiPietro said he believed the county ultimately will prove to be a suitable site for the event, which he said is needed now more than ever.

"We need to be reminded we live here in America and not someplace else," he said.

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