Odunde Festival struggling for money

June 2, 2009 2:12:48 PM PDT
The struggling economy is taking a toll on organizers of local events and festivities in Philadelphia this summer. The city's largest African American celebration is being especially hard hit.Local organizers have been hit with a double whammy, the poor economy, which hurts fundraising efforts, and a new city policy that calls for event organizers to pay for city services.

Philadelphia's Odunde Festival is scheduled for next weekend but so far, only a fraction of the money needed to put it on, has been raised.

"We've raised $30,000 of the $170,000 we need."

More than half of the $140,000 Oshunbumi Fernandez still needs for the festival would offset the cost for police and sanitation services; expenses the city covered in previous years.

"Odunde is a family event so we want our sponsors, like Comcast, Peco, please Coca-Cola come and sponsor Odunde."

Oshunbumi's mother, Lois Fernandez, started Odunde 34 years ago. It means "Happy New Year" in the Yoruban language of Nigeria.

600,000 people attended the festival last year, and Oshunbumi, who organizes the event with very little help, admits she's concerned, but also hopeful.

"Odunde is God's work," she said. "And I know He has not brought us this far, 34 years, to let us fall by the roadside."

Odunde isn't the only city event, facing challenges in the current economic climate. Philadelphia's annual professional Bike Race was nearly cancelled because of lack of funds, but the owners of the proposed Foxwoods and SugarHouse casinos came to its rescue, donating $100,000 each.

"And we're asking for the same help, the same assistance," Oshunbumi said. "We produce more than $10 million economic stimulus to the city of Philadelphia for that festival weekend."

The Sunoco Welcome America festivities has had money problems, but will go on, with some changes, and for about $400,000 less than it cost last year.

"We are an asset and a gem to the city of Philadelphia just like other events," she said. "I'm really very positive, very optimistic Odunde's gonna take place!"

The festival is scheduled as planned for next weekend, June 12-14 at 20th and South Streets.

If you would like to help with a donation please see below:

Please Send Donations to:
PO Box 21748
Philadelphia, PA 19146

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