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DC Caribbean Carnival Coming Soon … to Baltimore

Due to financial problems, the much-loved annual festival won’t be parading in the District this year.

The Caribbean Carnival is known for its bejeweled costumes and toe-tapping beats. Photograph courtesy of DC Caribbean Carnival.

The DC Caribbean Carnival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, but due to a mounting series of well-publicized financial issues, it won’t be doing so in the District. One of the year’s most popular events among Caribbean diaspora and native Washingtonians alike, the parade’s organizers currently owe the city slightly more than $200,000, meaning the parade won’t be marching down Georgia Avenue in 2012. Instead, the festival is relocating–to Baltimore.

The organizers have accepted an invitation to partner with the Caribbean American Carnival Association of Baltimore to create the Baltimore/Washington One Caribbean Carnival. The parade will take place on July 14, running down Alameda Street from E. 33rd Street to St. Lo Drive. The festival is scheduled for July 15, and offers a similar format: live music, food, craft vendors, and other entertainment.

DC Caribbean Carnival, Inc. still plans to host an event June 23 and 24, but it’ll be doing so in Bladensburg, MD, with much smaller festivities than usual. The Dimanche Gras and the annual Pan Jam, a showcase of local steelbands, will take place at the Crossroads Entertainment Complex. The downsized event is no doubt a disappointment to many, especially since last year’s event was notably smaller than usual. TBD reported on 2011’s shorter carnival route, stating how former mayor Marion Barry had “allowed the festivities to operate free of charge [for years] because ‘it pumped money in the city.'” He wasn’t wrong–a study conducted by the Howard University School of Business found that the festival brought 400,000 visitors to the city last year, who contributed almost $1.3 million in tax revenue.

But despite paying the DC Metropolitan Police Department $250,000 for security in 2010, the festival still owed the city over $100,000 at the beginning of last year. With budgets currently very much up for debate, the city is apparently no longer prepared to subsidize the event, which means festivalgoers will have to make the trip to Baltimore this summer for a taste of Caribbean culture.