Eighty-two days, more than $400,000 in donations and 500 volunteers have saved Carnaval.
The Mission district’s most important street festival — and the highlight of the cultural calendar for many Latinos across the Bay Area — will go on this weekend, less than three months after Carnaval’s then-organizers said there was not enough time, money and energy to put on the 35th annual parade and two-day block party.
“This is a testament to what a jewel this tradition is,” said Ani Rivera, executive director of Galeria de la Raza.
Rivera’s organization is one of the many Mission cultural institutions on the ad-hoc committee that formed in March after former Carnaval organizer Bay Area CAT threw in the towel.
After the event ends Sunday, Rivera and others will begin looking for a new nonprofit with broad representation from the neighborhood and seed money.
That way, this spring’s mad dash of fundraising and support — $320,000 in cash donations along with a $77,400 grant from The City, and more than $100,000 worth of in-kind services and goods ponied up since March — won’t need to be repeated.
“We started 83 days ago with zero — zero, zero, zero. ... It’s a miracle,” said Roberto Hernandez, an event planner who is handling logistics behind Carnaval, which received breaks on all fronts — from the company that provided the portable toilets at a discount to the city agencies that gave Carnaval a break on permit fees. “Instead of Santa Claus, I believe Pancho Claus came in May and delivered all the elves — 500 elves.”
In this case, the elves are the 513 volunteers to date who have pledged to help keep the event and Sunday parade moving and dancing without further damage to the bottom line.
Carnaval won’t be quite as big — instead of seven stages, there will be two or three. But there will be food, music, a parade and dancers.
And next year, if all goes to plan, there won’t need to be a miracle.