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[July 16, 2008]
Madison's gay-pride event to be much smaller this year
(Wisconsin State Journal, The (KRT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jul. 16--Gone from this year's Madison gay-pride event are the long lists of performers and vendors, the beer tent and the always entertaining parade.
Still trying the untangle the financial mess left by its former treasurer, Madison Pride will cut the usually weekend-long event to one day and spend only about $500 putting it on, after having spent about $30,000 on it last year, said Dawnne Edseth, co-chair of the volunteer organization's board of directors.
Only one musical act, The Cowboy & The Frenchman, is formally scheduled to perform this year at Brittingham Park, the long-time location of the event. A rally at the Capitol and march, which will stay close to the Capitol and remain on the sidewalk, also are planned.
Last year, there were 15 to 20 performers and 50 to 60 vendors, Edseth said.
She quipped that this year's event is being referred to as "Pride Unplugged" or BYOP, for Bring Your Own Pride -- a nod to the difficulties in putting on the event after Madison Pride's former treasurer reportedly left the group with $4 in its checking account and outstanding bills from the event last year.
"There's so many records that are missing," Edseth said.
Madison Pride announced in April it had discovered "serious financial discrepancies" in the accounts managed by its former treasurer. The treasurer was unanimously removed from the board for "failure to report financial inconsistencies."
The group's board believes the treasurer, who the State Journal is not naming because he has not been charged with a crime, was responsible for the problems and failed to pay vendors, leaving the group in debt and with essentially nothing to spend on this year's event.
The scope of the problem is still not known, Edseth said, but outstanding bills from vendors who provided services at last year's event are believed to total less than $10,000.
"It was a very rude awakening," she said. "It was a very difficult, emotional betrayal for all the board members."
She said she expected the group would turn over enough evidence to authorities to charge the treasurer in 30 to 60 days.
It's not clear yet if the reduced scope of the event will decrease turnout, which Edseth said has been around 5,000 or 6,000 in past years.
The executive director of OutReach -- a Madison gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender support and advocacy organization -- said people he's heard from in the GLBT community are disappointed this year's gay pride event will be scaled back, but are sympathetic to Madison Pride's plight.
"Their only mistake was not overseeing the person who was holding the purse strings," said Steve Starkey.
He said it appears Madison Pride's board is working to put policies in place so the same thing won't happen again.
Edseth, however, feels the 501(c)(3) group may have been fatally harmed by the controversy, noting some supporters have distanced themselves from the group since its April disclosure.
She said the organization's leaders are likely to disband Madison Pride and create a new entity to organize Madison's annual gay-pride event. She said the new group would take on all the debt of the old one.
Pride Celebration 2008
11 a.m. Rally at the State Capitol, including remarks by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison.
11:20 a.m. March around the capitol.
Noon to 6 p.m. Picnic at Brittingham Park (bring your own food and drink), entertainment by The Cowboy & The Frenchman and possibly others.
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