Parade site claims event will return in 2024, but city manager says foundation is “defunct” ; tax records reveal financial troubles
By Miriam Raftery
November 16, 2023 (El Cajon) – For the fourth year in a row, there will be no Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon. An ECM investigation into the El Cajon Valley Mother Goose Parade Association reveals troubling findings, including financial losses, consulting fees paid out with no tangible results, the association's donation page taken down, and no apparent fundraising events. The parade association’s officers have refused to respond to media questions.
The El Cajon Valley Mother Goose Parade Association website claims “This beloved event shall be re-imagined as a new classic in 2024.” If true, why wouldn't they respond to media inquiries to publicize ways that the public could support the parade?
The parade, a tradition since 1947, went virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, the website announced cancellation due to “unprecedented staffing, logistics and supply chain challenges” but promised that the annual tradition” will be back bigger and better than ever in 2023.” That didn’t happen, and the lack of transparency raises serious questions over whether there will be a parade in 2024, or ever again--unless the public steps forward to save the parade and provide a fairy-tale resolution.
State lists nonprofit as active, but IRS records reveal financial losses
The California Secretary of State’s website lists the El Cajon Valley Mother Goose Parade Association as active, though it hasn’t submitted any filings since 2020,other than the resignation of its agent of service, an accountant who retired and shuttered his business. The 2020 filing showed two officers: developer Daryl Priest as chief executive officer and Patti Tuttle Shyrock as secretary, both at the same address as Priest’s company, DP Homes.
Guidestar, an organization that provides data on nonprofits, has the parade association’s form 990 tax filings for 2019, 2020, and 2021.
In 2019, the last year in which a live parade was held, the organization had $73,646 in revenues and $62,580 in expenses, with a positive balance at year’s end of $12,495.
But in 2020, when COVID hit, the parade association finished the year with negative net assets of --$18,796. The group raised just $5,633 and had $36,496 in expenses.
By 2021, the group spend $35,652 including $34,525 in consulting fees. It is unclear who the consultant was, or what work the consultant did. The group reported$32,100 in revenues such as gifts, contributions and grants and finished 2121 in the hole, with negative assets of -$22,348. Total liabilities payable to officers were listed at $37,900.
Guidestar does not list a tax filing for 2022, and it is unclear whether the organization filed one with the IRS.
The 2021 IRS filing listed board members including Priest as president, Shryock and Kristina Costa as vice presidents, LisaVan Sickle as secretary,Cathy L Zeman as treasure, along with directors Chandler and Heidi Johnson.
The Mother Goose Parade on Facebook has a post announcing cancellation of this year's event and plans for a parade next year,but the last post before that was in 2021. Why were there no fundraising events or other updates provided, if the organization truly intended to raise funds for a future parade?
Officers duck questions from ECM and other media
ECM emailed the El Cajon Mother Goose Parade Association’s website with a detailed list of questions. The organization responded by email to refer us to the statement on its website, adding, “There are no further comments nor news to be shared at this time. When that happens, you and East County Magazine will be some of the first to know.”
What’s happened to the financial assets? Who is the consultant paid and what work did the consultant perform? Where are the floats that have always appeared in the parade, such as the Mother Goose float that traditionally carried the parade’s queen and her court, the Santa Claus float, and the giant inflatable balloons?
Our editor also sent a detailed list of questions to Daryl Priest, via his construction company’s secretary and requested an intervew. Our questions asked about the status of the foundation, a current list of officers, and what efforts are being made to produce a parade next year, given that there are no fundraising events on the website and the donation page has been taken down. ECM also asked if the foundation intends to dissolve, since it is still shown as active by the Secretary of State, and if so, what will happen with the organization’s assets. State law requires that if a nonprofit dissolves, its assets (financial and otherwise) must be donated to another nonprofit with a similar mission.
Priest did not respond, nor did Shyrock, the two officers listed on the Secretary of State’s website.
Several other media outlets have run brief articles on cancellation of this year’s parade, without delving into financial records. Parade organizations did not respond to inquiries from any of those media outlets.
City manager says organization is defunct suggests it may be time for parade to end
But El Cajon City Manager Graham Mitchell, when asked why there is no parade again this year, said of the parade association, “They’ve announced that the organization is defunct. We are aware that they’re not running an event this year. They said that if another organization wants to run with it, they would pass along the knowledge. But so far, nobody has come forward.”
Perhaps no other organization has come forward to run the parade, because the parade’s association has not made public the need for new management. Might the East County Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown El Cajon merchants group, a service club, tribe, or other group be willing to step forward if they knew of the need? Or might the public volunteer to form a committee to save the parade, as was done when there was talk of tearing down the East County Performing Arts Center years ago, which was ultimately saved and rebranded as The Magnolia theater? Or perhaps civic leaders and their families might step forward. People such as the widow of former El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis, who recently told ECM that her husband saw the Mother Goose parade as a child and was so enchanted that he implored his family to move to El Cajon.(Photo, left: Mayor Lewis riding float in the parade)
City Manager Mitchell said he loved the parade, but didn’t seem to have feathers ruffled over potential loss of the long-standing tradition, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city, delighting children and the young at heart with fairy-tale themed floats, marching bands, equestrian demonstrations, giant inflatable balloons and more.
ECM asked why the city hasn’t put the parade’s future on the city council’s agenda to inform the public and perhaps consider short-term funding from the city, as La Mesa previously provided when it’s Oktoberfest had financial troubles.
Mitchell responded, “I think it’s probably a good time for the parade not to be around anymore,” noting that participation and sponsorships have dwindled over the years. Noting that the city already underwrites several other major events, Mitchell added, “We don’t have the capacity to take this on.”
He recalled working in another city where an event was cancelled and the public came forward with volunteers to revive the event. Mitchell suggested that anyone who wants to see the Mother Goose Parade take wing to once more delight the public should “let their feet do the walking” adding, ”I’d probably encourage them to form a new organization.”