Organizers of Baltimore's annual St. Patrick's Parade will stage the first in a series of fund-raisers Sunday, hoping for a big turnout because of their uncertainty about how much money this year's event will cost.
The uncertainty, organizers said, results from a new City Hall policy to charge fees for sanitation, police and other services provided for the hundreds of festivals, parades and foot races held each year.
The St. Patrick's affair on March 14 will be the first parade affected by the city policy proposed by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and approved by the Board of Estimates a month ago.
At the time, Mr. Schmoke said the city no longer could afford to provide the services from the Police Department, the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department of Public Works without attempting to offset the costs.
But sponsors of such events say they may not be able to afford them, either, and the city fees may chase them to the suburbs.
"It's gotten to the point where we have no idea what the city costs can entail," said St. Patrick's Parade Chairman James A. Jones, a retired state police lieutenant colonel from Perry Hall.
"If the charges are too much," Mr. Jones said, "we are going to recommend a move to Baltimore County or Annapolis."
Last year's parade cost about $35,000 to stage -- much of the money covering payments for floats and bands, Mr. Jones said, adding that those costs are increasing. Even high school bands receive payments to cover their transportation costs and uniform cleaning, he said.
Through donations, printed programs and fund-raisers including the annual 5-K Shamrock immediately preceding the parade, the committee managed to have nearly $7,000 left over as seed money for the 1993 event. Nearly $2,000 of the parade income came from a city government grant.
Mr. Jones said the $45,000 estimate for this year's parade does not anticipate a surplus to go toward the 1994 event, because of the city's new fees.
The committee's income estimates include another, hoped-for grant from the city -- but Mr. Jones was not optimistic that the municipal government would be giving money with one hand and taking it back with another.
In the month since Board of Estimates approval of the fees, Mr. Jones said, the parade committee has been unable to get a firm figure from the city on the likely size of the bill -- just "generalities" that explain such things as minimum four-hour overtime payment for each city police officer on parade duty.
Parade fund-raising begins this weekend at the Gandy Dancer, 1300 McHenry St., with entertainment by the groups Ellis Island, Relatively Irish, Reel Time and The Irish Edge.
It is the first in a series of Sunday benefits. Similar parties are scheduled Feb. 14 at J. Patrick's Irish Pub, 1371 Andre St., and Feb. 28 at McGinn's Irish Pub, 328 N. Charles St. All run from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., with an admission charge of $4.
The Shamrock Run -- the biggest fund-raiser -- is scheduled for 1:40 p.m. Sunday, March 14, with an entry fee of $10 for participants registering before March 1 and $13 after that date.
Organizers set a limit of 1,800 runners and noted that they had to close entries on race day last year. For more information about the race, call (410) 882-5455.
The parade itself is scheduled for 2 p.m. that day, starting at the Washington Monument and following a route south on Charles Street to Pratt Street, and east on Pratt to Market Place.