This year’s MayDay Parade made money for the first time its organizers can remember.
About 75,000 people attended the May 5 parade and festival — south Minneapolis’ endangered rite of spring — up 25% from last year’s record attendance. They threw money in buckets, texted donations and bought merchandise, donating $60,000 that sunny Sunday, about double last year’s total. Add money from advertising, vendors and more, and the event netted a $50,000 surplus.
“Every income area, I think, hit records,” said Corrie Zoll, executive director of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, which puts on the event.
The nonprofit plans to invest that surplus in what comes next. But what comes next is still unclear.
In January, Heart of the Beast announced that it was on the brink and could no longer produce the parade and celebration alone, prompting fear that after 45 years, the beloved tradition could come to an end. Despite this year’s success, the theater is sticking to the need for partners.
“Record attendance reinforces the notion that HOBT’s MayDay has grown too large for HOBT to serve as the sole producing entity,” the theater said Wednesday in a message to artists and attendees. “Record numbers also indicate attendees are passionate about finding a way for the event to continue.”
The nonprofit announced next steps to revamp the parade and Powderhorn Park festival — including its plan to get feedback via artist workshops and one-on-one interviews. It also shared good news: Some $80,000 from community foundations, including the McKnight Foundation and the Minneapolis Foundation, will go toward figuring out the nonprofit’s future.
In recent months, Heart of the Beast has been working with the consulting firm Imagine Deliver and Juxtaposition Arts, a North Side nonprofit, to determine how the scrappy arts nonprofit, its signature event and its home, the Avalon Theatre on Lake Street, might survive.
In May, the groups surveyed more than 300 people to learn what they value about MayDay and how it might be improved.
When asked “Whose voices are missing?” many responded: communities of color. “I would love to see more space made for [black and indigenous] communities,” one person said, “especially those living in the neighborhood.”
This summer’s process has “an emphasis on hearing from folks who have felt left out of HOBT’s work,” the nonprofit said in its announcement. “This process will invite you to lead MayDay into a place that truly centers leaders and artists of color, responds to the community’s voice and is stronger — and more sustainable — as a result.”
Heart of the Beast has been looking for partners to produce the parade and festival. It costs about $200,000, and last year’s shortfall totaled about $50,000. Since January, Heart of the Beast has cut programs and staff, shrinking to a skeletal crew.
“We have every reason to think we’ll finish our fiscal year in the black,” Zoll said this month. “We don’t need that MayDay surplus to save the organization. We will be able to invest it directly into figuring out what’s possible for MayDay 2020.”