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Festival of the Dead funded

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Grant money doled out by the Missoula City Council Monday night will assure a festival next fall celebrating the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that Missoulians have marked for 13 years with a downtown parade and eclectic art expos.

The Council approved $1,500 for the 2008 festival with a late amendment to a resolution dispersing $15,500 in Neighborhood Project Grant money, which normally funds park renovations and neighborhood beautification projects. The approval of the festival’s grant request actually surprised Leah Morrow, one of the main organizers of this year’s celebration.

“Wait. They approved [the money]?” she asked during a phone call Tuesday morning. “That’s amazing…I am so glad, that is really great news.”

Heading into Monday night’s Council meeting it looked like the grant money wouldn’t come through, she says.

At the Nov. 21 Administrative and Finance Committee meeting the six Council members in attendance split on the festival’s request because the event doesn’t exactly fit the criteria to qualify for the money. The resolution went to the full Council Monday night with a recommendation not to fund it, but Ward 3’s Stacy Rye moved for its inclusion and won.

Ward 3 councilor Bob Jaffe, who sits on the committee charged with recommending projects to receive funding, said the grant application posed several problems. “The discussion we had on [the festival] was if it was appropriate for the grant funds to be used for something that is really a city wide event,” he says.

While giving money for the festival seemed a stretch, he says, a case could be made that it’s a neighborhood event downtown.

“Yeah it’s not a perfect fit,” Jaffe says, “but given the circumstances that our criteria didn’t exclude it, and no one else was vying for the money [it got funded].”

Morrow says private fundraising efforts provided the minimal $1,200 needed to organize the event, and the grant money will allow for more activities.

“It’s definitely my goal to make this parade more sustainable, but we’re in a really good spot with it right now,” she says.

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