El Cajon’s Mother Goose Parade Dead? City Manager: Nobody Flocking to Help

The annual Mother Goose Parada down Main Street in El Cajon lacks sponsors.
The annual Mother Goose Parada down Main Street in El Cajon lacks sponsors. Image via elcajon.gov

For the fourth year in a row, the Mother Goose Parade will not march in El Cajon. And the city manager suggests the event is dead.

An East County Magazine investigation into the El Cajon Valley Mother Goose Parade Association reveals financial losses, consulting fees paid with no tangible results, the association’s donation page taken down, and no apparent fundraising events.

Mother Goose Association's most recent IRS filing — for 2021 tax year.
Mother Goose Association’s most recent IRS filing available — for 2021 tax year. (PDF)

The association website says: “This beloved event shall be re-imagined as a new classic in 2024.” But the parade association’s officers have declined to respond to media questions.

El Cajon City Manager Graham Mitchell 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.”

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 its 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.”

The Sunday-before-Thanksgiving 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 would be “back bigger and better than ever in 2023.”

That didn’t happen.

Records Reveal Losses

The California Secretary of State’s website lists the El Cajon Valley Mother Goose Parade Association as active, though it hasn’t submitted filings since 2020, other than the resignation of its agent of service, an account 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, a service 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 spent $35,652, including $34,525 for 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 2021 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, Lisa Van Sickle as secretary, Cathy L. Zeman as treasure, along with directors Chandler and Heidi Johnson.

On Facebook, the Mother Goose Parade 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. No information was given on any fundraising events.

Officers Duck Questions

ECM emailed the Parade Association’s website with a detailed list of questions. The organization responded by email, referring to the statement on its website and 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 happened to the financial assets? Who is the consultant paid and what work did the consultant perform? Where are the floats that have always appears 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?

ECM’s editor also sent a detailed list of questions to Daryl Priest, via his construction company’s secretary and requested an interview.

ECM 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 no fundraising events are listed 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’s Office, 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.

Miriam Raftery is editor of East County Magazine, where a version of this report originally appeared. East County Magazine is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.