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Despite Missing Funds, Gay Pride Festival On

What they saw "shocked and dismayed" them, she says. It took two-and-a-half months to figure things out. Meanwhile, board members scrambled to make arrangements with creditors and raise money to pull themselves together.

But things were looking bleak in midsummer. And the organization's week of "Pride" events, starting Sept. 8 and concluding with an all-day celebration in Festival Park on Sept. 15, was approaching. The price tag: ideally close to $20,000. Coalition members met to consider pulling the plug.

But they didn't. Some people attending the meeting were surprised to learn of the situation, Gardner says. At a post-meeting gathering for drinks at Cosmopolitan in Carytown, bar owner Johnny Prusaitis wrote a personal check and kicked off a fund-raiser. "Literally in 30 minutes we had $3,000," Gardner says. "That was like a thunderbolt out of the sky."

And now, says Jim Todd, a co-chairman of the coalition, the party is back on. He lists a series of events, such as a "Miss Richmond Pride Pageant," a golf tournament and a candlelight vigil. The purpose, says Todd, co-owner of Phoenix Rising bookstore, is "to instill pride, celebrate unity and embrace diversity — and God only know that we need it here in Virginia."

As for the board member who broke the group's trust — and its bank account — Gardner says, "We have got an agreement and a repayment schedule. The person has admitted wrongdoing" and has paid about half the money back.

So far, the board has decided not to pursue criminal charges, she says: "We just can't afford to take our eyes off our objective here," the festival. "We've advised the incoming board that if they want to take legal action, it's up to them."

For more information on the festival, visit — Jason Roop

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