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6/19/2015 - Not one, but two city employees tapped to lead Bridgeport’s great parades

“It speaks to the character of our employees and their commitment to this city when not one -- but two -- of our public servants are asked to be grand marshals in our city’s great parades. Deb Caviness and Bobby Kennedy serve this community so well every day, and I know the parade organizers made great selections.” – Mayor Bill Finch

Bridgeport, Conn. (June 19, 2015) Mayor Bill Finch today recognized two city employees who were honored for their commitment to the community and the kids and families of Bridgeport.

“It speaks to the character of our employees and their commitment to this city when not one -- but two -- of our public servants are asked to be grand marshals in our city’s great parades,” said Mayor Finch. “Deborah Caviness and Bobby Kennedy serve this community so well every day, and I know the parade organizers made great selections.”

Caviness, the director of Bridgeport’s Small and Minority Business Resource Office, presided as grand marshal over the Juneteenth Parade of Fairfield County when it rolled through Bridgeport’s improving downtown neighborhood, attracting a large crowd of spectators.

“I’m proud to be mayor of the state’s largest city, and most diverse city,” said Mayor Finch. “Cultural events that showcase our rich diversity continue to grow and attract even more people to our improving downtown neighborhood.”

The Juneteenth parade is held on the second Saturday in June annually. It has grown to be one of the most colorful and entertaining parades in Fairfield County, featuring floats and marching bands from Connecticut, New York and Maryland. Juneteenth is the celebration of Juneteenth “Freedom Day” by descendants of Africans in America beginning on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas.

Created in 2008, one of Mayor Finch's first initiatives after being elected, the Small and Minority Business Resource Office (SMBRO) provides training and connections for entrepreneurs to create businesses and compete for city contracts, such as school construction projects. Since that time, the city has hired its first African-American construction manager for a school project and seen four minority owned businesses create joint ventures with established firms.

Recently, through the efforts of SMBRO, more than $50 million has been awarded to small, minority and women-owned businesses on our four most recent school construction projects. On these four construction projects - Black Rock Elementary School, Fairchild Wheeler Magnet High School, Roosevelt Elementary School and Longfellow Elementary School - 100 out of 101 subcontracting opportunities were awarded to minority or women-owned businesses.

“Deborah is helping make Bridgeport every day as the director of our Small, Minority Business Resource Office,” said Mayor Finch. “Thanks to her efforts, we are ensuring that small businesses, minority contractors and entrepreneurs have the resources necessary to grow and thrive in Bridgeport.”

Robert L. Kennedy, a long-time Bridgeport resident and the city’s Deputy Director of Public Facilities, will serve as the 2015 Barnum Festival’s Grand Marshal in the 67th Annual Great Street Parade on June 28.

“The Barnum Festival has been around since before I was born. I grew up loving it, and now my kids love it. It truly is one of the treasures of Bridgeport,” said Mayor Finch.

The Barnum parade, which caps the week-long Barnum Festival, features a contingent of drum corps, bands, dancers, drill teams, clowns, creative floats, giant balloons, community leaders, arts and cultural groups. Organizers promise that, because the Festival honors ultimate showman and entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, there will be some Barnum-sized surprises.

Kennedy grew up in Alabama, so extravagant parades were part of his upbringing.

“Mardi Gras was a favorite of mine. It was such a pleasure as a kid, so coming to Bridgeport it was fun to go to all the parades but especially the Barnum Festival Parade,” said Kennedy, a 45-year resident of Bridgeport. Kennedy has worked for the city for 32 years and is a Marine Corps. veteran. “When I think of Barnum I think about circus, I think about clowns, I think about happy times.”

Ringmaster Fred Hall added: “We are lucky to have such a wealth of diversity in this region and to have the opportunity to celebrate that diversity in such an extravagant way in the name of P.T. Barnum, whose penchant for spectacle brought so many people together under the Big Top.”