Keep going, Oak Cliff
Amy Cowan wanted a Mardi Gras parade in Oak Cliff, so she threw one in 2009.
That first one, which traveled down Bishop Avenue, had some festive floats and drew a bigger crowd than expected. Now Mardi Gras Oak Cliff is one of the biggest annual events in our neighborhood.
Cowan, who co-founded Go Oak Cliff to put on festivals including Mardi Gras, Bastille on Bishop and Blues, Bandits & BBQ, moved her family to New Orleans a few months ago, after 10 years in Oak Cliff. She’s not alone. Everyone else involved in the organization’s early days has moved on to other ventures or has moved away, too.
“It was time to go,” Cowan says. “New Orleans already has all the same things that we were trying to create here. To be somewhere where all that exists, and I don’t have to do any work, is kind of amazing.”
There’s no new Amy Cowan, but Oak Cliff neighbors have stepped in to take over Go Oak Cliff. Their new mission is to turn the organization into an all-volunteer nonprofit.
Andrew Snow, who moved to Oak Cliff around 2013, is the new Go Oak Cliff’s point person.
“These events need to be by the neighborhood, for the neighborhood,” Snow says. “My job is to get this into a sustainable order so that it can be handed off to leader after leader.”
They set up a board of directors and appointed neighbors to chair each of Go Oak Cliff’s events. And they’re “reverse engineering a playbook” by gleaning the information that’s in Cowan’s head.
Cowan originally set up the organization as a for-profit corporation, although she says she never made much money from it, because it was the easiest way to get things done.
As a nonprofit, the events will be run entirely by volunteers, and any money earned will go back into future events or donated to neighborhood schools.
The idea is that people who love neighborhood events can become involved as volunteers and then possibly join the board or chair an event.
Go Oak Cliff festivals will not be exactly the same as they have in the past. But they’re not going away.
With thousands of new apartments under construction in our neighborhood, we are primed for a little population boom. Snow thinks Go Oak Cliff festivals will help preserve the neighborhood identity while adding economic value.
“With these events being homegrown and owned by the neighborhood itself, it’s the neighborhood saying, ‘We want a parade. We want a barbecue festival,’ ” he says. “We have a special identity that we’re proud of. I’m not here to define that identity. But it’s special. And it will help us preserve the identity that we love.”
Get involved with Go Oak Cliff at gooakcliff.org.