MODESTO — For the second year in a row, El Concilio has canceled its popular High School Principals Spanish Lip Sync contest, only to have some of it salvaged by Turlock's Westside Ministries.
The event, which has been going for a quarter century and regularly draws crowds in the thousands, was called off abruptly by El Concilio due to lack of funds. After also canceling last year, the group had hopes of restarting the scholarship competition, which brings high school administrators together with students to perform elaborately costumed and choreographed Spanish-language songs.
But El Concilio's event coordinator, Jose Moreno, said the group could not raise the estimated $30,000 to $35,000 it needed this year after sponsors dropped out.
"We just didn't have the financial support," Moreno said. "We struggled in 2011 (the last year the group held the contest) to raise funds. We actually ended up thousands of dollars in the negative that year. It's been difficult the last couple of years and been getting worse and worse. It's very disappointing."
But instead of scrapping all the hard work from students and school administrators, Turlock's Westside Ministries has picked up the slack and will host a version of the competition, under a different name, on the same date.
JoLynn DiGrazia, executive director of the nonprofit organization, which works with low-income families, said the show will be called the Talent Exhibition Principals Lip Sync and will be held at 5 p.m. April 20 at Modesto High School.
She has contacted the 11 schools slated to perform in the El Concilio event this year, and eight have signed on to the new event so far.
"We'd like to continue to tradition," DiGrazia said. "We think it's a really good way to pair high school principals and administrators with their students. It gives them the opportunity to know each other better."
Teams from Turlock, Pitman, Clovis East, Ripon, Manteca, Tracy, Hughson and Dos Palos high schools are confirmed to perform. Some 300 students and administrators are expected to take part.
Westside has agreed to hand out the same amount of scholarship money to all participating schools as El Concilio has in the past. Each school will receive $1,000, with the winning school taking home an additional $1,000. A $500 prize will be given to the winning school participating with an administrator other than the principal.
DiGrazia said that because her group is nonprofit and is run largely by volunteers, it can produce the event for much less money. She estimates they'll spend about $10,000 on the contest.
The money will come from funds the group raised during its successful Colin Kaepernick T-shirt sale earlier this year. The groups sold hundreds of its signature red "KAPTOWN 209" shirts during the San Francisco 49ers' run in the Super Bowl.
Last year, the group also gave out prize money for its scaled-back talent show featuring Turlock and Pitman high students. DiGrazia estimates Westside Ministries gave out $7,000 in prizes and scholarships last year and will give out $9,500 this year.
She said it may lose some money on the event, but wanted to give students an outlet despite the financial hardship.
"We really believe in this, this process," DiGrazia said. "I've seen so many kids take part over the years. We want to see the kids who maybe are not active in other parts of student life on campus to get involved with this."
Started in 1987 by Mike Sturtevant of the Modesto Rotary Club, the High School Principals Spanish Lip Sync contest was taken over by El Concilio in 2007. Over the years, the event has raised more than $800,000 in scholarship money.
Teams of dozens of students up to 35 are allowed from each school this year practice for months in advance to get their lip sync routine down. As the event grew in popularity, it held regional finals in Modesto, Stockton and Fresno and then a championship, usually at the Modesto Centre Plaza.
In 2011, 24 teams participated in the three regionals, with the finals hosted at California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock.
This year, El Concilio had scaled back to one championship event, bringing students from across the region together, before those plans fell through, as well. Moreno said El Concilio has not made a decision yet on whether it will try to host the event again next year.
But DiGrazia said that regardless of El Concilio's decision, her group will host its own principal lip sync contest again next year. "We're excited to see what will happen from here, we plan to continue this and keep it going," she said.
The Talent Exhibition Principals Lip Sync will be at 5 p.m. April 20 at Modesto High School. Tickets will be $10; sales begin at 4 p.m., with doors opening at 4:30. For more information, call (209) 667-8593.