A Numbers Game: Did Mango Festival Organizers Inflate Attendance Figures to Sell Vending Booths?

Promotional photos like this one had Mango Festival sponsors and vendors planning for a big crowd.
Promotional photos like this one had Mango Festival sponsors and vendors planning for a big crowd.

Even before last weekend's Deerfield Beach Mango Festival failed, there were signs of a bait-and-switch.

Organizers of the festival lured sponsors and vendors on the basis that the event would draw some 40,000 people. That number, plus photographs of vast crowds from past Mango Festivals, appeared in a promotional package inviting local businesses to pay up to $50,000 to become a festival sponsor. The same inducements were contained within promotional packets that went out to food vendors, who could pay either $900 or $1,500 for the privilege of selling their wares at a Mango Festival booth.

At the very same time, festival organizers gave Broward Sheriff's Office a much more realistic picture of expected attendance: 1,700-3,000 people each day.

Those figures, attributed to "event organizers," are cited by BSO in the operation plan it prepared prior to the June 19 festival.

By now, Mango organizers should have learned how to spell "canceled."
By now, Mango organizers should have learned how to spell "canceled."
Screen grab from SunSentinel.com

Let's line these numbers up, Harper's Index style:

  • 40,000: The attendance figure listed in promotional packets for prospective sponsors and vendors by event organizers.
  • 1,700-3,400: The daily attendance figure given to Broward Sheriff's Office by organizers.
  • 2,700: The number of tickets that festival kingpin Sylvia Poitier claimed were sold prior to the festival.
  • 450: The number of tickets that Quinton White, a financial backer of the festival, claims were sold prior to the event.
  • 115-120: The number people who actually attended the Mango Festival, according to vendor Tim Foster (who wasn't too busy to count heads).

Festival promoter Norris Wiggins was quick to say that he'd pay back ticket-holders and others who threw away their money on the event. But at this point, he may be tempted to save that money to hire an attorney.


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