Mango Festival This Weekend Clouded by Questions

Mango Festival This Weekend Clouded by Questions
Photo: The Mango Festival

Maybe Deerfield Beach's Mango Festival has learned something from the promoters of Hollywood's major awards shows: that the possibility of a spectacular gaffe or wild, unscripted moment is the key to building suspense and thus, public interest.

Because this 25th anniversary edition of the Mango Festival comes with a Titanic-sized load of questions, including the one we asked Wednesday: Why were organizers claiming that Broward Sheriff's Office was a sponsor when it wasn't? (The sponsorship claim has since been removed from the Mango website.)

Another question: Where did festival organizers get the roughly $19,000 $17,000 roll of cash that they flashed at commissioners worried about Mango paying back the city?

I called event promoter Norris Wiggins to ask him that question and others, but I haven't heard back.

I was also curious why on June 9 Wiggins incorporated a for-profit company called The Mango Festival LLC, when there's already a nonprofit corporation called the Carl J. Nixon Mango Festival.

Sponsors of the event are directed to make their payments to The Mango Festival, which seems to mean the for-profit corporation. But that means it wouldn't really be a "sponsorship," would it?

So too are the vendors -- who are charged either $900 or $1,500 for booths -- directed to pay The Mango Festival, not the Carl J. Nixon Mango Festival. Documents show that payments are to be mailed to the post office box that is the registered address for the for-profit corporation.

The city of Deerfield Beach has committed to reimbursing the Mango Festival for up to $25,000 in expenses -- but it made that deal with the festival's nonprofit version.

Then again, maybe it's best to give the money to a couple of out-of-towners like promoters Norris and Don Wiggins, who are from Weston and haven't been involved with Mango in the past.

There should certainly be concerns about entrusting all the money to the nonprofit, which is ruled by Commissioner Sylvia Poitier, who has a history of involvement with cash-bungling charities and who has reportedly claimed the responsibility of selling Mango Festival tickets out of her dry cleaning business. (Poitier did not immediately return a call seeking comment.)

What's more, the nonprofit Mango committee has presided over past festivals where there seems a disparity between how many people come to the festival and how much is collected at the gate.

This year may be no different. Promotional materials boast of Mango Festivals past that attracted 40,000, implying that's possible for this event. But the vice president of the Mango committee, Terry Scott, told Juice today that he expects only about 3,500 to show up.

If all that's not enough, there's the question of whether the usual patrons of the Mango Festival can afford to attend this one, given the $75 cost of VIP bracelets and $45 cost for general admission. In 2008 it cost $20 for VIP and $10 for general admission.

"I feel that this event has priced out the neighborhood," says Commissioner Bill Ganz. "The cost is far too high given the current economic state people are in."

I asked Ganz about the wad of cash, as well as the for-profit versus nonprofit issues. All of it, he said, gave him concern. And it sounds like the Mango has given him and other city officials a headache they aren't willing to revisit in 2010. Festival organizers, said Ganz, "are going to have to do some soul-searching to find out why it's always such a struggle with this event."

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