Broward News

How the Mango Got Mashed; Staging Company Clears the Air

If there's a single moment that triggered the demise of Deerfield Beach's Mango Festival, it occurred one week before it was to begin, when a $12,500 check to Lonnie Ferguson Events bounced.

This was only a symptom of the festival's shaky finances and its poor planning. But it was the one that proved fatal.

Now Ferguson himself wants to make it clear. He didn't stop the festival. "The promoters stopped the festival," he says.

Ferguson's account after the jump.

Ferguson's company coordinated the sound, the stage, and the lighting. When the Mango check bounced -- the $12,500 was to cover half the $25,000 cost -- it triggered a fraud alert on Ferguson's account.

For that reason, the sound and stage vendors would need an extra $4,000 to cover themselves against a client in the Mango who appeared to be a credit risk.

At this point, festival organizers would have been wise to cancel the event. Instead, they pressed on, making incremental payments to Ferguson's company -- $3,000 on one day, then another $3,000 the next day, followed by a $4,000 certified check, then a cash payment of $1,000.

But by this time, the festival was beginning, and given the organizers' inability to come up with money, Ferguson had reason to doubt their talents at selling the tickets -- even as it became clear that organizers were depending on ticket sales -- another dicey proposition -- to pay festival contractors.

In addition, Ferguson learned from people at the same hotel as the entertainers that they'd not been paid either.

"We were ready to go for a show Saturday," says Ferguson. "We were begging for the money. They said it was going to come Saturday morning."

Given all the signs of impending disaster, Ferguson gave the promoters an ultimatum on Saturday. He'd need all $25,000 or he'd walk away from the event. "At 1 p.m. Saturday, I had $12,000," says Ferguson. "I gave them till 2:30."

And at 2:30, the money still wasn't there. By then, Ferguson realized it would never come.

As a courtesy to the Mango committee, Ferguson helped organizers find an emergency sound company, which was promised $4,000 cash. Instead, the sound company was given a credit card -- which given the organizers' track record, required a leap of faith. That Saturday night, production staff stayed up late setting up chairs -- a job that was supposed to be performed by volunteers that organizers were supposed to have found. Organizers didn't offer those production staffers food or water.

And on the following day, those efforts were washed away by organizers' canceling the event.

Ferguson learned later that organizers had also failed to make hotel arrangements for performers, who were surprised to learn they'd have to pay for their own rooms. The drivers who picked up artists at the airport were also not paid. Ferguson says he learned that organizers used the money they collected from the festival food vendors to pay him.

Even if organizers had managed to come up with all $25,000 owed to Ferguson's company, it wouldn't have mattered, because the stage would have still been empty. "We could not get the headlining artists to come from the hotel," he says, "because they had not been paid."

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Thomas Francis