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Something Smells Rotten at Deerfield Beach's Mango Festival

The Mango Festival of Deerfield Beach has a math problem: Its most recent festival, in June 2008, attracted a lot of people. But for some reason, it didn't make a lot of money. And for the city, which has invested more than a million dollars in that festival over the last several years, that should be cause for concern.

"There's nothing that we're hiding," insists the festival's president, Norm Edwards. "Everything is done by the book."

We'll see about that. After the jump, let's take a close look at how the Mango festival handles its money.

The Mango Festival, which enjoys the backing of two long-standing Deerfield Beach politicians -- State Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed and Commissioner Sylvia Poitier -- was canceled in 2009 due to funding cuts, but there are plans to stage the festival again in 2010, when it's due to receive $25,000 worth of city support.

That's a far cry from the generosity of days past. As recently as 2006, when the more beneficent Larry Deetjen was city manager, the festival received some $420,000 in city funding, according to documents that Commissioner Bill Ganz requested.

In 2008 the city authorized the spending of $165,000 toward that year's Mango Festival, which was held for one day (June 16), where in years past it occupied an entire weekend. Still, it's fairly astonishing that -- according to records the festival provided to the city -- it only collected about $18,000 in ticket sales. VIP tickets were $20 and $15. General admission was $10 for adults and $7 for children.

So if the average ticket was about $10 and the festival only collected $18,000 then that means only about 1,800 people attended the festival. Its president, Edwards, told me he didn't know what the attendance was. So I asked vice president Terry Scott. "Only about 3,000," he said, of the attendance.

When I phoned Edwards back and asked him if he was surprised by how little was collected at the ticket gates, he said "No." And he took no issue with the 3,000 figure that Scott gave me.

So I phoned Broward Sheriff's Office Lt. Mark Frise, who helped to organize the department's security effort and who was present at the event, as he was the previous seven festivals. I told him the attendance figure that Scott gave me. "Three thousand?" he asked. "That's absurd."

I recounted this exchange with Edwards. I also told the Mango president that the photos from the 2008 event displayed on the festival's website (and pasted into this blog post), suggest that there was a big crowd, both during the day and the night, far in excess of 3,000.

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Thomas Francis

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