norris-wiggins_web.jpgThe 2010 Carl J. Nixon Mango Festival, named after the late Deerfield Beach city commissioner, was to be the grandest of all in 25 years of history.

It was to be the outdoor event of the summer, boasting some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry: Monica, Chrisette Michele, Bobby Womack, Rance Allen, and many others.

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Tens of thousands were expected to pay anywhere from $35 to $120 for a VIP ticket to the two-day event – scheduled for Saturday, June 19 and Sunday, June 20 – to get a  taste of the summer fun and a musical groove in the city’s Westside Park.

But trouble began to surface on the first night, after a few local artists had warmed up the crowd.  Excited (and unsuspecting) ticket holders were left dumbfounded when they learned the festival had been abruptly canceled.

There would be no Sunday show, and the big names they came to see would not perform after all, leaving them stunned, angered, and outraged.

There’s enough blame to go around, but money is at the root of the cancellation. Norris Wiggins, who was hired as the festival’s event coordinator, and who acted essentially as its promoter, said he ran into unforeseen challenges and wound up with a cash flow problem.

A bounced check to a sound technician started the chain of events that led to the cancellation. Even though the check was ultimately made good, the sound technician quit on Saturday after demanding the balance of his money in cash.  Although a replacement sound company was hired, Saturday was essentially ruined, and the two big acts slated to perform – Omarion and Silk, did not take the stage. 

“We dealt with some challenges and difficulties Saturday, but worked as quickly as possible to correct them,” Wiggins said. “When it became necessary to replace the sound company on Saturday, the replacement company came in and set up as quickly as they could.” 

At that point, Deerfield Beach City Commissioner Sylvia Poitier addressed the crowd, and invited them to come back on Sunday free of charge. 

The major artists were reportedly in town and were ready to perform. 

All of the artists were eager to take the stage at the Mango Festival. Vendors were set up and ready to serve.

But, Wiggins said, “The thunderstorm that swept through the Deerfield area destroyed the sound equipment, leaving us without sound hours before opening the gates on Sunday.”

He said they would have had to hire yet another sound company. But the money just wasn’t there.

According to Wiggins, who was referred to the non-profit Mango Festival Committee through a connection at Clear Channel Radio, he was to be responsible for securing investors, coordinating the artists, securing lighting and sound, overseeing advertising, and the overall coordination of the festival.  He said he had two investors who each put up $75,000, for a total of $150,000 to pull off the event, which he insists was more than enough.

But an entertainment company hired to secure the artists didn’t come through, even though it was reportedly paid $30,000. According to investor Quinton White, he had to pay another $30,000 in order to secure the artists themselves. This caused a set-back in the budget, Wiggins said. All artists, he said, were paid half of their fees.

In addition, Wiggins said he also learned of a $25,000 surety bond that needed to be paid to the city of Deerfield Beach. In the end, the plug was pulled on the event after Wiggins couldn’t come up with the remaining payment on the surety bond – a form of insurance that would have assured all the festival’s bills would be paid – and a balance owed to the sound technician, according to Poitier.

But Poitier said she does not hold Wiggins responsible for the problems.

“Norris Wiggins did a marvelous job as an events coordinator. Our problem is not Norris. Our problem is the city of Deerfield Beach. I’ve been in Deerfield all my life, and I’ve never known them to require a bond on no one. So someone needs to investigate why they did it with this group. Discriminatory practices,” she said adamantly.

In May, the city commission agreed to grant the festival a $25,000 subsidy for in-kind services for the event, such as police, fire-rescue and cleanup services.

This stirred some controversy; however, because at least one commissioner preferred to use the money directly for scholarships instead of for an event that would ultimately produce money for scholarships.

When a reporter asked for a comment from a Deerfield Beach city spokesperson, a receptionist said the event was not a city event. She issued a phone number for Norris Wiggins.

Local blogger and long-time Deerfield resident Wayne Adams said he believes that, sadly, the festival’s name has been destroyed.

“You have a lot of good people on the Mango Festival committee that have worked tirelessly to build it into a good name. I think that everything they’ve spent 25 years working for – the name has been destroyed this past weekend. It’ll be a long time before they could redeem their name again – if ever,” he said.

But Poitier said she doesn’t believe that. She is pressing for a repeat show some time soon.

“I’m working 24 hours a day to have a repeat show. I don’t have a venue yet, because the city denied me the use of a city venue. But I will be back. I’m looking to get everybody satisfied with their tickets by the 4th of July,” she said.

Wiggins said he has spoken with all the artists, and they all are hoping they can fulfill their commitment to perform.

“If we could get the word out, and do a repeat show, and the people could be made whole – there’s no reason why the Mango Festival should fold,” Poitier said.

Meanwhile, Wiggins said refunds are being given to ticket holders, and they are looking for resolutions for vendors. Wiggins expressed his regrets.

“I humbly apologize to the people of South Florida. I apologize for the inconvenience. And I apologize for the disappointment,” he said.

Photo:  Norris Wiggins