Group Has No Money, 30K in Unpaid Bills
Pride of Greater Fort Lauderdale announced Friday that they not only lost over $30,000 on the annual Stonewall Street Festival and Parade in Wilton Manors last month, they have no money left to pay the debt.
Unpaid debts include over $7,500 owed to law enforcement, EMS, and fire personnel who worked details during the event. However, their largest creditor is Sunshine Tents, demanding nearly $18,000 for the booths at the festival.
The all-volunteer group, which had boasted a membership of over a dozen persons, now has less than $2,000 in its bank account to meet an indebtedness of greater than $30,000, despite an estimated 20,000 people having attended the daylong festivities.
“The public perception was that the event was a huge success,” said co-chair Bob Kecskemety, “but the bottom line consists of significant red ink.”
Kecskemety attributed the financial failure of the festival to a number of factors, starting with an “an early morning electrical storm which hampered the completion of setting up the festival’s infrastructure in a timely fashion.” He said this meant postponing the parade, and led to an insufficient number of volunteers to “man the festival.”
“It meant that the booths selling liquor were not staffed or supported by security either” he added, “and we did not have a handle on the revenue from alcohol sales.”
The group’s treasurer, Tim Yatteau, elaborated. The plan, he said, as is customary in these festivals, was to have tickets sold and money collected in booths with a security guard present. The patrons then acquire tickets which they use to ‘purchase’ liquor in the alcoholic beverage booths.
Yatteau said the delays in setting up the tents and the lack of volunteers contributed to the collapse of the system. “It was total chaos,” he confided.
He, in fact, fell on the sword for the organization: “It is unbelievable. For the amount of liquor that was used that day, it is an astounding amount of money that disappeared, and never turned in to us. It was our responsibility to have someone selling tickets for people to purchase liquor.”
Instead, the booths collected the cash and sold the liquor on their own. Stated Yatteau, “Without knowing who they are, it is clear that numerous persons working collected cash for drinks and never gave it to us.”
Said one Wilton Manors bar owner, insisting on anonymity, “It is PGFL’s fault. They were greedy. They did not let us run our own booths and use our own staffs. They wound up hiring independent catering companies, which ran off with the money. Their actions were just plain stupid.”
Marc Hansen, who chaired the Stonewall Pride in 2007, concurred. He stated that the only explanation for a loss of this magnitude is “mismanagement.” He criticized the amount of money spent on tents for example, complaining the contract was “extravagant… they simply overspent.”
Hansen also suggested that rather than generate revenues by hiring one catering company, which would be responsible for turning over to PGFL a guaranteed percentage of their sales, “this group chose to use less effective income generating mechanisms. They shot themselves in the foot.”
Not everyone lost money on the event though. Kecskemety confided that local media salespersons had to be paid commissions to sell booths to local businesses for the festival. It was reported that Mark Magazine salespersons Brad Casey and Rob Kohl received $1,421 and $250 in commissions, respectively.
Hansen was aghast at the revelation. “That is ridiculous, and moronic. If they had a volunteer working board, the booths should have been sold by them with ease. We never paid commissions to sell booths. That is unheard of.”
Jennifer Holliday didn’t do too badly either. Aside from her limousines to and from the airport and the event, she received luxurious accommodations at Royal Palm Villas and a fee in excess of $10,000 for her show.
Kecskemety enumerated other difficulties the event encountered. “First, we tried to have this year’s festival include the full one-half mile of Wilton Drive from the N.E. 20 Street to Five Points in order to be more inclusive of businesses along the drive. This proved to be a logistic and supervisory nightmare.”
Stonewall Pride also hoped to generate thousands of dollars by selling “naming rights” to the parade, the main stage, and area presenters, ten grand for the main stage alone. But nothing sold, and many of its sponsorships came in the form of trade for services rather than revenues to meet their debts.
The group wound up giving naming rights to Miller Lite, and it is still waiting for their local distributor, Gold Coast Beverage, to give them a refund for unsold kegs of beer.
“We’re not going to give up,” Kecskemety concluded. “This is an event the community looks forward to each year and we plan to do everything we can to meet those expectations. We just need the community to help us out a little now.”
But even their treasurer, Yatteau, questions the group’s ability to come back at this point. “I doubt that the community will do very much for us after this,” he stated. “We should have never opened the bars. We were not prepared. I can’t begin to comprehend how bad we are going to look to everyone. We really screwed up.”
Explaining that the situation has left him “physically ill,” Yatteau said he wanted to resign after the event but now feels an obligation to stay on to help correct the problem.”
Hansen, who helped successfully run Pride South Florida this past March, was surprised by the extent of the losses. “When I ran Stonewall, we grossed enough to maintain year-round seed money of $25,000 and still disburse $10,000 in charitable donations. PGFL had 13 board members and could not get the job done. Shame on them.”
Representatives of the board included Corey Boyd, Bob Kecskemety, Neil Nason, Jeffrey Longbrake, Sheri Elfman, Misty Eyez, Georgia Johnston, Shane Ball and Dan Koberman. Some have now resigned. Yatteau admitted maybe we “had too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”
Hansen was unyielding in his criticism. “Pride events are not parties you can throw. It is a business you must run.”
Hansen correctly stated that the new board has not even met its proper legal requirements, failing to file their 2010 corporate returns, which were due May 1, or list its correct membership data.
SFGN did some ‘man in the street’ interviews and got one particularly noteworthy response from Kristine Goldman, a young Nova Southeastern business student: “How can you have 25,000 people at the event and still lose $30,000? How difficult would it have been to collect a dollar from everyone coming in?”
Yatteau could offer only this answer: “I can account for every cent we spent. No one took any money wrongfully. We just failed to collect everything we should have from the event. That is our failure.”
Kecskemety added that “We went into the event without the funds to put it on, instead relying on the event to pay for itself. We brought in nothing and now have to figure out how to make up the difference.”
Ironically, seeing that cash sponsorships were down due to the depressed economy, the group had already engaged in cost-cutting measures, such as reducing the two-day event to one afternoon, hoping that would cut their overhead.
The group had reason to be optimistic. They had just come off a successful ‘Wicked Manors’ street festival in Halloween.
“But this event,” concluded Yatteau, treasurer of the now-broke Stonewall committee, “was the real nightmare.”