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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 6, 2006

Sponsor dispute clouds Waimanalo Carnival

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

WAIMANALO A move by E.K. Fernandez Shows to find a new sponsor for the Waimanalo Carnival after negotiations failed with a local community group has residents upset, and the future of the carnival is in doubt.

At a meeting last week to sign up vendors for the carnival, residents objected to bringing in an outside sponsor.

The Friends of Waimanalo have been sponsoring the annual carnival, held in February or March, for decades. Gross revenue has been rising for the past six years.

The carnival is a major fund-raiser for the Friends who use its earnings about $25,000 a year to support a literacy program, purchase uniforms for schoolchildren and donate to Kailua High School, said Al Lewis, a Waimanalo carnival planner.

This year the Friends wanted a bigger cut, citing increased expenses, said Jan Nagano, president of the group.

The split has been 83 percent for Fernandez and 17 percent for the Friends, with the Friends paying for all the expenses out of its 17 percent, Nagano said. The expenses, including security, entertainment, parking, restrooms, electricity and cleanup was about $50,000 last year, she said. The group wanted Fernandez to kick in more, Nagano said.

When the negotiations failed, Nagano said the Friends thought there would be no carnival this year. Then they learned that the company sought an outside sponsor, DARE Hawai'i, and planned an event for the end of February.

A nonprofit must sponsor the event to get the permit to use a city park for a small fee, Nagano said.

"It makes me angry that they didn't want to negotiate," Nagano said. "They said they tried to work with the Friends of Waimanalo, well they never really did in an honest forthright manner."

Donna Smith, vice president of E.K. Fernandez Shows, said she was surprised by the community's reaction. She said the Friends never responded to the last offer the company made in December, which was the same split, plus an extra $3,000.

"In our opinion the deal they had gotten was actually a very good deal, but they wanted quite a bit more," Smith said.

Smith said other Waimanalo groups have contacted her about still having the carnival, and that is why she decided to go ahead and ask DARE Hawai'i, who had sponsored the Kapolei carnival, to sponsor the Waimanalo festival.

Last year the carnival grossed $460,000, said Gordon Mattos, a Waimanalo carnival planner. The Friends group has been working to improve the revenue every year, by bringing entertainment, ensuring safety for cars and people, and providing enough restrooms and a clean tent for dining, Mattos said.

"We worked hard to make the carnival a reflection of our community not because of the big bucks," he said.

Smith said the company would pay for all the expenses under its agreement with DARE and give DARE a donation for its support. The company would also make a donation to the community, probably to a park, for something that everyone in the community could use, she said. She did not give a specific figure.

Some of the people at the meeting last week called for solidarity, saying that the Friends have done a lot for the community.

But several groups wanted to sign up for the carnival anyway, saying they needed the money raised to support their endeavors.

One was East O'ahu Boxing, which depends on the carnival to raise money for equipment, travel and to build national champions, said Kevin Sumida, a parent involved with the boxing club.

"Right now for us it really hurts because it's either all or nothing," Sumida said, adding that he hopes Fernandez and the Friends can still reach an agreement.

However, Smith said she thought the people at the meeting made it clear they didn't want a carnival in the area unless it was sponsored by the Friends, and the company couldn't afford to give the group more than it had offered.

"We don't want to be in a position where we're trying to split the community," she said. "We're willing to go forward with it, but if there's going to be conflict, confrontation, picketing or a call for boycott I don't think that's good for the community. That's not what carnival is about."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.