Will Tet Fest Be Canceled?

Will Tet Fest Be Canceled?

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(FOX/ CNS) - Garden Grove officials today broke off negotiations with organizers of the annual Test Festival when they refused the city's final offer.

City officials were willing to let the Union of Vietnamese Students Association put on another three-day festival celebrating the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, but they wanted $145,000 to cover costs related to the event, according to Kim Huy, the city's community services director.In the past, the association has paid about $30,000 to $35,000 for services such as extra police protection.

"Obviously, the costs were much greater than we were charging before, so there was sticker shock for them," Huy said.

City officials also cited shoddy bookkeeping and scant support for local charities as reasons for the breakdown in negotiations."We hoped to continue the positive partnership we had established with the UVSA," said Mayor Bruce A. Broadwater. "However, in light of their inadequate bookkeeping and lack of support for very worthy nonprofit organizations in the Garden Grove community, we had a responsibility to ensure that a new agreement would be fair, and like any other contract, protect the city from any financial risks."

Given the "questionable" accounting for the event, city officials offered to host the festival one more year, Huy said."We thought, `Hey, do it one year and see if you can clean up your act and we'll take a look at the books again,"' Huy said.

The festival's organizers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

City officials say the organizers were giving back between $12,000 to $16,000 to local non profits annually. The annual Strawberry Festival Association, in contrast, gives about 85 percent of its profits to Garden Grove nonprofits, according to city officials.

Last year, the Strawberry Festival generated $250,000 for local nonprofits, compared with about $12,000 from the Tet Festival, or 15 percent of its income, according to city officials.

On the festival's website, the organizers say they have donated $1 million "over the past years" to local nonprofits.

The annual Little Saigon Tet Parade, which is held on Bolsa Avenue in Westminster, is held at the same time as the festival and is loosely affiliated, but it is organized by other nonprofits. The parade's organizers drew criticism from some in the community for not allowing gay and lesbian groups to participate with a float. But that controversy had no impact on Garden Grove's decision regarding the festival, Huy said.

If the festival's organizers want to move it to neighboring Westminster, the event would likely have to be scaled down since the city does not have 30 acres of open space such as Garden Grove Park.

Westminster officials used to finance the annual parade until the city lost redevelopment agency funding due to a state Supreme Court ruling. The

Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California and the South Vietnamese Marines Association picked up the tab and organized last year's parade.

Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen supports the city's decision."The city had every right to put forward their proposal in order to solve these issues," Nguyen said. " It's really unfortunate that a mutual plan was not reached because in the end, it's the people who lose."

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