by Ken Sullivan…….
As the lead organizer of the family friendly opening event of this two weeks of fun, frolic and fundraising, I have something to add to the debate about Fantasy Fest. We have endured insults and accusations that questioned the integrity and motives of our worldwide charitable organization that gives tirelessly to the members and community we serve. If you live in Bahama Village, the neighborhood that surrounds the graveyard, low income areas of Stock Island and other depressed regions in lower Monroe County, you and/or your family have most likely been helped in one way or another by the efforts of this civic and socially active fraternal organization. [Coral City Elks Lodge No.610 and Coral City Temple No. 400 of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World, Inc.] You know us as the “Coral City Elks”.
We were told we are incompetent and untrustworthy because of a disagreement about payment of city services that totaled [twenty five hundred dollars] $2,500.00. Now, we find the city has been subsidizing Fantasy Fest to the tune of [three hundred thousand dollars ] $300,00.00. Let me set the record straight. We did not come up short nor over budget. We did not believe we owed this money. We DISPUTED the fees. Now, it has come out during the recent Fantasy Fest meeting that the Bahama Village Goombay and Fantasy Fest operated at a deficit over the years we were not involved; which was never the case with us. Even when it rained two years in a row and a hurricane hit the city and we had to change the dates of Goombay, we did not run a deficit. We made adjustments like lowered entertainment costs, shortened hours of operation, reduced staff and other cost cutting actions.
These events are vital to the survival of many businesses in Key West and Monroe County as they generate revenue that bridges the gap for many of us to make it to holiday season which will carry us through the slower summer months of the year. Not every business in this area is tied to the water sports industry. That means we need these events to carry us through the hard times. When these events started it was to help businesses that where struggling. If you fiddle too much with what’s working you will more than likely mess up a good thing. America is normalizing relations with Cuba and that means we will probably loose some of our tourist trade to Cuba. When we have no tourists to blame, what will we do? Most likely look for a savior like Fantasy Fest.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We may want to rebrand this event but, we must be very careful not to ruin everything good, attractive and unique about it. I say slow down and think before you make a mistake that will make the organizer decide it is not worth the effort. Organizing these types of events take dedication and you must love what you’re doing because, the risk to reward margin is not what it appears to be from the outside. Until, you have done this type of event coordinating you will not understand the stress and rejection you encounter while trying to come up with the funds to pay for it. The police, code enforcement, public works, fire department, community workers, advertisement, security, ambulance services, hospitality, housing, food, transportation, travel and it goes on and on when it comes to expenses associated with this type of event and this is not even considering the sacrifice you make with time away from your family. The nights you spend on the computer working on documents and ideas to improve the event. So, before you get on your high horse think about what you may be asking. A quite sleepy town is nice at times but, if it is slow and quaint all the time how will you pay your bills because we will lose jobs and it could end up being yours if businesses leave because there is not enough here to sustain them.
Ken Sullivan, Key West