Brazilian Annual Community Festival moves on to Fort Lauderdale

Disputes with the Pompano Beach City Manager's Office have prompted the founder and organizer of The Brazilian Community Festival, Luciano Sameli, to host its 9th edition in Fort Lauderdale

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9th edition of the Brazilian Community Festival will be held in Fort Lauderdale's Huizenga Park, on Dec 12 & 13

The annual Brazilian Festival was co-founded in 2012 by its organizer Luciano Sameli and former Pompano Beach Mayor, Lamar Fisher, as a way to celebrate Pompano Beach’s vibrant Brazilian community and foster community across cultures. Since then, the festival has become the largest in Florida, attracting crowds from other states, and headlining internationally recognized celebrity performers. Last year the festival was headlined by Iza, a Brazilian pop powerhouse who was nominated for a 2018 Latin Grammy award. Icons of Brazil’s Pop Music such as Elba Ramalho, who won two Latin Grammy awards and was nominated for six, Marcelo D2, Cidade Negra, and Paralamas do Sucesso have also performed at the Festival.

According to the organizers, in 2019 the Annual Brazilian Festival invested $232,000 in Brazilian Suppliers, Contractors, and Labor. In eight years, the festival provided 3200 temporary indirect jobs, generated more than $40,000 to local institutions, contracted services from approximately 267 local businesses, helped more than 2100 local exhibitors with brand exposure, generating more than $800,000 for Local Food Vendors, says Luciano Sameli.

This year, the Brazilian community in South Florida has been hit hard by the coronavirus Artists, musicians and professionals in the entertainment industry are especially scrambling to survive. With closed venues, and social distancing policies, exhibitions, concerts and events are a challenge, and opportunities to perform or display art are slim. “The Brazilian Community needs hope”, says Sameli.

The 2020 festival was originally set for the weekend of Oct. 17 and 18 at the Pompano Beach Community Park, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit. According to Sameli, on July 28th, having safety always as a top priority, the Festival contacted Parks and Recreations to push back the festival date to November 28, Thanksgiving weekend. Parks and Recreations denied the request citing not enough labor during thanksgiving, and later, safety concerns due to the coronavirus. Sameli called mayor Rex Hardin, City Commissioners Rhonda Eaton, and Tom ​McMahon and they did not object to the request to change festival dates ​to sometime before the end of 2020​. ​Parks and Recreations denied another three new requests. Organizers asserted that the festival would take every precaution to keep festival-goers safe and that the Broward County restrictions would not prohibit the festival from taking place. Other festivals are being held with safety precautions in Broward County in 2020, including the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the Las Olas Art Fair, and the Air Show.

Some iteration of the festival — be it limited with extra covid-19 safety precautions, or as a virtual festival online — is possible in 2020. Thus, Sameli confirmed that the 9th​ Annual Brazilian Festival is confirmed for Dec. 12 & 13, at the Huizenga Park, in Fort Lauderdale. On Dec. 1, organizers will follow county guidelines to make the call if it is safe to host the festival live and in person, or if the festival will be held virtually. Either way, they say, “the show must go on.”

In a letter written to the Pompano Beach City Manager, dated Sept. 18, Sameli said it is the right thing to do. But he rebuked the City Manager’s decision for denying the Festival a chance to be held safely in 2020, either in person or virtual format and said that the city manager is attempting to “demolish nine years of Festivals.” As a result of the Festival’s inability to confirm a new 2020 date, since July 28​ , either as a live “safe” event or virtual event, the event incurred irreversible damages, according to Sameli. He says that the Festival lost a $25,000 sponsorship from a large donor, many exhibitors, and has not been able to secure other key event sponsorships or advertisers, which pay for the bulk of the Festival’s operating budget. In addition, Sameli said he feels badly for the local small businesses and vendors who were counting on the festival for their own livelihoods.

“We must have an opportunity to honor in part, all the support, love, confidence and incentives given by donors, and the loyalty of members of the Brazilian community who rely on the festival, arts, culture and events,” says him.

Known by the Brazilian Community, Attorney Lee Friedland wholeheartedly tried to contact the City Manager’s Office. In a letter to the City, attorney Lee Friedland stated in August it was premature for the City to pull out. In October, Attorney Michael Pizzi was retained to seek a resolution with Mark Berman, Pompano Beach City Attorney.

While the date dispute was the final straw, it was not the first point of contention with the City Manager’s Office. The Festival’s relationship with the City first became strained in 2017, when the City Manager vouched for another Brazilian Festival at the same location, which Sameli affirms goes against the license agreement clause, “conflict of interests”. Then, in 2019, when the City Manager pushed for a strictly one-year licensing agreement for the 2020 Brazilian Festival, when contracts had been for five years. Sameli alleges that the Annual Brazilian Festival was treated unfairly, as two other large events held in Pompano Beach, the Seafood Festival, and a new beachside music festival, were granted five-year license agreements. According to Sameli, the one-year agreement severely impacted the ability to maintain long-term partnerships and plan for fixed expenses and vendor contracts. He said he agreed to the one-year license agreement “as a gesture of respect to Pompano Beach Mayor Rex Hardin’s personal request to cooperate. The Assistant City Manager, Earl Bossworth, basically obliged me to sign a 1 year contract”, said Sameli.

The relationship with the City Manager’s Office was further strained when the Assistant City Manager, Earl Bosworth, sought bids from other vendors, and events management companies all over the United States to host the Brazilian Festival, which Sameli said is not owned by the City, but a partnership, and rather a registered trademark. “Though the festival was started in 2012 with the support of the City of Pompano Beach and has been held at the Pompano Beach Community Park, the Festival has always been also our property, not that of the City”, he says. The City of Pompano Beach provides only “in kind services”. Sameli drew comparisons to the Tortuga Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale, the Ultra Music Festival in Miami and the Seafood Festival in Pompano Beach. None of these events, he pointed out, were required to bid on their own trademarked events. Sameli said he felt he was being “pushed out of his own creation, which he invested all he had, as a gift to his community, and dedicated nine years of his life to building.”

Moreover, Bossworth and Parks and Recreations required that the Brazilian Festival be internally audited, and submit documents in a seven-day period in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, says Sameli. The timeline was impossible due to vendors, CPAs, independent contractors and suppliers that were in lock-down because of the pandemic in March. “The City has never audited for 8 years, but has absolute access and copies to all the expenditures, down to pennies on the dollar”, says him.

The Brazilian Festival cooperated with the City. The internal auditor for the City, Mr. Deusdedit Kiyembal, found nothing wrong. “​We have nothing to hide, we get no kick backs, do not engage in over pricing, do not operate illegally, but in fact we raise the funds needed for the best Brazilian Festival in Florida, aimed solely to support the Community and put the City on the map,” wrote Sameli in a letter to the City dated Sept. 18, 2020.

This string of disputes with the City Manager’s Office continued. “The city manager does not want to sacrifice, motivate, give hope, does not want to give us a chance to recover, does not care about small businesses, but we need to try to do this festival. This is a lack of empathy and compassion from the city manager’s office. As a gesture of gratitude to fans, donors and sponsors, as a symbol of recovery, and hope, the festival will be held safely in Fort Lauderdale”, says Sameli.

Sameli guarantees that the 9th​ Annual Brazilian Festival will follow every recommended safety precaution including enhanced sanitation and disinfecting procedures, adopting mandatory use of masks, implementing temperature checks at the main gate, and extremely limiting the number of patrons in compliance with CDC guidelines, and Broward Executive order 20-21. The 9​th Annual Brazilian Festival will be a safe covid-19 event, a much smaller event, headlined this year by local artists in need of help, and will require all local vendors to sign an agreement to abide by all Covid compliance precautions, according to Sameli.

Dates : ​December 12 and December 13, from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Location:​ ​HUIZENGA PARK,​ ​32 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301.

Tickets must be acquired in advance and only “Online”. Attendance is extremely Limited. Temperature Check, and Mandatory Use of Masks are required prior to entry. Sanitation Stations will be available throughout the Park. Exhibitors and Vendors will be separated by 10 feet with no more than 2 employees per booth. Exhibitors must follow disinfection guidelines. Sitting Areas will be available nearby Food Vendors. Beach Chairs are welcomed and encouraged in front of the Main Stage. Social Distance will be encouraged by volunteers, and signage with disclaimers will be visible all over the Park. Festival requires all vendors to sign an agreement to abide by all covid-19 compliance precautions.

Local Line-Up Compliance (mellow): From California Cara Pierotto, from NY Joanna New York, from Pompano Beach Cravo e Canela, from Argentina and Deerfield Beach Heli, from Miami Alanis Acoustic Tribute Band, Bossa Fusion Duo, the Samba Recovery Parade Featuring Unidos de Miami e many other local artists. Genres: Samba, Bossa Nova, Jazz, Funk, Brazilian Popular Music (Seating Audience). 

The International Line Up originally scheduled for this year, will perform at the 10th Anniversary Annual Brazilian Festival in 2021: Onze:20, Kell Smith, Gian & Giovani, Paula Lima, James Mcwhinney from Big Mountain, Adelmo Case, Smash Mouth, and many others…

For More Information​: ​info@BrazilianFestival.org Website:​ ​www.BrazilianFestival.org

The 9th Annual Brazilian Festival is “COVID-19 Safe”