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FIRST ON 3: Festival Latino owes county money, may lose site

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The annual Festival Latino should kick off in a couple of weeks, but not unless its organizer pays the bills. Money from last year’s event is still overdue, and the group needs to pay for this year’s festival before it can go on.

“(Festival organizer Lucy) Vasquez has had a long-standing event. This is unusual that she goes this long without a payment,” New Hanover County Parks Director Jim McDaniel said.

Festival Latino has been around for more than a decade. The annual event in Wilmington is a fundraiser for the non-profit group Amigos Internacional. But there may not be a festival this year if Vasquez does not pay her bill to New Hanover County.

“There is a little over $1,000 for 2010, and there is $1,255, I believe, for 2011,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel says payments to use a county facility are typically required before an event, but for 2010’s festival he made an exception and allowed Vasquez to pay for Hugh MacRae park after the event. It’s been almost a year, though, and she still has not paid.

“We sent her an invoice in March and July and September for 2010,” McDaniel said.

Vasquez says she got the invoices, but she was too preoccupied with this year’s festival to pay last year’s bill.

“I think I mentioned it in passing when I’ve spoken to them, like, ‘I’ve gotten your bill. There’s something there I need to talk about. We’ll work on it,'” Vasquez said.

This year’s Festival Latino is scheduled to be at Ogden Park November 12, but if Vasquez doesn’t pay up by Friday, it’s not going to happen.

“I have another group interested in Ogden for the weekend she plans to hold her festival, and I gave her until Friday to get this all cleared up,” McDaniel said.

Vasquez seemed confident that her event will go as planned.

“We had a meeting yesterday, and we discussed everything that had to be done, and we left with an understanding, and I’m confident that everything is going to be wonderful,” she said.

Festival Latino typically brings in about 20,000 people from all backgrounds in southeastern North Carolina.

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