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Controversy over free admission to pumpkin festival

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Posted: Sunday, October 27, 2013 8:14 pm | Updated: 9:35 am, Thu Oct 31, 2013.

SARASOTA, Fla. - A pumpkin festival held in a Sarasota park this weekend is now finding itself in a controversy, after patrons complained that "free" tickets got them turned away at the gate.

"You have a couple of frustrated kids and frustrated adults who were looking for something to do with their families," said Chris Crotinger, standing on the sidewalk in front of the gate into the Sarasota Pumpkin Festival at Payne Park in downtown Sarasota.

Crotinger was looking forward to attending Pumpkin Festival with his family and friends on Sunday using free tickets, but event organizers told him the tickets were only good for children.

"It doesn’t say anything about it on the passes" Crotinger said, adding, "It just says free admission on it."

Like a lot of families, Crotinger says his family is on a tight budget and did not have the extra money to spend for admission, and they choose not to pay seven dollars each for admission 

Sarasota Pumpkin Festival organizer Lazarus Fernandez told ABC 7 some people were confused by the tickets.

"There (are) two types of tickets. There is a free adult VIP ticket that we gave away 100,000 of to three different counties. Then there is a free kids ticket. They do look completely different but to the naked eye you don’t know which one it is."

Fernandez said they gave local businesses the free tickets to give away and customers should have specified if they wanted adult or children’s tickets.

"You have to say I need adult tickets or I need children’s tickets for the pumpkin festival. All that information is on line."

ABC 7 looked on the Pumpkin Festival’s website and did not find any mention of children’s tickets. The only reference to children was that children under 12 received free admission. 

Demian Somerville contacted ABC 7 after witnessing several families being turned away. It made him so upset he decided to investigate the charity benefiting from the Pumpkin Festival, the Lazarus Foundation Kids Force. (Lazaruskids.org)

"I researched it and came up with nothing. There is no board of directors, there’s no contact information. There’s no publicized 501c charitable organization," said Somerville.

He said he is surprised a charity that claims to change the lives of children in a positive way would turn away any families at the gate.

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  • GeorgiaLeonard posted at 12:33 am on Tue, Dec 17, 2013.

    GeorgiaLeonard Posts: 1

    Was there any proof that the admission issue had leaked? I would be interested to know about the real deal for this. What about the world cup 2014 tickets?

  • angel7401 posted at 11:51 am on Tue, Dec 10, 2013.

    angel7401 Posts: 0


  • globalgrammy posted at 6:12 pm on Thu, Oct 31, 2013.

    globalgrammy Posts: 2

    i checked the sec'y of state corp registration and the company running all the rides -- and having banners all over the place is sunrise amusements. the regs for registering for use of the park states that if there is a commercial entity involved, they need to register as well -- at least at my reading. anyone looking this up?

  • carrzski posted at 6:31 pm on Mon, Oct 28, 2013.

    carrzski Posts: 5

    the whole thing was a money trap and it was trashy........... wont ever waste our time on it again.[sad]

  • Wilde posted at 2:49 pm on Mon, Oct 28, 2013.

    Wilde Posts: 1

    Probably organized and run by folks who are into the whole government child snatching thing "Kids for Cash"

  • Singledadsrock posted at 1:59 pm on Mon, Oct 28, 2013.

    Singledadsrock Posts: 1

    Well, my take from this story is someone is complaining because they can't afford to get in for free but their kids do. And they are upset? There seems to always be someone looking for a free ride in life constantly. I took my daughter and 4 nieces, only paid for myself, watched the karate show, the gymnastics, pie eating contest and the motorcycle shows, The way I see it, it costed me only 7 dollars. I had a free ride ticket one for each of them and we used them all. Bought tickets for more rides, had a great time. I can care less who the event coordinator is in a personal level. I felt my girls and I were in a safe environment, we had a great time and good food and shows. If you are a free loader then see when the city, state is doing a FREE event, I am probably paying for it out of my taxes anyways. Maybe someone should complain because they didnt take their food stamps card to pay for admission. I do have to say that we liked payne park much better than last years location at robarts because it's a beautiful park, right next to the police station and we had shade when we needed. Oh and I could care less about this kids force thing, some people have a lot of time on their hands to dig things up. wait! maybe you should get a job instead and pay the 7 dollars and take your family to a good time. Just my 5 cents. I can start listing 1000's of charities that take our money and get a fat bonus check for executives driving high end cars. Ha. this is a joke. Go get a job freeloaders, instead of using my tax money for internet services.

  • speakup posted at 1:10 pm on Mon, Oct 28, 2013.

    speakup Posts: 9

    Oh my god really!!! You think you can go to any event for free?!! This is what burns me about this day and age. People think that things should be handed to them. I mean seriously what in life is free!!! Nothing! Come on ABC 7 there are more important things going on than some "family" that should have stayed home if they can not afford to go.

  • Pam Blizzard posted at 1:00 pm on Mon, Oct 28, 2013.

    Pam Blizzard Posts: 1

    We will NOT be attending in the future. We paid $14 to enter, only to be presented with more vendor to shop from. There was no entertainment, except for 12 cute children doing line dancing. We bought from the vendors, but had to pay $14 for the privilege of doing so. We saw the discouraged young parents being turned away by the very well dressed ticket takers, because of the misleading wording on the tickets. All in all, we are left with a very bad taste in our mouths.

  • SarasotaNative posted at 10:44 am on Mon, Oct 28, 2013.

    SarasotaNative Posts: 1

    This event (and other like it throughout the year) are run by Lazarus Fernandez. He is the President of his self-named "Lazarus Foundation" for which he claims his public events are fundraisers. In reality he is just an event promoter. His foundation appears to have no other officers or board members and does not present any public financial disclosures. Mr. Fernandez also runs Spotlight Entertainment and Spotlight Amusements, both of which have the lowest possible "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau. If you search the Sarasota Clerk of Courts for his local criminal cases using "Fernandez, Lazarus" you only see his two domestic violence cases, but when you search "Fernandez, Lazaro" you will find THIRTY criminal cases listing him as Defendant. Twelve of those involve actual bookings. Why are the city and county allowing an individual like this to run public events where he employs bait-and-switch techniques to steal our money from us? I watched him laughing at, and insulting, people who tried to use the "FREE ADMISSION" tickets that he distributed all over town and had the school board send home with children. Something must be done about this guy.

  • angela73 posted at 9:37 am on Mon, Oct 28, 2013.

    angela73 Posts: 1

    Mommmmmmmie, look for a politcian behind it, since its a 170b, it's probably a "charity" started by one to get kickbacks to friends or family members.

  • The Mommmmmie posted at 1:26 am on Mon, Oct 28, 2013.

    The Mommmmmie Posts: 4

    Sounds suspicious, at best.. The website says children under 12, free. They wouldn't need tickets. If I was going, I would think, a free ticket that does not specify adult or child, would be free for anyone... The website has nothing recent except ''Please check back for our new 2012 calendar of events!'' The blog has two entries, the last one in December of 2012. What do you know about the Lazarus Foundation... The Lazarus Foundation benefits arts, culture and humanities, focusing specifically on arts, culture, and humanities N.E.C. programs. Lazarus Foundation legal structure is a corporation. The organization is classified as a 170(b)(1)(a)(vi) organization, which indicates it receives a substantial part of its support from a governmental unit or the general public. Lazarus Foundation is a government instrumentality. Trying to locate info on WHAT they actually do. Who benefits from their collections. What organizations do they work with to use the funds they collect from the public, corporate and priate sector. No resume of what they have actually done.