Festival organizer dodges questions about foundation

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Jennifer Alderman went to the Sarasota Pumpkin Festival at Payne Park on Sunday thinking she had tickets for free admission but was told at the gate her tickets were only good for children’s admission.

“So we had to spend our last twenty bucks to get in. [I was] hoping to spend it on my son for his first pumpkin, but didn’t.”

Alderman was not alone in believing the tickets were good for admission into the festival. Many others believed the same thing. “Every body was complaining about it” said Alderman.

ABC 7 was also at the festival on Sunday investigating the ticket controversy after viewers called our newsroom to complain. We were there when event organizer Lazarus Fernandez told the Crotinger Family he could not just let them in for free because the festival was raising money for charity.

“This is a fund raiser so I can’t just let them in,” said Fernandez.

ABC 7 decided to investigate the charity called the Lazarus Foundation. According the Pumpkin Festival’s website, www.lazaruskids.org is the website for the Lazarus Foundation which benefited from the festival.

Turns out, Lazarus Fernandez is the president of the Lazarus Foundation.  ABC 7 caught up with Fernandez at Payne Park on Monday morning and asked him to show us where the money goes. He agreed to do an interview and quickly recanted, passing us off to his wife.

“Well if you are going to have questions about the organization, she's the one to talk to,” said Fernandez.

Melanie Fernandez did not answer or return phone calls and Lazarus Fernandez did not answer any further questions or provide us with the information about his charity.