Local Indian dance group Sher Punjabi at the Woogoolga Curryfest.
Local Indian dance group Sher Punjabi at the Woogoolga Curryfest. Leigh Jensen

Rain adds to Curryfest's woes

BETWEEN the controversy leading up to Saturday's Woolgoolga Curryfest and the torrential rain on the day itself, numbers for this year's event were almost half that of last year.

Event manager Kelvin Harris said 5000 people braved the inclement conditions and the mud compared with more than 10,000 last year.

Mr Harris worked the event as a volunteer after his company, Woopi Entertainment, was forced to resign last week when it fell victim to a campaign by Coffs Harbour City councillor and Woolgoolga businessman John Arkan.

Though Mr Arkan could not be contacted last night, Mr Harris said the former would-be politician launched an attack last week on plans to have the Curryfest, previously run voluntarily by the Woolgoolga Chamber of Commerce, organised by a "for profit" organisation.

Mr Harris referred to emails from Mr Arkan in which he made several demands or he would have the Sikh community boycott the festival, potentially leaving the Curryfest without a butter chicken in sight.

The Coffs Coast Advocate last week ran a story outlining Mr Arkan's objections.

"The community are extremely disappointed with the chamber's move to privatise the community event Curryfest," Cr Arkan said.

"No one was asked about this; Rotary, Lions, the Sikh community - no one."

Mr Harris said Mr Arkan had purposely misled the media by saying the event was going to sell alcohol as it never was.

Similarly Mr Harris said the event was already using as much local produce and services as possible before Mr Arkan made his demands along those lines.

Chamber president Gordon Abbott said he was extremely disappointed in Cr Arkan's comments and actions last week.

"I have met with Cr Arkan leading up to this event and explained in detail the chamber's position in outsourcing management of the event to a private company.

"There are substantial costs associated with organising and staging an event that involves first-class entertainment and a variety of international cuisines. This year's admission fees are essential to cover costs of staging such an exciting event."

As it turned out Woopi Entertainment may have inadvertently dodged a financial bullet by resigning as the organising stakeholder; a turnout of 5000 instead ensuring a significant loss for the chamber.

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