News that the 2nd Annual Oyster Festival in Waveland has been canceled has set off a controversy.
Festival organizers say they were forced to cancel the event because of a lack of financial support from the city.
City leaders say budget constraints prevented them from paying city employees to work the festival.
Oyster Fest organizers said Waveland will miss out on an opportunity to pack the city's municipal pier and the surrounding beach with thousands of tourists.
"Last year for Oyster Fest, 5,000 to 7,000 people filled that pier with a great amount of joy. It was wonderful promotion for the city. Many tourists came in, and a lot of people benefited," said Charlie Cornelius.
Cornelius is President of the Waveland Community Coalition the host of Oyster Fest.
Cornelius said, "Oyster Fest this year was really going to be about honoring the oyster industry. We were poised to not only entertain but to educate as well."
Cornelius said unfortunately neither will happen. He said coalition board members decided to cancel the event because the city can't afford to pay police and public works employees to work the event.
"We originally had an agreement with the city where they would provide essential city services," said Cornelius.
He said paying salaries for one police officer and two public works employees would have cost the city between $1,500 and $2,000. But city leaders say it would be a lot less.
"If the festival has enough vendors to be a success, why cancel it for $600 just to hire two people to dump trash," said Mayor David Garcia.
Garcia said police already on duty would be available to work the event, but at least one officer would be needed to man the event all day.
He said he's disappointed the festival was canceled but said it may have been a blessing in disguise. Road construction in the area could have posed a real problem.
"Last year they claim they had 5,000 people out here. Where are you going to put 5,000 people out here in this construction zone without getting someone hurt," Garcia asked.
Cornelius said he understands the city's budget problems but doesn't believe the city sees the value of the event.
"It's short sided from an economic development stand point."
Festival organizers say the city already plans for budgets for city employees to work other events like the Nereids and St. Patrick's Day parades.