Popular Vietnamese-American festival nixed after dispute

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) - A popular Vietnamese-American festival in Southern California was abruptly canceled after a financial dispute between organizers and the city of Garden Grove.

The dispute centered on the price the city requested to cover the cost of police and other services needed for the three-day Tet Festival, which can attract as many as 100,000 visitors each year.

The city wanted to boost the bill to $145,000, nearly a fivefold jump from last year, which stunned the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California, which organizes the annual celebration.

Councilwoman Dina Nguyen told the Los Angeles Times Thursday that the city has absorbed nearly $1.2 million in festival costs over the last 11 years.

Organizers claim that figure is inflated.

"All along, we felt the city has not been negotiating in good faith," Nina Tran, president of the student group, told the Times. "I think it's just completely absurd they're asking for $145,000."

The festival is an annual favorite in the Vietnamese-American community in Orange County, known as Little Saigon.

Tran said that her group was left largely in the dark about what the increased fee would cover but that she had been told part of it would be directed to help fund a planned Vietnam War museum in the city to honor those affected by the war.

City officials said an obstacle was the group's failure to disclose its financial records for the last four years.

Organizers are trying to find another location for the January event.

Mayor Bruce Broadwater said the city is not interested in running the festival out of town.

"If someone else wants to organize it, our doors are open," he said.