Dispute forces cancellation of popular Oshkosh Hmong festival
OSHKOSH - A major fundraiser for the Hmong community in Winnebago County this weekend has been canceled.
On Memorial Day weekends for the past couple of years, the Hmong Service Center in Oshkosh has hosted an annual soccer tournament. But the city says there was too much confusion about the leadership of the group.
Community Park on the north side of Oshkosh is normally bustling with thousands of people on Memorial Day Weekend. This year will be different.
"It's absolutely devastating, I couldn't believe it myself," said Bee Lee, president of the Hmong Service Center in Oshkosh.
That's the group that organizes the weekend festival and soccer tournament. Lee says the event can bring in more than $20,000 for the service center.
"We plan it for job training, to help the elderly people, handicapped and people that need help,” said Lee.
But the City of Oshkosh denied the group a permit to hold the event this year, because of a dispute between Lee and another woman. Both claim to be the leader of the group.
Because of the dispute, the city said the event could not go on.
County parks officials plan to put up barricades in the part of the park where the festival takes place.
"People, vendors, participants who might not have gotten the message from trying to come in and set up. We want to avoid that and it's kind of a service to the Hmong community," said County Parks Director Rob Way.
Lee worries the loss of funding could cause the service center to close its doors.
"That's a big possibility,” he said.
Many of the parks' pavilions are also rented out during the festival. Way says that will cost the county about $3,000 in lost revenue. But he says he hopes the group will have its issues worked out in time to have the group's other major fundraiser at the park over Labor Day.
Way says other parts of the park will still be open for visitors.
A lawsuit to resolve the leadership dispute will be heard by a Winnebago County judge a week from Monday.
The other person named in that lawsuit is Mee Yang. FOX 11 reached out to Yang for comment, we did not hear back.