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Brown Sugar Festival events canceled for 2022

Posted 5/4/22

The Brown Sugar Festival will be celebrated privately in homes and backyards this year.

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Subscriber exclusive

Brown Sugar Festival events canceled for 2022

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CLEWISTON – The Brown Sugar Festival was a Hendry County tradition for decades, but violence at the 2021 event threatens the festival’s future.

There will be no 2022 Brown Sugar Festival community events this year. Instead, organizers encourage community members to celebrate privately with family and friends.

The non-profit organization celebrates African heritage, using funds from the festival for college scholarships in the community.

At the Jan. 11 meeting of the Hendry County Commissioners, Family members of slain Lehigh Acres resident, Evereonna Sankey, begged commissioners to discontinue the festival. The 20-year-old died from bullets shot during the May 2021 event.

In a March 24 statement to Fox News, Joe North, attorney for the family of Evereonna Sankey stated:  “I represent the Estate of Evereonna Sankey, through her mother, Teresa Sankey. We have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Harlem Academy Alumni Association, Inc. d/b/a Brown Sugar Festival. The lawsuit is based upon Negligent Security. In other words, we believe the shooting of Evereonna Sankey happened due to the failure of the organizers of the Brown Sugar Festival to have security at the festival on May 1, 2021. In addition to obtaining monetary compensation for the wrongful death of Evereonna Sankey, it is our hope that the Brown Sugar Festival will not be held at all this year. And as for future years, the festival should not be held without proper security protocols."

On the Brown Sugar Festival’s Facebook page, community members responded to the news with disappointment.

“Brown Sugar Festival is a committee thing. BROWN SUGA is a vibe,” explained Ty Welch. “The older generation never goes to the field or the avenue. They chill in their yards with family and friends to enjoy food and a good time never leaving the porch. So with that being said: It's a backyard party.”

On May 5, 2021 Hendry County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of 29-year-old Larance De’Angelo Humphrey of Tallahassee in connection with the shooting. He was charged with accessory after the fact to first degree homicide and tampering with physical evidence.  

The shooter has not yet been arrested. Anyone with any information is encouraged to either contact the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office at 863-674-5600 or call Crime Stoppers, at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477), where callers will remain anonymous and may be eligible for a $3,000 cash reward. Additionally, this case has been approved by The Florida Sheriff’s Association Criminal Apprehension Assistance Program and has pledged the extra $5,000 enhanced reward for a total of $8,000.

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