By BELINDA F SCOTT
BRADLEY McKell saw Coffs Harbour's 2006 Carols by Candlelight event as his first business break.
But the event left him with a bad taste in his mouth rather than a warm glow after he watched his profits walk off in the pockets of walk-in, walk-out traders at the family event.
And he said his efforts to recoup his losses on New Year's Eve met a wall of indifference from entertainment organisers.
Mr McKell, who has lived in Coffs Harbour for 20 years, is a disability pensioner who has recently established a small business selling glow sticks, safety candles and flashing toys, and the Carols was his first major event.
He had also arranged to give 10 per cent of his proceeds from his Carols by Candlelight sales to Camp Quality.
Mr McKell paid for a stall site, insurance and wages for three helpers after being assured that he would be the only vendor of these novelties at the carols, but was specifically told by Coffs Harbour City Council events manager Jenny Oloman he could not have staff walking around selling glowsticks and safety candles because of insurance concerns.
But on the night, mobile traders walked around the site, selling flashing stars on sticks. Mr McKell said three people even brought flashing stars to him asking for refunds because they didn't work. The novelties were not part of his stock.
Ms Oloman said she sympathised with Mr McKell, but they had never been bothered by walk-in traders before and would ensure it did not happen again by warning event security guards.
She said March's Amusements, which had a stand at the Carols to promote the carnival, had not had approval to sell the flashing stars and sponsorship organiser Trina Schaeffer had stopped the mobile traders as soon as she had seen it happening.
But Ms Shaefer said she had not been specifically advised no mobile sales were allowed and had 'naturally' assumed the walking sellers working the 4000 strong crowd were from Mr McKell's staff.
March's Amusements media officer John Logan said the sellers were subcontractors, not employees of March's Amusements.
March's Amusements operations manager Chris Hennessy said he had not known about the mobile sellers at the carols, who were not part of the promotions stand, but after Mr McKell had approached March's pointing out his losses they had been sympathetic and he had been offered a free site at the New Year's Eve carnival as generous compensation.