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Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival in jeopardy after main sponsor backs out due to financial struggles

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The iconic Cherry Blossom Festival is on the verge of looking a lot different this year, after its main sponsor backed out months before the event is set to begin.

Vancouver real estate developer Coromandel Properties filed for creditor protection late last week and in doing so, has withdrawn its sponsorship from the city's annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

"The reality is, things are going to have to change if we can't figure this out,” says Michael Dove, the executive director of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. “We’re definitely scrambling and planning out a bunch of different timelines about what we can do and what can happen.”

The festival is facing an $80,000 shortfall because of the sponsorship pull out, which equals to about 25 per cent of its overall budget.

“Without this sponsorship, we’re definitely in trouble, in terms of our big events.”

Most events at the festival are free for people to enjoy, aside from two major events, Sakura Days Japan Fair and the Sakura Night Gala.

Coromandel Properties has been sponsoring the event for five years.

The developer owns 16 properties in Vancouver at various stages of construction, worth a billion dollars. Court documents show it owes more than $700 million dollars.

On Monday, signage on one of its dilapidated properties at Cambie and 59th streets is seen blacked out with paint.

Court documents show the company cited high interest rates and the city's "complex, expensive and slow process to push through projects" as the reasons behind its financial struggles.

The city says it has provided support to the festival in various ways and has only recently been notified that the event had lost its corporate sponsorship.

“Staff are in ongoing conversations and are working collaboratively with the event organizer to identify cost saving opportunities related to city services, as the festival continues to explore alternative sponsorship opportunities and other funding options,” a city spokesperson said in a statement to CTV.

But the repercussions a potential smaller event will have on the city is widespread, says Dove.

"We're definitely in trouble in terms of big events you know? And I think that there's a trickle down effect because yeah, it's our event, but we also hire a lot of vendors, a lot of artists."

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday, after lawyers for Coromandel filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court asking for time to deal with financial issues.

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