Boys & Girls Club of Malibu Is in and Malibu Kiwanis Club Is Out

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Carnival-goers enjoy the much-needed breeze above the 2017 Malibu Kiwanis Club Chili Cook-Off and Carnival grounds. The 36th annual cook-off was held from Sept. 1-4. 

News broke this week that caused a local uproar over the annual Malibu Chili Cook-Off & Carnival event. The 36-year tradition has always taken place over Labor Day Weekend on land owned by the Malibu Bay Co. in the Civic Center area, known colloquially as the Chili Cook-Off site. It’s the biggest event in town every year, drawing thousands of people, and was one of its biggest fundraisers. For all of those years, the Kiwanis Club always ran the event with the purpose of donating the proceeds to various nonprofit organizations.

This year, for what would have been the 37th annual Chili Cook-Off & Carnival, the Malibu Bay Company decided to lease the land at no cost to the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu, much to the surprise of the community. 

David Reznick, president of the Malibu Bay Co., said in an email that he had “Nothing to say for the record about the Chili Cook-Off.”

Kasey Earnest, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, said the organization will be issuing a press release sometime this week about the kind of community event they are planning over the four-day Labor Day weekend. Until that time, she said she was not willing to discuss any details. 

City Manager Reva Feldman told KBUU News that the Boys & Girls Club has already applied for permits to run the event.

John Paola, who was president of the Malibu Kiwanis Club during the 2017 Chili Cook-Off, told The Malibu Times he had recently resigned from the club. He stated that the Malibu Bay Company’s decision on which group could use the land “Had nothing to do with the Boys & Girls Club, nothing to do with the City of Malibu and nothing to do with me.”

According to Paola, the Kiwanis Club has eight members, and seven of them live outside Malibu in nearby cities like Agoura Hills and Camarillo. 

In the meantime, new Malibu Kiwanis Club president Nicholas Ficklin, who was voted in on January 24, said the group was recently broadsided by the news that they no longer had use of the Chili Cook-Off site. 

“We started going about our normal procedures to obtain permits, et cetera. When we went to Malibu Bay Co., they said, ‘Oh, that’s already been leased.’ We were thinking it was a given,” he said. 

Although the Kiwanis still had a contract with the carnival ride company, Ficklin said they did not lose any money. He added that a number of vendors had already signed up for the event and given their deposits, but the Kiwanis has refunded them. 

Ficklin posted a notice on the Kiwanis Club website last week, indicating they still intend to organize fundraising events for the Malibu community. He invited members of the community with suitable property for events to contact him at info@malibukiwanisclub.com.  

He said two possible locations have been volunteered by residents so far, but neither is as big as the Chili Cook-Off property. 

“We’re bouncing around ideas for what kind of events to have, but we’re not ready to talk yet,” he said, and confirmed they are not trying to plan anything for Labor Day weekend. 

Ficklin is in the process of revitalizing the Kiwanis organization. 

“We’re excited about the club moving forward,” he said. “We’ve experienced a surge of younger members, and we’re excited to get in new people with new ideas.” Well-known local Kim Bonewitz is now the group’s secretary.  

The City of Malibu is actually in the process of buying the Chili Cook-Off site—a 9.5-acre plot—for $21.1 million. It is one of three commercially zoned vacant parcels the city is purchasing from the estate of the late billionaire Jerry Perenchio. Although the real estate deal may close a few days before the Chili Cook-Off, making the city the new landowner during the event, it seems the city would still have to honor the weekend lease arrangement Malibu Bay made with the Boys & Girls Club.

City Councilmember Skylar Peak told TMT he had just talked to one of the board members of the Boys & Girls Club and came away feeling “very positive” about what they were planning for Chili Cook-Off weekend. Although he can’t yet reveal details, Peak said, “They’re going to take what the Kiwanis Club has been doing for years and build on it. They’re going to be using a professional event management company, and make it into something awesome.”