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What You Should Know Before You Buy Your Usher, Rihanna and Bieber Tickets in Daytona

| May 26, 2010

Manuel Bornia's Facebook smile hasn't earned him many friends in his previous engagements in South Florida.

Tickets go on sale Saturday in Daytona Beach for the so-called American Music Festival, which promises to bring Janet Jackson, Usher, the Jonas Brothers, Christina Aguilera, Carrie Underwood, Rihanna and Justin Bieber to the city’s 7,000-seat Bandshell for concerts on the weekends of June 25-27 and Sept. 3-5.


And a big supposedly it is. Before you fork over the $39 to $99 for each ticket (if that’s what the prices are: you never know, because they were originally advertised as $39 to $69), there are a few things—no, a lot of things, you should know about Manuel Bornia, whose tongue could be a Formula 1 prototype and whose recent history in West Palm Beach, and now Daytona Beach, is shadowed by exaggerations, lies, bankruptcies, and an affinity for writing musicals that invent more than characters. They invent admirers. Daytona Beach has itself its very own Harold Hill.

Here’s the very latest: Christina Aguilera? Not coming. Carrie Underwood? Not coming. The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Rick de Yampert checked after Bornia’s wild claims, and found them to be somewhere in the range of Maurice Sendak provenance (with apologies to Maurice). The two singers’ publicists said their stars have no such thing as a booking at anything called the International Festival. Aguilera subsequently cancelled an entire summer tour that had been scheduled, though the closest thing that tour brought her to Florida was an August 8 date in Tampa.

Tour dates are another warning over Bornia’s claims. Justin Bieber is performing in a 10,000-seat arena in Trenton, N.J., on June 24, a Thursday, in a 17,500-seat arena in Cincinnati on June 26, and a 20,000-seat arena in Minneapolis on the 29th. On the September dates slated for the International Festival, Bieber is playing the 10,000-seat Champlain Valley Expo in Vermont on Sept. 3, and the similar-size Allentown Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania the following day. Bornia would have you believe that Bieber is coming to play the 5,000-seat Bandshell somewhere between those dates, even though no such commitment appears on Bieber’s schedule.

And Bieber is among the lesser acts. Usher is playing Wembley Stadium in London on June 6. Wembley seats 90,000. Bornia would have you believe that, even though no such date appears on Usher’s schedule, the man is coming to Daytona Beach. Janet Jackson has no tour dates this summer, but we’re led to believe that she’ll take time out of her busy rest to come down, way down, and entertain a miserable little beach crowd of beach bums in Daytona for 45 minutes. Bornia’s explanation: those concerts here are 45-minute deals, so the singers are able to fit them in if they have busy schedules, or even if they don’t. That may be true. More likely, it’s what many singers would describe as bullshit: an artist’s exertion isn’t dictated by the number of minutes clocked in.

Two issues stand out in Bornia’s involvement in the festival. First, it is standard practice in the arts and entertainment industry for organizations planning festivals to secure signed agreements by agents or managers of performers before performance dates are announced. Those dates are not fluid. It appears Bornia secured neither the paperwork nor the dates.

Second, when Bornia was hired in Daytona, he was originally hired for his marketing skills, which are good, not for his management skills. Yet he was soon appointed president of the Community Cultural Foundation, which puts on the International Festival and the American Music Festival. Those who’ve worked with him don’t dispute Bornia’s marketing abilities, but they say he requires strict supervision. That supervision is absent.

There’s more about Bornia you should know, especially if you’re a taxpayer in Volusia County, where your dollars are now on the hook for $1.2 million in subsidies to the festival (which used to be underwritten by the News-Journal’s Tippen Davidson before the paper’s legal immolation ended it all).

When he was applying for the job in Daytona, after resigning from a similar job in south Florida, he claimed this about the International Festival: “They sought me out.” They, meaning the festival folks, “thought I would make an asset to the team.” Bornia wasn’t telling the truth. Eric Lariviere, head of the festival in 2008, said Bornia merely applied for the position. He was one of many. When a Palm Beach Post reporter asked Bornia to explain the discrepancy, Bornia back-pedaled: “What I meant is they sought me out from how many other applicants they had from all over the country.” Translation: the man, who’s his own marquee event, inflated his importance, hoping no one would call him out. Good reporters generally do.

Another story for the libretto: In 2003 Bornia formed the Palm Beach festival of the Arts to stage all sorts of events. The biggest showpiece was to be his own—a musical he said he’d sent to Marvin Hamlisch, who wanted to mentor him as a result. Hamlisch felt obliged to deny the relationship on his own letterhead, saying he’d never seen the musical and :”cannot recommend it.” Bornia denies that he’d ever told the Hamlisch story.

Bornia’s local claim to legitimacy is his ticket sales for the 2009 edition of the International Festival, said to have brought in record ticket sales. Oddly, the festival hadn’t paid some of its bills several months after the end of the event, including a payment to the London Symphony Orchestra.

Oh, and by the way: if you try to click on the International Festival’s website, good luck. For all of Bornia’s hype, no one’s got around to putting up that website. “Check back soon” is what you get on the parent organization’s website—about the International Festival, the American Festival and Halifax Uncorked, whatever that is. The parent website itself is equally scant with information: Season schedule? Nothing. Press releases? Events highlights? Photo and video galleries? Same answer: “We are preparing a dynamic news room  for the official launch of this site on February 1, 2010. If you would like more information about our news room please contact Manuel Bornia at”

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5 Responses for “What You Should Know Before You Buy Your Usher, Rihanna and Bieber Tickets in Daytona”

  1. Eunice Van Plus says:

    FINALLY, an honest look at this scam. Though I like de Yampert, the splash the N-J made with its original story used incredibly shoddy reporting. With Bornia’s background, checking the facts of his spewing should have been a priority. This all adds up to another classic ‘Daytona Moment.’

  2. NeuroMan42 says:

    Can we not get this jacktard arrested?!?

  3. Robert Hightower says:

    Eunice, you are right. Finally, correct reporting. This guy Bornia is just a big mouth and apparently loves to brag. What else could he possibly hope to accomplish by spewing such non-sense? I think he just wants to look like the big guy. That’s his M.O.! Now this crap about we are negotiating! In the music industry…..anybody can say they ARE negotiating by simply picking up the phone and calling the booking agent. If the artists is asking 1 Million dollars and you offer 10 thousand, it’s obviously a ridiculous offer and you will be laughed off the phone, but guess what…….you can get away with saying that you ARE negotiating! As for this Wright entertainment and Arthur Sims jazz, these guys are just middle men. If Bornia truly knew what the hell he was doing and had all these connections he claims to have, he would just pick up the phone and call the booking agent directly! I predict that they will soon announce a much lesser act as confirmed for the festival in order to save face. Problem is that if they get a B or C act, say someone in the 60k-100k range, it will look like a let down. That’s really sad…..they should have come out of the gate with a CONFIRMED lesser act and everyone would have been excited. Now, anything short of Janet Jackson or Usher will seem like an utter failure. This idiot needs to learn to keep his big mouth shut! Send him back to South Florida!

  4. Karen says:

    Haha, this is not the least bit surprising. I went to school with this guy back in H.S., and this is absolutely no surprise. He was like that from a very early age…

  5. Dan says:

    This guy is a complete scumbag. Here it is like 5 years later and he’s still pulling the same grimey scams here in West Palm Beach. Cravy is a joke company. He rips off his vendors. Complete scam artist. I feel bad for anyone doing business with Manny.

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