THE Sugar Festival committee has given about $600,000 worth of goods and services to the less privileged in Lautoka over the past 11 years, says committee vice president Pusp Raj.
He said the carnival had transformed the lives of many students and families who now had good jobs despite financial difficulties while at school.
Mr Raj said they were hoping to raise $50,000 for the less fortunate members of society.
"This festival is unique and apart from the fun and entertainment, thousands of people have been assisted since the start of the festival in 1953," he said.
"Over the past 11 years we have donated more than $600,000 to the poor and needy for education, health and other types of assistance.
"The festival is also an opportune time for the people of Lautoka to meet, and socialise. It unites the people despite the different religions, races and traditional backgrounds."
Mr Raj said money raised also helped fund school fees for some university students.
"We are also assisting members of the community through our funeral service vehicle which is used at no cost to those that needed it."
Mr Raj said about 70 booths had been sold as food stalls and flea markets.
He said the response on the first day was positive and had called on the people of Lautoka to support the worthy cause.
A total of nine contestants are vying for the Miss Sugar Crown.
Commissioner Western Commander Joeli Cawaki officially opened the festival last night.