June 24, 2018

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Frustration du Voyageur: frozen hour-plus lineups send less-than-festive ticket-holders home

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Local mascots took part in a race for the kids during the Festival du Voyageur in Fort Gibraltar. Many people complained about long lines at the festival Saturday night.</p></p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Local mascots took part in a race for the kids during the Festival du Voyageur in Fort Gibraltar. Many people complained about long lines at the festival Saturday night.

Beau Schell paid for his tickets, showed up early, waited patiently in the cold and then went home feeling he'd been ripped off.

He’s accusing Festival du Voyageur organizers of overselling tickets Saturday, leaving people with nothing to show for their money but a couple of hours spent in line staring at the back of someone’s head.

“I'd say there were hundreds, maybe a thousand, who didn’t get into tents that night. The festival made a whole bunch of money on false promises. That’s like going to an amusement park, being sold a ticket, then going inside to find all the rides are broken down,” Schell said.

“Then when you go to get your money back, they say, ‘Nope. You can’t get your money back.’ That’s theft and I think they should be held accountable for it.”

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Beau Schell paid for his tickets, showed up early, waited patiently in the cold and then went home feeling he'd been ripped off.

He’s accusing Festival du Voyageur organizers of overselling tickets Saturday, leaving people with nothing to show for their money but a couple of hours spent in line staring at the back of someone’s head.

"I'd say there were hundreds, maybe a thousand, who didn’t get into tents that night. The festival made a whole bunch of money on false promises. That’s like going to an amusement park, being sold a ticket, then going inside to find all the rides are broken down," Schell said.

"That’s like going to an amusement park, being sold a ticket, then going inside to find all the rides are broken down." -Beau Schell

"Then when you go to get your money back, they say, ‘Nope. You can’t get your money back.’ That’s theft and I think they should be held accountable for it."

Schell, 32, says he and his wife arrived at the festival grounds Saturday at about 7:30 p.m. After some confusion caused by the lack of clear signage near the entrance, they managed to get their tickets and get in line, he said. By the time they managed to get inside the festival grounds, it had been 40 minutes. Then they faced a new set of lineups to gain entry to tents offering food, drinks and entertainment.

"We went to the shortest line and there were probably 300 people in it. The lines were hardly moving, and after about an hour I contemplated going for a refund. But then I looked at the back of the ticket and it said, ‘Absolutely no refunds, not exchangeable,’" Schell said.

"We’re cold at this point. There’s no fire to keep you warm. You have no choice to wait in line to get into a tent that you’re not even guaranteed to get into. By this time there were about 75 people still ahead of us. It had been about an hour and 45 minutes and we decided we had to leave."

Schell was one of many people who reached out to the Free Press or took to social media to complain about their experience at the festival Saturday night.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Festival goers enjoy a sleigh ride during the last weekend at the Festival du Voyageur in Fort Gibraltar.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Festival goers enjoy a sleigh ride during the last weekend at the Festival du Voyageur in Fort Gibraltar.

Richard Lennon, who showed up with his wife and two friends, described an experience similar to Schell's, saying after waiting in line for two hours they left before making it into any tents. He added that while he doesn't mind a bit of a wait in line, he thinks organizers continued selling tickets despite knowing they were "dramatically over capacity."

Festival 'evaluating and readjusting'

The festival, known for its lengthy lineups, made changes this year specifically aimed at cutting down on wait times.

Nicolas Audette, the festival’s director of marketing and communications, said organizers adjusted their ticketing and admissions system to address past concerns. However, he also admitted some changes still need to be made.

"We’ll be evaluating and readjusting our practices to be able to offer a better experience for festival goers," he said.

But Schell, who’s a longstanding annual attendee, says — if anything — the wait times got worse this year. In addition, he feels organizers should be offering people not only an apology, but also a refund.

He believes they sold tickets based on the capacity of the festival grounds, rather than the capacity of the tents. That, he says, is little more than a "cash grab."

"There were many, many people who left the line before we did. The only way the line seemed to be moving was because people were so frustrated they were leaving. I mean, all you have to do is go on their Facebook page to see there are a lot of people complaining about this," he said.

"Their response is complete BS. They say, 'We didn't oversell. We never oversell.' My response? 'How dare you lie to your customers?' I think it's just them being greedy. I’m not a squeaky wheel. That’s not how I operate. Normally I’m not one to complain.

"But I just feel like this was pretty ridiculous and if somebody doesn’t say something, then they get away with it and it’ll happen again next year."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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