Ontario electronic music festival Ever After pulls plug a week before start date
Local township did not issue necessary permits for festival to move forward
Organizers of electronic music festival Ever After say the event will not go ahead next weekend after failing to receive necessary permits from the local township of Oro-Medonte, Ont., which raised concerns over security and safety issues.
In a statement posted on Ever After's social media page Friday afternoon, the festival's organizers announced the cancellation, saying, "We have been met with a series of obstacles from several key third parties that will prevent this event from moving forward as planned."
Organizers added that "all ticket buyers will receive an e-mail with more information about their orders and their options by next week." Tickets and hotel packages were still being sold through the festival's website as of Thursday afternoon.
The announcement comes less than a week before concertgoers were set to descend on the grounds at Burl's Creek in Oro-Medonte, about 30 kilometres north of Barrie, and days after performers on the bill started telling fans on social media they were informed the festival wasn't moving forward.
Ever After was scheduled to run Aug. 11 to 14 and feature Canadian acts Rezz and Zeds Dead, as well as international artist Dillon Francis and DJ duo Slander.
"Whilst we very much wish this not to be the case, the cancellation of this year's festival leaves much uncertainty around the future of Ever After," organizers said in the Friday statement.
Moon Newhook planned to attend this year's festival after tickets she bought for the 2020 edition were carried over to this year because of pandemic closures. She says she's now out the cost of three VIP tickets, accommodation and other related expenses that amount to around $3,000.
"I'm frustrated, upset, I want to scream," she said.
"I wish they would've told us before, so that we could definitely 'plan accordingly' and cancel flight tickets, accommodations, whatever else we would need to do."
Newhook said she's in the process of requesting a refund from her bank, but that without Ever After announcing they've "cancelled" the weekend, it's proving to be difficult.
Township had safety concerns
The festival's prospects have been in question since July 21 when local leadership raised concerns at a special council meeting.
Shawn Binns, director of Oro-Medonte's operations and community services, recommended in a report presented at the meeting that a special events permit be denied to the event, which was expected to draw as many as 15,000 people a day.
The report said organizers failed to address "the concerns and requirements for appropriate security, building/structure, traffic management, fire safety, community impact, food and beverage and medical and emergency plans."
Ever After posted on social media six days later telling ticket holders "there is an appeals process that we are currently undergoing as well as reviewing other options" to ensure the event happens in 2022.
However, according to Oro-Medonte spokeswoman Jenny Legget, that option never existed.
"The reality is there's no process in place to appeal the decision of council — it's just not possible," she said in an interview.
"It's unfortunate for the ticket holders."
The township noted that Ever After leased the land from Burl's Creek for the weekend with plans to incorporate an optional camping experience. In the years before the pandemic, the event was held at the recreation site and campground Bingemans in Kitchener, Ont.'"
On Friday, event organizers disputed "various rumours" about the cancellation, saying, "We can assure you that we took every step necessary to satisfy the special event permit requirements."
The statement goes on to say the festival "had requirements levied on it far greater than the event just one week before (which we agreed to meet)."
The organizers said: "Let us be clear, this is not our decision to cancel, we have been forced to cancel by third parties."
Requests for refunds unanswered
For weeks, ticket holders have posted on social media about efforts to obtain refunds from Ever After. Many say they have been ignored.
Alicia Sewell spent $1,500 on tickets for the weekend and estimates another $3,000 to schedule staff to fill in for her at a dance academy she owns in Trenton, Ont. She says with advance notice she would've made alternate plans.
"If they knew months ago that this wasn't going to happen, then they should have just been honest and refunded everyone's money," she said.
"Right now, I even fear that I'm not going to get refunded."
Newhook said her experience could affect how she thinks about future events.
"I don't know if I'm going to be able to attend other concerts," she said. "I will definitely have trust issues."
With files from CBC News