'Chaotic' opening night of Waterfront Night Market leaves some vendors angry, products ruined
Organizers say they will work out deals with vendors case by case, but rain is 'an act of God'
A group of artists showcasing their wares at Toronto's Waterfront Night Market are sounding off after they say a last-minute venue switch left them having to haul around equipment to set up outdoors — and their products soaked.
The market, now in its eighth year, was originally set to take place inside the Hearn Generating Station, a decommissioned power plant that last year hosted the Luminato Arts Festival. This year was the first time it was set to hold the interactive ARTvolution showcase.
But on Thursday, just one day before the market was to set to open, Toronto Fire Services said organizers hadn't properly equipped the building to make it safe for crowds expected at the event.
According to a news release from Toronto Fire Services, there were serious deficiencies and breaches of the Ontario Fire Code at the Hearn Power Generating Station.
For vendors like Sofie Timkovski, the venue change meant putting her leather goods on display outdoors.
"'You'll have tents, tables, art walls and everything provided for you. It'll be set up,'" Timkovski said she was told by market's organizers, X-Caliber.
Vendors left doing set-up work
But not long after Timkovski, owner and designer of Tiny Backpacks, arrived at the festival space, she said she was directed to a pile of tables and left to assemble her own stall.
Kedron Brown of CLiQArT says he had a similar experience, despite having paid about $500 for the three-day event space he thought would be inside at the Hearn.
"I was sweeping up stones just to get my booth nice enough so that people could walk in and not trip," told CBC Toronto.
Within a few hours, the rain started, and Timkovski says she realized the tent she was given had holes in it.
According to Timkovski, organizers told the upset vendors that they were working on a plan, but they never returned.
Kevin Yee, director of operations for X-Caliber, told CBC Toronto that the last-minute venue change meant they didn't have time to get the necessary approvals for large tents, which he said can take weeks.
"Absolutely, I won't deny it, it was absolutely chaotic," Yee said, saying some vendors were angry but others were "understanding of the situation."
'We did have a show to produce'
And while some like Timkovski wanted to discuss a refund that very night, Yee said that simply wasn't practical.
"We did have a show to produce," Yee said.
Instead, he said, they would work on a case by case basis with each of the vendors adding there would be a group meeting early next week to discuss what went wrong and to come up with a resolution.
Timkovski said after waiting in the rain for several hours, she went home with a car full of wet leather and several damaged bags — not to mention the money she wasted to participate.
Brown said a handful of his pieces were also damaged.
But Yee maintains that the situation will have to be discussed.
"It's not unfair on their part to ask for their money back," he said.
As for the damaged goods, he said: "It's an act of God. I can't control the rain and each vendor is required to carry their own insurance for their own product, and if something happens, it is up to the vendor."
That's not good enough for Timkovski, who said she won't be back next year.
"Those backpacks take me ten hours to make. Seeing this water... it was just the most heartbreaking thing."