- PHOTO COURTESY OF ISABELLA FREDERIKSEN
- PAR ... TAY?: Guests at the weekend festival, Forever Never Land, encountered a scene much less raucous than expected, with attendance coming in far below capacity and many advertised activities and performances canceled.
It was going to be a two-day food, music, and funfest with alcohol. It was going to span four fictional lands. It was first slated to be one of the biggest local events in recent memory.
In the end, the Forever Never Land two-day festival and adult playground set for the weekend of Sept. 13 was tamer than even the California Highway Patrol expected. According to CHP Officer Danny Maher, a typical 3,000-person event at the Avila Beach Golf Resort brings between 500 and 800 cars. Forever Never Land, however, only brought about 80 cars.
“We heard it was very, very tame and quiet out there,” he said.
According to event organizer Valerie Wang, there were fewer than 1,000 attendees for each of the two days, falling well short of the 3,000-person permit capacity. In fact, under the original proposal, Forever Never Land was billed as an event for as many as 10,000 guests. The event was first downsized after San Luis Obispo County supervisors denied Wang’s Temporary Commercial Outdoor Entertainment License in June.
Wang told New Times in an email that she and other organizers were informed that Central Coast events typically sell 80 percent of tickets the week of the event. When those sales didn’t come through, combined with “a few unforeseen curveballs thrown at us that really hurt us financially,” Wang said they had to scale back activities and performers.
“Had we NOT been hit with a very unfortunate and unforeseen situation the week leading up to the event, we would have had more activities at the event,” she said.
Wang went on: “Our Investors have ALL invested our life savings into this company and have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars this past weekend.”
Planned zip lines and bounce castles were canceled, as were water slides due to the ongoing drought, Wang said. Additionally, many of the Sunday musical performances were cut, which was announced via social media the same day.
Attendees, many of whom had paid upward of $100 for VIP tickets, reacted swiftly and fiercely. As of press time, the Facebook page “FNL Scam Avila Beach 2014” had reached about 500 likes. Several people posted tips for obtaining refunds via credit and debit card providers, expressing frustration with a lack of response from event organizers. The FNL Scam administrators said they had also filed a criminal complaint with the SLO County Sheriff’s Office.
The page’s administrators, Isabella Frederiksen and Staci Schultz—both SLO residents who said they collectively spent $300 for VIP tickets, service fees, and a shuttle—responded in an email:
“This has grown [into] more than just something to be dealt with in a civil case.”
They explained that civil cases require the parties seeking money to hire their own lawyer, and the business can file bankruptcy and never pay back anyone. To that end, they’re pursuing a criminal case.
They described the actual event as “a whole lot of nothing,” and said neither had received responses from Forever Never Land organizers aside from a brief online apology posted Sept. 15.
“Ultimately, we all just want a refund,” they wrote to New Times. “We also don’t want this to ever happen to another community again.”
In response to the backlash, which included personal threats and harassing messages, Wang said she deactivated her social media accounts.
“Many of the guests’ online comments are valid, and I am taking some time today to respond to everyone,” Wang told New Times on Sept. 16. “However I was also a bit shocked at how nasty and violent some of the comments and threats were. I actually, and very sadly, had to disable all of my social media accounts for my own safety.”
She said emails were sent out to ticket holders the week of the event informing them that water activities had been cut. However, with the small team running the event “and how quickly things were moving, we were unable to keep our guests up-to-date on all of the changes,” Wang added.
The event website was taken down, aside from a single page directing comments to an email address, which Wang said was done to address each complaint privately. She said she was individually reviewing every email, adding, “We hope to be able to issue ALL attendees (not just disgruntled attendees) some form of compensation to make up for this event.”