Newlyweds Shanon and Mark Stench were thrilled to attend the Tampa Bay Balloon Festival, originally scheduled for February 26-28, 2021, at the Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City.
It was a surprise from Mark to Shanon, who had seen the event on Facebook. Mark purchased premium parking and a private couples hot air balloon ride, totaling over $170.
The Stenches purchased the tickets through Eventbrite in January. They received an email from Eventbrite stating that the event, produced by The Balloon Glow Tour, has been postponed and would instead take place from December 17-19, 2021.
Shanon said they were offered a refund and tickets to the December event “in good faith”. She said they never received the refund. She sent the Tampa Bay Weather a PDF of tickets showing December dates at the Little Everglades Ranch.
The couple drove two hours from their home in Clearwater last Saturday. But when they got there, it was clear that the event was not happening. There were no hot air balloons, no crowded parking lot. They noticed other cars driving out of the ranch onto a road where “No Trespassing” signs were posted.
They also turned around and made the two-hour drive home.
“It was a little discouraging,” Shanon said.
After that, the Stenches tried the phone number and email address associated with the event, but hit dead ends. Shanon reached out to Little Everglades Ranch on Facebook. Bart Rice, the ranch owner, replied that the event was not scheduled for this weekend. He gave her the contact details of Richard Garvie, CEO of Easy Events Group, the parent company of The Balloon Glow Tour.
Rice confirmed to Time over the phone that the February event was scheduled at the ranch, but was canceled and not rescheduled for December. He said the ranch received about seven inquiries about the December event, including two from people who had purchased tickets.
The event was listed on the calendars of several websites, including in the Time‘ Database of things to do. It was submitted in February by an outside user with contact information listed as The Balloon Glow Tour, with an email address associated with Easy Events Group and an out-of-service phone number. The February event was also submitted with the same contact information a few days earlier.
the Time contacted Garvie by phone, who said his company never rescheduled the event and did not understand how it got added to the rosters. He pointed out that the Tampa event was not listed on The Balloon Glow Tour’s website or Facebook page (called the Balloon Glow Tour), which are the main places where they promote the events. He said they hadn’t sold tickets for the December event, so if people bought tickets specifically for the December weekend it would be “concerning”.
Garvie said he would review his company’s use of Eventbrite to ensure their events weren’t listed in the future, and that he would speak to the people who run The Balloon Glow Tour’s Facebook page. He said that when rescheduling events without a date, sometimes the people editing the ticketing database will “push it” to another date, pending confirmation.
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He called the incident unfortunate and immediately contacted the Stenches to reimburse them. Anyone who purchased tickets for the December event can get a refund by emailing Garvie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shanon said that in the future she would avoid events that use third parties for ticketing.
“Another thing I would do, and that’s my thing now, I would call the location,” she said.