When WinterFest launched two weeks ago in the parking lot of the Brooklyn Museum, promoters promised a "world of holiday joy and wonder." It was supposed to be a holiday extravaganza—you could skip the trip to the Union Square Holiday Market because this would be your "one-stop-shop for unique local craft, gifts and more, making it the perfect day and evening outing for families, friends and colleagues."
Unfortunately, it turned out to be less of a "perfect day" for some customers, and more of a "dear God how did everything go so wrong so quickly" kinda day. Visitors have complained about incomplete attractions (including a headless Little Drummer Boy) and claimed that the paid attractions were rip-offs; a few vendors have dropped out because of allegedly shoddy organizing.
"The 'paid attractions' are a complete scam," Julia Kopelson commented on Bklyner about the event. "Those few that were not outright absent are not as described (ex: the immersive chocolate experience is actually a cup of instant cocoa and a Tupperware of fun size Halloween candy, the ‘Santa Museum’ is a gator board with some facts printed on it). Pretty outrageous for $20/adult and $15/kid."
Although initial entry to the festival (and vendors) is free, access to other parts of the event—including a tree maze, an outdoor exhibit about the origin of Santa Claus, and a chocolate dome serving hot chocolate and chocolate bars—costs money. According to the Post, the WinterFest website sold tickets during the week for features that weren't open and passes to avoid lines that didn't exist. Most of the complaints seemed to focus on some of the packages, including a $79 "Romantic Date Package," a $42 "Family Package" and a $40 "Sommelier Tasting Package."
As the Post reports, "the tasting consisted of four wines — one that retails for less than $10 — plus the mulled wine and nothing else. The 'North Pole' was closed due to 'technical difficulties.'"
One vendor who dropped out, Libby Farrow, told them there were no signs to the market and power problems for the vendors' stalls. "We would never have agreed to participate in that market had we known what it actually was," she said. "It was a shock."
Farrow claims that organizer Lena Romanova agreed to refund her $6,500, and then reneged. The other vendor who dropped out, Pamela Barsky, said she had taken her concerns to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. "Everybody got scammed," she added.
Brooklyn Museum clarified in a statement that they were not involved with organizing the event:
The market's organizers have temporarily licensed the use of a portion of our parking lot for the purpose of presenting a 5-week holiday market. We had every hope and expectation that Winterfest would be a fun and successful event for the community, local businesses, and families during the holiday season. We are extremely disappointed that the organizers have failed to live up to their promises and we have conveyed our concerns to them. Specifically, we have demanded that they make immediate changes to the overall look and feel of the event, and we have demanded that they stop selling tickets and make all attractions free of charge. We have also asked that they provide refunds to frustrated visitors who have already purchased tickets.
Today, WinterFest spokesperson Jennifer Crosby told Gothamist that in response to the complaints, they will now make all attractions free to the public starting this Thursday, December 6th and until Winterfest closes on the last day of December. "Original paid tickets to the attractions included free hot chocolate for all, free photo with Santa and complementary [sic] wine glass for Adult Tickets," Crosby said. "Fee visitors, however, were unsatisfied. Since then, refunds have been issued to all visitors who previously paid for attractions but couldn’t access them."
"We have been very disappointed in our local event production and management companies SeekEvents and Massai Marketing, and as such we terminated their contracts and hired a new event manager," Crosby added. They will offer three chalets to use by Brooklyn charities on a rotating basis (which will be announced later this week). And instead of being open six or seven days of the week, it will now be open Thursday to Sunday only (1-8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays).