Ticket holders ‘frustrated’ after Ontario township denies permit for music festival just weeks away

A popular electronic dance music festival in Ontario was denied a special event permit by local council just a few weeks before it’s set to take place — leaving many ticket holders demanding answers and calling for refunds.

The Ever After festival, a three-day event, is scheduled to kick off on Aug. 12 with thousands of people anticipating its long-awaited return.

Due for its sixth edition this year after a two-year hiatus as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival announced in March that it had moved venue locations from Bingemans in Kitchener, Ont., to Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, a township north of Barrie.

But last week, township council said it will not be issuing a special event permit due to concerns around operational planning of the music festival. On Thursday, exactly one week after council’s decision, organizers took to social media to notify ticket holders that it will appeal the decision.

“We are aware of the denial of the special events permit at this time from the Township of Oro-Medonte meeting last week,” Ever After festival said in a tweet Thursday.

“However, there is an appeals process that we are currently undergoing as well as reviewing other options to ensure that EAMF occurs in 2022.”

A spokesperson for the township told CBC Toronto there is no appeal process as of Thursday.

Ever After Music Festival posted to Twitter acknowledging the permit refusal but said it is appealing the decision and ‘reviewing other options to ensure that EAMF occurs in 2022.’ (EverAfterFest/Twitter)

The festival said in the meantime, it will be “proceeding as planned” and will provide updates as it has more information.

CBC Toronto reached out to Ever After festival but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Ticketholders call for refunds

The news has left many people like Cyla Daniels feeling confused and disappointed, who paid for her ticket in 2019 and has been waiting to go.

“Two weeks before and they haven’t even given us an option to get a refund …. they’re really not telling us anything,” Daniels told CBC Toronto. “I opted out of going to a lot of concerts this summer because I wanted to dedicate my summer to Ever After.”

Daniels has been attending the music festival with her group of friends since 2015.

“It’s really frustrating … we go every year. All of us. We go together,” she said.

“We used to go with my one friend who actually passed away, so now we go in his memory.”

Cyla Daniels at Ever After Music Festival in 2019. (Submitted by Cyla Daniels)

In a report brought to Oro-Medonte council on July 25, township staff recommended that council not issue a special event permit for the Ever After festival, citing concern expressed from involved agencies around the safety and operations planning of the music festival.

During the special council meeting, Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes said the third-party organizers are required to provide an operational plan which meets the requirements and comfort level of the Ontario Provincial Police, Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, Simcoe County Paramedics and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

“There isn’t time that I can see to be able to rectify these issues,” Hughes said.

“Our first and foremost priority has to be to foster a safer community,” Coun. Shawn Scott added.

“The reports that come from the OPP, the Simcoe District Health Unit, the AGCO, our own EMS, municipal law … it’s clear that all of those entities do not support this.”

‘Looks like it’s going to be a never after’

Moon Newhook lives in Kitchener and has been attending the festival with her daughter since 2016. 

Newhook, a pharmacy technician, said taking time off is difficult for her and her daughter who works as a nurse, but they made sure to plan ahead for the festival in August, despite the change in venue.

“Everything’s up in the air. Everything’s on hold. I don’t know whether I need to cancel my hotel,” Newhook said.

“I’m upset. I’m frustrated and angry. It’s a lot of mixed emotions.”

Moon Newhook, right, and her daughter Malhica Inthavong, left, at Ever After fest in Kitchener in 2016. The mother-daughter duo have made the festival an annual tradition since then and Newhook says she is disappointed it might not happen this year. (Submitted by Moon Newhook)

With upwards of $3,000 spent on VIP tickets and accommodation, Newhook said the festival should have notified ticket holders earlier.

“Right now it looks like it’s going to be a never after.”

Kevin Theriault who lives in Dartmouth, N.S., bought his ticket to attend the festival in May. 

Theriault said he has spent nearly $2,000 on the ticket, a rental car, flights and accommodations.

“It was a bit of a letdown to know that it’s basically not happening,” Theriault said.

“Everybody really wanted to go. It’s hard to find these types of events especially where I’m from, they just don’t happen here and then they’re kind of far and few between, even in Ontario.”

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