Ticket holders for a Christmas-themed experience that's being described as the “Fyre Festival of kid's Santa events” were left disappointed after the event proved to be far removed from what was initially advertised.
The Santa’s Winter Village event, hosted at the Colonnades shopping center in Adelaide, South Australia, was criticized by angry parents who called the entire operation “cheap,” “tacky,” and a “scam.”
The installation was advertised to run Dec. 12–23 but has now been paused following negative feedback over the experience and costs.
In a statement on the shopping center's Facebook account, a spokesperson said that they had been in touch with the relevant team to discuss “concerns” and concluded that the event did not meet expectations.
“We have arranged with the team at The Ice Skating Edge to close Santa’s Winter Village today, stop selling tickets to the event and arrange refunds for those who have been disappointed by the event,” the message read. “We’ve listened to your feedback and, we agree, Santa’s Winter Village does not meet the expectations of our customers, the broader community or our team at Colonnades and we apologise for the disappointment and inconvenience this has caused our customers.”
Attendees were initially promised a variety of activities all under one roof, including a giant candy lane game, a special Christmas ice show, and the opportunity to meet Santa in the "enchanted forest."
Instead, customers were welcomed into an under-decorated warehouse with a makeshift maze, cardboard attractions, and several DIY pieces plotted throughout. One parent shared photos of the setup on Facebook.
“Looking at the photos all you see is cheap and tacky Christmas decorations, so very disappointed,” wrote the parent, who had purchased tickets and was initially denied a refund.
Tickets for the experience began at $27 per person; a package deal for a family of four was $92, plus a booking fee.
Tom Tanuki, whose tweet comparing the event to the now-infamous Fyre Festival went viral, told BuzzFeed News via Twitter that while he may have initially criticized the setup, he was actually a fan and hailed it as an embodiment of “the true spirit of Christmas.”
“I know I said it was like a kid's Santa Fyre Festival, but I thought that was good," he said. "I want that. Kids are fine with shit stuff. They make their own fun."
He even started a petition calling for Santa's Winter Village to resume business.
“I actually think that the government should subsidize it so that these grifters can get their bag and parents can subject their children to it for free," he said. "Hopefully the petition takes off so hard that the government realizes the merit of this.”
Tanuki, who lives an eight-hour drive away from the event, said he would have seriously considered attending the Winter Village if not for its abrupt closure.
"I'd really have considered travelling an entire state's distance ... just to see this thing. It looked beautiful," he said.
BuzzFeed News contacted the Colonnades shopping center for additional comment.