Costly collapse of 'Winter Wonderland'


The cancellation of a children's "Winter Wonderland" event has left many people fearing that they have lost the money they paid for tickets as the organisers could not be contacted yesterday.

As news of the cancellation spread, people who had purchased tickets tried to contact the organisers, but the event's website and public contact numbers were not operating.

With tickets at €28 each, a possible €2.8 million could have been raised if the projected attendance level of 100,000 had been reached.

Many of those buying tickets are families who have spent over €200 for their group. The public have paid by cheque, credit card and postal order.

There were indications last night that people who had bought tickets with AIB credit cards could be refunded by AIB.

The event was organised by Mr Adrian Smith and was scheduled to take place at the Curragh Racecourse in December. There was to have been a massive marquee with different areas of entertainment.

In order to publicise the event, Mr Smith took out advertising on RTÉ Radio and 98FM. Both stations have incurred losses, as the ads have not been paid for.

RTÉ's director of sales and marketing, Ms Geraldine O'Leary, said that the station had lost about €20,000.

The Curragh Racecourse received a Fax on Monday of this week from Mr Smith saying that the event had been cancelled "due to circumstances beyond my control".

Mr Smith, a man in his 30s with a southern English accent, has a house called Killenure Manor on the Portarlington road about four miles outside Monasterevin, Co Kildare. It is a large house with gardens.

According to some local sources, a bed-and-breakfast and restaurant was run there for some time.

Last night, Mr Smith's mobile number had a permanent engaged signal and his home number had a message service in which Mr Smith spoke his name but gave no opportunity to leave a message before disconnecting.

The press officer of the Curragh Raceourse, Mr Evan Arkwright, said yesterday that they had taken the booking in good faith.

"The whole thing is awful. It's terrible for the people who bought tickets. Mr Smith did tell us that everybody would be refunded. People are ringing us because they can't get any other lines, but we only rented the space," he said.

Not only was Mr Smith going to stage the Christmas event, he was also planning to open it to charities and schools a week before the official opening date.

"He said half the proceeds would be going to local charities. We were told by the organisers that it would be a very substantial event. He was talking about over 100,000 people," Mr Arkwright said.

Mr Smith had paid a booking deposit, but they had been let down as they could have taken bookings for other non-racing events.

Yesterday, RTÉ's Liveline programme was inundated with calls from people from all over the Republic who had bought tickets.

A spokesperson for AIB said that if anybody had booked a ticket with an AIB credit card then the money would be refunded as soon as the bank was officially notified that the event had been cancelled.

Last night, a spokesman for the Garda Press Office said that a few complaints had been made to them concerning ticket refunds. He advised people to contact gardaí if they failed to secure a refund.

Yesterday, in a statement, the organisers of "Santa's Kingdom", which takes place in the Punchestown Exhibition Centre in Co Kildare from November 22nd onwards, stressed that it had no association whatsoever with "Winter Wonderland" or its associates.