ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Several ticketholders are outraged and out of options after Flambeau Fest failed to deliver a follow-up concert in March or hand out refunds for a show they missed in 2017. Many are now growing increasingly concerned about the future of the event and claim organizers have once again gone silent as the concert misses a second deadline.
"I’ve emailed them and I’ve tried to call, but they’ve said nothing,” said Anjelle Tiliakos.
Tiliakos is just one of many ticketholders who paid for a concert they never got to see in October of 2017. Promoters with PI Entertainment, the company behind the festival, promised then they would take care of fans by offering refunds or the option to upgrade to a VIP experience at the event scheduled in 2018.
Since that initial promise, the Flambeau Fest Facebook page has been littered with comments from folks who are growing increasingly desperate for answers.
“They’re just ignoring all of us,” said Tiliakos. “It’s like they said, ‘Hey we got our money and we did our thing. It’s over and done and we’re not worried about you.’ That’s basically how I feel.”
This is not the first time frustrated fans have reached out to WAFB’s Scottie Hunter. Courtney Hebert came forward in 2018 with similar claims that she and her sister spent more than $300 on a pair of tickets to the weekend event before things went south.
“They were quick to communicate with us that they were going to issue refunds for the Saturday that we missed, but then it kind of got confusing and the communication got a little blurred,” Hebert said.
It was only after the 9News Investigators first started trying to track down the owner of PI Entertainment, Mark Miller, that he provided an update. He did not agree to an interview at the time, but promised fans on Facebook the festival was going to return. Miller announced online the concert would happen in March of 2019. Those behind the event vowed to provide more details, but now, March has come and gone without a concert or an explanation.
“I think they just said that and hoped we would all forget about it. Honestly, I don’t think they ever had a plan of doing this in March and so I feel like this has just been a huge ripoff and a huge scam,” said Tiliakos. “I feel like the artists got their money, but I didn’t get anything for what I paid for.”
The Flambeau team took to Facebook on Friday, Mar. 29, promising fans the event is still coming. The update does not mention the status of any pending refunds, the specific progress on a future concert, or an explanation for why they fell short in March. By the way, this latest scrap of information came only after WAFB’s Scottie Hunter reached out to Miller two days before via phone and email requesting an interview about the event’s future.
Miller did not agree to an interview, but responded to WAFB’s Scottie Hunter with an email which reads, “We’re in constant contact with our partner, venue and team at Lamar Dixon and are collectively working toward and planning Flambeau Fest 2. The team’s sole focus is to continue to deliver the very high quality artist and fan experience of the inaugural Flambeau Fest on Ascension Fields at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center.”
Some fans now say they deserve better and no longer have confidence in the concert or those behind it.
"I don't really believe that and at this point, I don't even think I would want to go," said Tiliakos.
Flambeau Fest was promised as the event of the decade. It was advertised as a weekend of music that would boost economic development while also highlighting Ascension Parish as an ideal event destination. The Ascension Parish government even invested in the concert and a number of area businesses and elected leaders endorsed it.
Mother Nature had other plans for the October weekend that organizers chose though and Hurricane Nate forced them to scale back the two-day event to one. That change is something Kyle Rogers, general manager of the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, admits delivered a harsh blow to the event’s debut.
"They’ve verbalized that they took a loss on the show and it was a substantial loss,” said Rogers.
Despite the loss, he’s confident in the event’s future judging by how well it did out of the gate.
“It showcased us in a world class festival atmosphere,” Rogers explained. “I can tell you that, which is very rare, we had a festival of over 10,000 people and we had zero complaints on quality.”
Because of the last minute changes, not everyone was able to make it to the concert. Some of them now tell WAFB the mounting issue is PI Entertainment’s continued failure to provide adequate updates to ticketholders. Rogers says promoters only missed the March deadline to ensure quality.
"They felt like they had an 85 to 90 percent shot at having a March festival and the quality couldn’t be where they wanted it to be, so they kind of pulled the reins on it and people took it as a promise,” Rogers added.
The response falls flat for Tiliakos, who calls the explanation too little, too late. She also questions why that update did not come sooner and what continues to prevent managers with PI Entertainment from being transparent about changes. No one from the company has officially acknowledged missing the March deadline.
"When are they going to say that? If that's really and truly their plan, they need to let people know,” said Tiliakos. “This is fraud basically because I paid for a service that I didn't get."
Rogers promises the event will return in 2019, but as far as a date, even now, he admits nothing is set in stone. WAFB’s Scottie Hunter pressed Rogers about a timeline for the event and asked if he thought nearly two years without an adequate update from PI Entertainment was fair to ticketholders.
“A definite date doesn’t exist right now,” Rogers replied. “Also, if there’s no information to give [fans], what good would it do to give them nothing?”
Tiliakos argues it’s time out for what she considers empty promises and, at this point, she just wants to know why she and others cannot get a refund almost two years after the event many of them missed.
“After all this, I mean, I have no trust in whoever is putting this on. I still just feel like my money just went in somebody’s pocket and somebody needs to find out where the money is,” she added. “Somebody needs to find out what’s happening.”
A cooperative endeavor agreement obtained by the 9News Investigators reveals where some of the money should have gone. In the agreement, signed Mar. 24, 2017, the Lamar Dixon Expo Center agreed to pay promoters $250,000 to get them started on the $4.2 million event. In return, Ascension Parish would get a portion of sales from parking costs, tickets sales, food/beverage sales, etc. from the 18,000 tickets concert promoters expected to sell. Rogers admits they never collected that money.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter pressed Rogers about why Lamar Dixon paid thousands of dollars, but did not collect any money from the concert.
“Well, we got a major concert that put us on the map nationally,” he said. “Financially though, we did not collect anything from that particular show, but we will from the next festival.”
Even with that in mind, the parish and Lamar Dixon still chose to move forward with PI Entertainment. Rogers tells WAFB leaders got rid of the original cooperative endeavor agreement and cut a new deal with the company, rolling over similar terms to a new year. Documents obtained through a public records request support the claims, showing the Ascension Parish Council approved the new cooperative endeavor agreement at a meeting on Dec. 21, 2017.
“When the hurricane hit and Flambeau went from a two-day festival to a one-day festival, we paused that agreement and rolled it over to a second festival, so the future festival will pick up where that agreement left off,” Rogers added.
A year and a half later and still with no word on when that second concert might happen, people who paid for a concert they never got to see are demanding answers. They also say the public deserves to know where their money ended up.
"Was it the entertainment company or was it this Mark Miller?” Tiliakos questioned. “There’s no way to know who got the money and I guess at the end of the day, that’s what we all want to know is where it went.”
WAFB reached out to Miller to request an interview prior to this report, which he declined. After this report aired, Miller requested an interview with WAFB to clarify some details of the contract and event. That interview should take place in the coming days.