Big Jam Sandwich: Family event branded 'Fyre Festival for toddlers'
Angry parents have labelled a children's activity day "Fyre Festival for toddlers" amid reports of overcrowding and "rip-off" prices.
Sunday's Big Jam Sandwich event in Southend had billed itself as a family day out for up to 5,000 people.
Visitors claimed they were treated like "cash cows" and faced queues "visible from the International Space Station".
Organiser Andy King admitted there were "teething problems" but said families had not been misled.
Thousands attended the event at Garon Park in the hope of seeing favourite characters such as Peppa Pig, Mr Bloom, and Ben and Holly.
But many later complained on social media of additional charges for activities, stalls running out of supplies and chaotic parking arrangements.
'People expect queues'
Simon Harris, who blogs as Man Behaving Dadly, attracted more than 750 comments when he reviewed the event on Facebook.
"A lot of people said it was like the Fyre Festival because of its shambolic nature," he said.
"But my feeling is general frustration that parents are looked at as nothing more than piggy banks."
Tickets were advertised as including "most activities", but face painters were charging up to £8 and fairground rides £4 per child, he said.
Kimberley Stevens paid £65 for a family ticket and then a further £50 on the day on activities and drinks for her children Max, five, and Addilyn, three.
"I felt like we spent £65 to walk around a field looking for something to do," said Miss Stevens, 31. "It was so overcrowded."
Organiser Mr King, of events company Under 20, said extra gates were opened to let people in faster, but defended the waits for attractions inside.
"Anybody who goes anywhere these days expects to have queues," he said. "Every act that was advertised was free of charge."
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Stallholders were charged £100 each and he did not profit from the fees they charged customers, he said.
Mr King asked unhappy visitors to email him, adding he would judge refund claims on a case-by-case basis.
The doomed Fyre Festival was advertised as an exclusive music event on an island in the Bahamas, with tickets costing up to £75,000.
But it descended into chaos as guests arrived to find the site still under construction and tents in place of promised luxury accommodation.