Chaos erupts as Disney-themed market goes off the rails in Mississauga
Tensions reached a boiling point at a Disney-inspired event in Mississauga on Sunday, when huge lines and overcrowded parking lots blocked multiple fire safety routes.
The event, titled, "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes," was set to take place on Jan. 29 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Mississauga Convention Centre.
According to the event planner, Elevated Society Market, there would be over 70 local artisans, free face-painting and "15 Disney characters to meet and greet," with "all your favourite Disney movie hits playing as you enjoy your day shopping local."
There was also a grand prize draw to win a family trip for four to Disneyland, and a portion of the ticket proceeds were donated to The Make A Wish Foundation.
On Sunday, crowds of Disney fans (some with tickets, others without) flocked to the convention centre, leading to heavy traffic, clogged parking lots, and an angry line of cold parents and children waiting patiently to get inside.
London resident and event attendee Meagan said she purchased her tickets two and a half weeks before the event. After coming across a few Facebook ads, Meagan told blogTO she was under the impression that the market was Disney-themed.
According to Meagan, the disaster began once she got off the highway on Derry Road.
"People from the middle lane were cutting right and trying to jam their way into the gridlock," she told blogTO. "There was so many accidents we almost witnessed because people were just being so ruthless."
After making her way out of traffic, Meagan said the convention centre's parking lot was so packed and full of snow, she was forced to park at a neighbouring lot, and even had to climb over a snowbank with a stroller to make her way to the event.
Meagan and her family waited in line for 2.5 hours before getting to the door, with many ticket-holders growing more aggressive by the hour.
"I watched a couple of grown men bumping each other about to fight because they were trying to get their kids in the building because the kids were screaming because their feet were frozen. It was so bad," she said.
After some time, Meagan said that some people in line were told that the event had reached its capacity and no one else would be let inside.
@CityNewsTO stuck in a hallway for 2hrs and 45 minutes with thousands of people unable to move, emergency exits blocked at the Disney event in Mississauga. Fire and police on scene clearing out crowds. pic.twitter.com/2IcqHxzN3c— Cassie (@cassiesegrob) January 29, 2023
"People started getting angry behind us, and they're like 'we're going to rush the doors' and I was like oh my God, people are going to riot," she told blogTO. "They've been standing in the cold for two hours and you're going to come out and tell them and their kids they can't come in? Good luck."
Eventually, Mississauga Fire Services and the Peel Regional Police showed up to the event.
"The fire marshals were walking around writing down all the violations because there was vendors that were blocking exits and fire routes and the front doors," Meagan said.
"They kept making announcements the whole time we were shopping to move their vehicles or leave. Every five to ten minutes would be another announcement asking this license plate, this make or model to move, you're in a fire route."
Following the event, dozens of ticket-holders took to Elevated Society Market's Instagram to demand refunds, causing the event planner to turn off their comments.
"For all of those who are confused or are looking for an explanation as to what happened, it's simple. Numerous complaints through social media about parking in fire routes, double parking, and not being able to find parking alerted the fire department to inspect the property," Elevated Society wrote in a statement to their Instagram stories.
"I'd like to just say that the lack of salt of the sidewalks, the surplus of puddles and snow on the road, the venue not having adequate parking spaces for two big events that were allowed to be double booked on the same day, the fire department showing up because they were alerted by parking complaints and any an all arguments or disagreements in the parking lot due to lack of parking is NOT our fault."
@HarrisonCook97 are you trying to cover the disney market that took place in mississauga this past sunday? It was a total scam. The convention hall only hosts 2400 guests and she sold way over capacity and all she had to say was the parking was bad and blamed the attendees.— Sara Lemstra (@Sara_Lemstra) January 31, 2023
Elevated Society Market maintained that the market was not shut down, and ran until 5 p.m. just as it was scheduled.
"The convention centre did not have adequate staff to facilitate where people were to be directed for which event. Therefore, the lines were mixed up," the statement continued.
"There was no supervisor or member of convention centre staff keeping track of the building occupancy either, so things quickly escalated once the fire department saw the entire building was at capacity."
Elevated Society Market also reiterated that tickets were non-refundable 30 days prior to the event.
"I believe I tried my very best to work hard and diligently with the Mississauga Fire Department and Peel Regional Police to ensure that not all families would be turned away for the day," the statement read. "The majority of the lineup that was there were not even ticket holders."
The event planner also addressed some claims that the market was not Disney-themed or inspired.
"At no point in time did the Elevated Society Market state that there were going to be all Disney items, or the majority of the items would be Disney."
Meagan told blogTO that she believes the event planner should be refunding guests, because so many people left, walked out, or couldn't stay in line because their kids were frozen.
"If the convention centre, she says, was at fault for double booking and not allowing so much space, they're both really at fault here. But the event planner was so misleading," she said. "She wouldn't have had such a big turnout and such a shit show had she not heavily advertised that it was a Disney theme."
blogTO reached out to the Mississauga Convention Centre and Elevated Society Market for comment but did not receive a statement in time for this article.
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