Jack McGahee, director of Advanced Home Health Care, recalls with angst the brutal four days in the sun at the 2013 Northwest RibFest in Nampa last month.
“There was no shade at all, and we were just sweating,” he says.
So, when he received a notification that his credit card had been charged $250 by Knock Out Promotions, – a company registered to Kasey Thompson. Thompson is also the registered agent for Idaho Promotions Group LLC. McGahee started asking questions.
“Apparently, they assumed that I left early from the event,” McGahee says. “We were there the whole time, while others opted to leave early.”
Following this complaint, and many more about the Help Idaho and Idaho Promotions Group 2013 Northwest RibFest on June 27-30, BBB began an investigation that has turned up bounced checks, exaggerated claims and broken promises.
“I would expect that is only for the ones who left early,” says Randal Nelson, director of Help Idaho, referring to the $250 charged to McGahee. “I mean people who didn’t leave early certainly should not be getting that fee.”
Nelson clarified that the charges depend on who sold the booth space, about how they would be charged. “If Help Idaho signed them, then we’ll be charging them the early leaving fee, as was stated in the contract,” he says.
The confusion of who does what is a key frustration, says Jim Brooks, of Tweekerz, a vendor at the event.
“From the time we were told the event had been canceled, changed and moved,” he says. “When we showed up Thursday night, it was disorganized.”
But, BBB has found that disorganization goes back to the start of this year’s event. BBQ rule books, downloaded from northwestribfest.com on July 11, appeared to have been copied, dates changed and phone numbers updated from the 2012 event.
Nelson said he was not aware the Kansas City Barbecue Society logo was on competition booklets retrieved from its website.
“I thought we’d taken all of those down,” he says.
In addition, there was confusion over the venue. Up until two weeks before the event, it was being promoted as being held in Meridian. Suddenly, it was moved to the Idaho Center.
Kasey Thompson, owner of Idaho Promotions Group, had promoted and sold the event promising attendance of 100,000 at the Kleiner Park, Meridian. After city officials refused to issue permits, the venue was changed to the Idaho Center.
“Here is the contract I was sent and [it] clearly states how the venue was supposed to be Kleiner Park and what their expectations was to visitors to the event,” says Sharron Pence, of Nerium, who participated in the RibFest.
Thompson’s response was, in an email, “Last year our biggest complaint was the lack of vendors to support the massive attendance. We tried to reconcile this issue with increasing the number of vendors; however, with the temperature issue this didn’t work.”
“To blame it on the weather is a joke!” says Kona Ice Treasure Valley owner Colleen Sitz. “Our much smaller vehicle was at the Meridian Art Fair the weekend for two days and did over $1,000. Weird – same weather there. Plus, I guarantee they didn’t spend $130,000 in advertising either to bring in the customers for their event.” An email from Kasey Thompson to vendors dated June 30, claimed Idaho Promotions group increased its event budget to $130,000 this year.
BBQ competitors complained also about the lack of communication between promoter and entrants.
“I was told there were going to be seven people selling BBQ,” says Mark Grant, with Porky Chicks BBQ, in Fayetteville, Ark. “When I showed up, there were 20 or 21 BBQ sellers. So, after driving 2,000 miles to get there I have been lied to.”
BBB discovered more than $2,700 in underfunded checks to the headline performers. Gary Burns of Brand Entertainment in Nashville, Tenn., confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that a check given to Ty Herndon bounced due to insufficient funds. Burns said he expected checks to Billy Dean, Led Zeppelin Live and Journey Unauthorized to bounce as well.
The Better Business Bureau determined Idaho Promotions Group has an F rating.
“That ‘F rating’ is specifically given because they haven’t been responsive to a complaint.,” BBB CEO Dale Dixon said.