Aida Hodkinson paid $200 (plus $26 HST) to register as a vendor at Nordstock music festival. She lost the money when the festival was cancelled.
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If the original Woodstock was “three days of love and music,” Ottawa’s troubled “Nordstock” 50th anniversary tribute has been nothing but headaches for vendors like Aida Hodkinson.Hodkinson has filed a report with Ottawa police after being told by organizers of the now-scrubbed festival that the $226 she paid to register to sell her vintage clothing in the festival’s “Love Market” won’t be refunded. Nordstock was to have been held this weekend.“I signed up and paid my fee on July 12, and by July 24 it had been cancelled,” Hodkinson said in an interview Thursday.Originally named Woodstock North when it was announced last fall by organizers Tim Laflamme, Fenton Brothers guitarist John Fenton and retired businessman Larry Johnson, the festival rebranded as Nordstock after the trio got a cease and desist letter from the original Woodstock copyright holders. Nordstock’s corporate entity, W50, booked tribute bands of many of the original Woodstock performers such as The Who, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix — even “I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates …” singer Melanie — and rented space at Lansdowne Park with the Great Lawn for the music and the Horticultural Hall for the Love Market.Poor ticket sales and spiralling costs caused organizers to pull the plug.“I’ve been on the fence whether I wanted to pursue accountability or just cut my losses,” Hodkinson said. “But there’s quite a few people impacted and, after thinking about it, I decided to put my energy into holding Tim Laflamme and W50 accountable for this.”While $226 is a significant loss for her resale shop, Lady Arkenstone Vintage, even worse for Hodkinson is that she had encouraged many of her friends to register as vendors, too.“This cancellation has impacted my reputation because I reached out to my email list of vendors saying, ‘We’re going to be here. You should come, too,’ ” she said.Laflamme, who is the only one of the three original organizers with festival experience, said Thursday that many people had been given refunds, but there was no more money for the rest. He claims to have sunk $15,000 of his own into the festival in the weeks before it was cancelled.“We were able to provide refunds to all of the ticket holders and we were providing refunds to some of our suppliers — some of the food trucks — but ultimately there was only so much money available,” Laflamme said.“The majority” of the festival’s three full-time and five part-time employees have also been paid, he said.Laflamme said the festival originally estimated it would need 5,000 ticket sales to break even. Another run-through of the finances in May showed that costs had jumped significantly, pushing the break-even mark to 7,500.“There was a substantial increase in the number to break even and the risk analysis just didn’t support it,” he said. “We were close to about 4,500 (in advance ticket sales). We knew that we would sell tickets the day of and it seemed like a worthwhile risk when you just need a couple of hundred more. But when you got to needing 3,000 more, it just didn’t seem worth the risk.”Most of the festival’s money was tied up in non-refundable deposits to rent the space and book the music.Laflamme said he tried and failed to get his deposits back from the city (“We got the usual business answer: ‘You signed a contract, you knew the terms’) and the bands (“The answer I got was, ‘We gave up some gigs for this and since we’re not playing anymore we’re actually at a loss.’ I totally understand that.”).But despite Laflamme’s claims, some ticket holders were still out money. Alice Cullen said she spent $63.63 for a ticket, but was told in an email from W50 Nordstock Corporation that she should ask her credit card company for a refund. She’s opened a claim with her bank, but doesn’t hold much hope that she’ll see a refund.“I am (angry) but at the same time, too, I am hearing that this summer has been really bad for festivals going belly up,” Cullen said in an online exchange. “I do hope for the best for the organizers. This was all for good fun. Certainly no big money to be made here.”Laflamme said he hopes to make it up to the vendors like Hodkinson who lost money in other ways, maybe by offering them spots in other ventures or helping promote their sales in other ways.Has he learned any lessons from Nordstock’s failure?“That’s a loaded question. The reality of it is … O,h man, I don’t know. … Will I go right back into music and try to put on another music festival? Probably not.“I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve been burnt for tens of thousands of dollars before, but there’s only so much that can be done.“It sucks.”email@example.comTwitter.com/getBACALSO IN THE NEWS:City not concerned Stage 2 legal adviser also represents SNC-LavalinSenators Foundation donates $95,000 to city day campsOne man charged after handgun found in car in Carlington