Festival ground complaints brought to board

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Sep 06, 2013
The Popcorn Sutton Jam, now in its fourth year, attracts a big crowd to the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds.

Several people called for the resignation of Maggie Valley Festival Grounds director Audrey Hager during an Aug. 29 board of aldermen meeting.

“I want her to resign or I want you to fire her,” said Becky Ramey, one of the event organizers for the annual Popcorn Sutton Jam.

Ramey and other organizers Terry Frady and Michael Gemme pointed out a number of problems they had with Hager while holding their events at the festival grounds.

Ramey said the receipts for tickets that people were purchasing online through EventBrite.com were being sent to one of the organizers with everyone’s name, address and credit card information attached. She said she told Hager that it needed to be corrected but claimed Hager never addressed the problem.

Ramey specified that $1 from online ticket sales for the event would go to Sarge’s Animal Rescue because she is an animal lover. However, she said Hager tried to go behind her back and give it to another organization.

“I want her to be fired plain and simple,” Ramey said. “She is not a festival director — she is a two face.”

Ramey also claimed Hager informed her that she didn’t need to sign the application and contract for this year’s event because she and Pam Sutton were partners. Since Sutton was the only one to sign the contract, she said all the money would go to Sutton even though she did all the work.

Hager was not at the meeting to defend herself against accusations. In a follow-up interview on Wednesday, Hager said it was simply a dispute between the promoter partners and she didn’t want to get in the middle of it.

She said no money has been paid to anyone yet from the Popcorn Sutton Jam because she is still working on getting all the receipts. But in year’s past, different partners have signed the contract and they decided amongst themselves who got the money.

As for the event tickets, Hager said all three promotors for the jam asked to be copied on the ticket sales so she added all their emails to the administrative side enabling them to receive information. She set it up with the help of an Eventbrite associate and when she learned about the problem, she called Eventbrite to fix it.

“We thought it was fixed but apparently not. I am working with Eventbrite to find out what went wrong,” Hager said. Eventbrite is a great company. I am sure we will find the glitch…most likely human as I am learning. I am going to work through the winter to train so it does not happen again.”

Mayor Ron DeSimone said at the beginning of the meeting that he was aware of some issues that came up during the Matt Stillwell concert on Aug. 10 and that the board would be reviewing festival ground policies.

Charlie Meadows, owner of Lucky Jake’s Nightclub and also a member of the town parks and festival committee, had booked Matt Stillwell to play at his establishment Aug. 10. However, Stillwell’s management needed a larger venue because a record label wanted to hear him perform. Meadows said he really wanted to keep the concert in Maggie so he talked to Hager about holding the event at the festival grounds.

The board of alderman agreed to allow the event since nothing else was scheduled.

Hager said she applied for an alcohol-serving permit through the state like she does for many events, but for the first time ever, it was denied a week before the show. She said new interpretations of the alcohol permit regulations by ABC officials indicated that a nonprofit must preside over the event and receive 100 percent of the alcohol profits.

The permit change also meant that the town would have to foot the bill upfront for Meadows’ event. Hager said Meadows’ contract stated that he would reimburse the town for all the expenses paid by the town for the concert.

Hager said she spoke with the mayor and Alderman Phillip Wight about the situation and they were in favor of moving forward with the event, but the entire board didn’t vote on the issue because of the short timeline.

“We had some complaints that we we’re financing that (show) for Charlie, but that really wasn’t true,” DeSimone said. “Obviously some decisions were made at the end that were questionable.”

He added that he was still looking over the policies to see if any wrongdoing occurred and it would be addressed at a future meeting.

Meadows will be sent an invoice for the expenses, which he said could be about $3,000. He said he was fine with paying the cost once he gets the bill because it brought in 800 people that spent money around town.

“I am all about bringing people to Maggie Valley and when I saw the opportunity to lose a concert to Fletcher or the opportunity to put Maggie Valley in the spotlight, I jumped at it. I put my neck out on the line,” he said. Meadows is also running for a seat on the board of aldermen.