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Winter Wonderland in Detling apologise and say show go ahead on after traffic chaos on Friday


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Organisers of a festive event that turned away dozens of families caught in four-hour queues have apologised in their first interview since the disastrous evening.

Visitors to the Winter Wonderland at Detling Showground, Maidstone, yesterday were stuck in gridlocked traffic along the A249 as they attempted to get onto the site.

People were stuck in traffic for hours as they tried to reach the event
People were stuck in traffic for hours as they tried to reach the event

Many are demanding they get their money back following the frustrating experience on the dual carriageway, as several people were unable to get in before it closed.

Bosses of organiser Phoenix Fireworks say they have started issuing refunds - but claim they have learned from the mistakes of last night.

Operations director Will Defries said: "On our opening night yesterday, we did encounter some problems.

"As event organisers, we have put a lot of measures back in place - we’ve redesigned the Winter Wonderland concert experience, moved some of the attractions and moved some of the live acts.

“For people who did not make it into the experience last night, we’ve already started issuing refunds.

Phoenix Fireworks operations director Will Defries. Picture: UKNIP
Phoenix Fireworks operations director Will Defries. Picture: UKNIP

"We also have tickets available for the Monday and the Tuesday, so if they would like to re-book and come back to experience what they should have experienced on Friday night, we would love to have them here.

“We are terribly sorry that they didn’t get to have the experience that they were meant to.”

Phoenix Fireworks will press ahead and hold the second night of the event today.

It is also scheduled to take place on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday - but the expected tightening of coronavirus restrictions could prevent it from going ahead on those days.

The event had been billed as a Covid-safe "whimsical Christmas tour" with guests driving along a winter-themed trail.

Infuriated drivers stuck along Detling Hill tonight. Picture: UK News in Pictures
Infuriated drivers stuck along Detling Hill tonight. Picture: UK News in Pictures

Children could wave at Santa from their cars, post their letters to the North Pole and watch a fireworks display from a designated parking space.

They were also promised a food village and other "enchanting surprises".

Instead, furious visitors spent their evenings in tailbacks that stretched along the A249 to Eclipse Park, near junction 7 of the M20.

Angry Kay Shoebridge added: "Phoenix Fireworks, you need to issue refunds for those of us who couldn't even get close."

Meanwhile, Melissa Whitehead, who has tickets for the event on Monday, added: "What assurances can you give that the opening night failures can be put right?

One of the attractions at the Winter Wonderland event
One of the attractions at the Winter Wonderland event

"I hope you will be offering apologies and refunds to those unable to access the event.

"People hoping to give their children a bit of festive fun and get into the Christmas spirit during an already difficult and stressful time have had a nightmare of an evening."

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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