First there was the Fyre Festival, an infamous failure of forethought chronicled in the Netflix documentary Fyre, then the Untappd Beer Festival at Bank of America Stadium, which drew comparisons on the homefront. This past weekend, another planning quagmire occured in the Queen City, though it affected a more suburban crowd: the Charlotte Fall Home, Design & Remodeling Show.
The event, which showcased home repair and remodeling companies, was held at The Park & Expo Conference Center and was set to take place Sept. 6-8 — but it came to somewhat of a screeching halt on Saturday, Sept. 7. The 104,000-square-foot hall can accomodate 600 vendor booths at 10 feet each, with a massive amount of space left for patrons to peruse. It seems the space was not enough for event planners, NCI Shows, LLC, to stick around through the whole production.
NCI Shows is an event promotion company based in Atlanta, Georgia, that hosts events throughout the South. Some vendors from the show spoke with Queen City Nerve on Sunday after two days of embarrassingly low turnout led NCI organizers to simply not show up for the final day.
“They didn’t even show up today. There are people here from Vermont, Georgia, Michigan, Cleveland and Charleston. The lady from Charleston, while dealing with the damage on her house, she’s here paying for her hotel and has nothing,” said one of the 89 vendors working the show, “the organizers left on Saturday and never came back even though the event is from 11 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] on Sunday, too.”
Queen City Nerve viewed emails from before the event in which NCI Shows told vendors to expect anywhere between 8,000 and 11,000 attendees throughout the weekend, numbers that would justify vendor fees that ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Not even 100 attendees showed up, said the vendors on Sunday.
“People were angry because Friday they sold 20 tickets,” said an owner of a regional company who had signed up as a vendor. “Saturday they were letting people in free and a couple of the vendors approached them and were like, ‘Listen, we were promised 8-to-11,000 people and we haven’t even had 100 over the course of the whole weekend. That was on our paperwork. Maybe we hit a hundred, but it was all the people coming in free from the VegFest [held next door]; 6,000 people in the other room.”
The vendor went on to say that organizers stood outside of the VegFest as people left that event and asked them to come in for free. Many of them admitted that they were renters and were told that didn’t matter, just to come in and browse, according to the vendor.
Vendors complained that NCI had not advertised in the area prior to the event. “They told us that they had started radio and TV time 10 days out. We talked to some of the radio people and they said they were contacted on Thursday while we were here setting up,” another vendor told Queen City Nerve. “There was no advertising out, no signage.”
The NCI Shows website states: “With over 75 years of combined experience, home shows produced by NCI Shows, are among the highest quality shows in the southeast. Quality exhibitors and exciting features & giveaways attract quality buying crowds and bring them back year in and year out. Home shows provide the best and most measurable return on your marketing dollar. And we at NCI Shows, LLC are committed to making every show and every exhibitor as successful as possible.”
The website goes on to say that show attendees are qualified and have the means to make serious purchasing commitments at the show.
Despite early concerns about turnout, Sunday was when everything truly fell apart. That morning, vendors approached the empty ticket booth only to find a hand-written note left for the security team on how to proceed with the event for the remainder of the day.
Free Entrance – Today
Don’t worry about badges
No roll up door open until Fern removes the drapes in the back of show & aisle signs
After 5pm closing, not before,” states some of the note.
With event promoters and organizers nowhere to be found, vendors were left to fend for themselves. They took to Facebook in an effort to host a free Fall Home Show for anyone that would show up. Unfortunately, competing with the first Carolina Panthers home game made that difficult to pull off. By 3 p.m. on Sunday, 90% of the vendors were packed up and gone.
“Now it is a breach of contract because the promoters did not show up today,” said one exhausted vendor.
Before vendors left on Sunday, a petition went around the booths pushing for vendor fees to be returned. Some of those in attendance had already reached out to their attorneys to begin taking legal action.
“We paid $1,100 for a 10-by-10 booth for the whole weekend. That was the majority pricing for everyone. Some of the bigger ones went for around $3,800. We had to pay $150 for the weekend for electrical too,” said a vendor.
Another vendor added, “I have heard everywhere from $500 to almost $4,000 for the whole weekend in vendor fees.”
One vendor said that they were even charged for parking at the event, despite having done shows at Park Expo in the past and parking for free.
We reached out to NCI Shows for comment on the event turnout from the weekend and a response as to why they had left the site a day early. The full response was as follows: “At this time, because of everything that went on, and the threats, everything has been turned over to our attorney and we would love to comment but, unfortunately, we know the news and the newspaper. You’ll just turn it around to benefit the one side which we saw when [Fox46] went on and didn’t hear from the exhibitors that were doing their job and staying in their booths. So, we have decided that with the threats that we had at the show and stuff that we’ve never had in 15 years — we actually were told by the attorney to not answer anymore questions and that it is all in his hands. All of the video and all of the stuff that was taken, so, all the advertising — everything that was done — so we’re waiting for whatever it is they’ve decided to do there and to comment right now — you know, it’s marketing, I’ve paid newspapers like you before and got nothing out of it, other companies have — so it’s a crap shoot and that’s all you can do and hope that they come in.”
NCI Shows also produces the Knoxville Home, Design & Remodeling Show, as well as one in Fayetteville in spring.