FARGO — David O'Toole and his wife drove down from Grand Forks to celebrate their anniversary at the Fargo Taco and Margarita Fest Saturday, May 1.
From the moment they entered the venue, something seemed off.
"We end up going inside and the very first thing I notice is how long the lines are," O'Toole said. "Very long, and the event promised eight different food vendors and all we saw were like two of them."
Screenshots of the Facebook event show it promised more than eight food trucks and multiple beverage stations. Instead, there was only one food truck and one margarita stand serving a crowd of several hundred at the North Dakota Horse Park.
O'Toole said customers had to pay for tickets with either cash or Venmo — not with a credit or debit card.
The couple spent nearly an hour in line for margaritas. They waited about another hour for tacos, but were later turned away. Many visitors online say the event ran out of food.
"On our way out of the event, we just found out that they were still selling VIP tickets," O'Toole said. "They looked like they were shutting them down at that point, but they were still selling them, so that means a lot of people were in much worse shape than we were."
O'Toole and several others took to social media, seeking answers and refunds. Many online are calling it the Fargo Fyre Festival, a play on the failed music festival that overpromised and didn't deliver.
The North Dakota Horse Park posted a statement to its Facebook page saying it had nothing to do with planning the event, and only leased the land. They posted the name of the man in charge, Adam Dobres, along with his phone number. It has a Tennessee area code. Dobres works with Kick'n Dirt Entertainment, based in El Paso, Texas.
Mike Schmitz of the Fargo Food Truck Festival believes Dobres is not from the area and does not normally host events here. Schmitz also posted Dobres' contact info, and said the Food Truck Festival was not involved.
"They weren't announcing the vendors, they only announced one vendor," Schmitz recalled. "People were asking them, who's coming. There's really no reason to not announce who's coming."
Horse park staff said some customers were able to get refunds. But many others say they still have not received a response from Dobres or Kick'N Dirt Entertainment. Instead of a refund, O'Toole got an email from Dobres, claiming he has no control of the money.
"We had a local partner in Fargo who sold the tickets and we're supposed to run event operations," the email reads. "That didn't go as 100% and we apologize to the full extent. We have zero control over money and are out thousands paying for tables/chair rentals, flights, hotels, marketing and paying for the VIP tacos to the 2 vendors along with bands. Please contact your bank for a dispute for a full refund as we have ZERO access to the ticketing and haven't been paid out for the event yet for our %."
Another visitor, Jacque Brown, said she is also still trying to get a refund. Like O'Toole, she waited in line for tacos for roughly an hour, only to find out they ran out of food.
"I know one of my friends, she spent like $260 for VIP and had a really bad experience as well," Brown said. "I think he could be the decent stand up person and make an attempt anyway."
"Somebody either didn't plan at all, or didn't do a very good job at planning, because there was no signage or anything, or we're flat out being scammed," O'Toole said.
Regular tickets were reportedly $10, VIP tickets were $35, and parking was $5.
Attempts by Forum News Service to reach Dobres for comment have been unsuccessful.