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8/3/11

Midwest Dud Fest

My daughter is finally starting to reach the age where we can venture out and find entertainment from a variety of sources and events. Long gone are the days of 'she's just a baby, she'll have no idea what the hell is going on.' So, when I recently heard that an event called Midwest Kids Fest was going to be taking place in Overland Park, I immediately checked it out and planned to attend with Ava.

The list of entertainment options sounded great. Kids activities! Games! Kids characters! Stage entertainment! Interactive workshops! And with tickets only $5, how could you pass something like this up? Well, as I learned after attending, pretty easily once you find out what the event is REALLY about.

I'll cut to the chase: Midwest Kids Fest is a glorified trade show aimed at getting parents' information for vendors to use as sales leads. One thing I WISH I had looked at before attending was who the vendors were. Let's take a look at some of the wonderful organizations that my daughter had available to her:

Bath Fitter
First Investors
Fulk Chiropractic
Hague Quality Water
Leonardi Chiropractic (who knew kids had so many skeletal issues)
Mary Kay
Mutual of Omaha
ReBath
Renewal by Andersen (replacement windows)
St. Clair Corporation (windows and vinyl siding)

Now, maybe I'm alone here, but my child doesn't have a lot of interest in home remodeling, investing or cosmetics. Now obviously, I "get" that the organizers know that parents are going to be there, and can make money from  parent-focused vendors that buy booth space. But despite the fact that I "get" it, I think it sucks. Don't label yourself a 'Kids Fest' when your main attraction is trade show style booths with pushy vendors trying to slang their product or weasel parents into filling out contact information forms. Pardon my French, but no, I don't want a fucking water evaluation, I want to have fun with my daughter. THAT'S what I paid for. Not your sales pitch.

These kids seem awfully happy to have their parents hounded by salespeople.


I guess it's only fair to note that there WERE activities and fun things for kids to do. Of course, the majority of them cost extra money, which is conveniently unmentioned in the promotion of the event. Want your face painted? 5 bucks. Want a balloon animal? 5 more bucks. Want to feed the goats at the petting zoo? Give us a dollar for a 2 ounce Dixie cup of food. Fortunately, my daughter is very thrifty and was picking up the food off the floor that other kids had dropped. Way to beat the system, Ava!

And the kids characters that were supposedly there? Never saw one. One of the main things I was taking my daughter there to see was Elmo (she has a mild obsession) and it never happened. I know they were there at SOME point, because I've seen other people with pictures of Buzz Lightyear, but apparently you have to hit the perfect 15 minute window of time in order to make this happen. Or maybe you are just supposed to pay extra to meet the costumed characters.

So there you have it. All in all, Midwest Kids Fest was a joke of an event. When I left, I wasn't mad, but I was disappointed. However, what happened later DID make me mad.

I took to Facebook to see if anyone else had been disappointed in the event. Sure enough, one of the first comments I saw on the Midwest Kids Fest Facebook page was a mother who had the same concerns and feelings I did. She had expressed them in a perfectly constructive and calm manner on their Facebook Wall. I commented on her post and said that I felt the same way and gave some suggestions for how to improve the event.

I revisit the page maybe 30 minutes later to see if there's been any other discussion or activity and…wait a minute, where did our comments go? Yep, deleted. Now, as a blogger, and heavy social media user both in my professional and personal life, I know there's one big no-no when it comes to handling your business' social media pages: deleting negative comments that are actually constructive. I didn't go on a swear-fueled rant. I didn't call names, I didn't do anything aggressive or inappropriate. But apparently Midwest Kids Fest would prefer to delete and ignore people's opinions than address them and try to improve their lackluster event.

Now, this just fueled my fire and I wrote another post on their Wall, telling them that I thought it was ridiculous that they deleted the comments, especially when they were constructive criticisms. Well, what do you know, this was deleted too. Now, somebody did message me (I'm assuming an organizer of the event) telling me that any criticisms or suggestions should be directed to some form on a website, blah blah blah, but I thought this was still a sad attempt at damage control. Don't start a social media page if you aren't prepared to deal with issues in a PUBLIC forum. What's especially funny is that the majority of the positive comments/compliments on their page right now are from vendors. Imagine that!

Interestingly enough, I also spoke to a vendor (who will remain unnamed) from the event who agreed completely with what I said. Specifically, the vendor said that the event needs to focus more on activities for the kids and less on sales gimmicks.

Weird, Midwest Kids Fest, you have multiple attendees and even a vendor saying the same thing about your event..maybe it's actually true? Maybe these are legitimate concerns? I guess we'll never know as long as you keep deleting and ignoring people's comments. Constructive criticism doesn't make you any money, so I guess that's why it's not important to you.

Parents, I advise you to avoid this event in the future unless they make some notable changes. If you want a petting zoo, go to Deanna Rose where it only costs $2 to get in, and there are a lot more animals. If you want to paint your kids faces, go get a kit from the store. You could probably paint 20 kids faces for the cost of getting one cheek done at Midwest Kids Fest. Want balloon animals? Well, I don't really know how to help you with that unless you have a trained clown in your immediate family. But you get the idea.

Parents, save your hard-earned money and don't buy your way into an uncomfortable, deceitful venue where the focus is vendors trying to push their wares and services on YOU. No event deserves to take advantage of your desires to entertain your children by turning you into a sales lead.

3 comments:

As a further update, when I posted this review on my Facebook page and tagged the Midwest Kids Fest Facebook page in it, they went and deleted that too. Shocking.

Great recap of a tremendously disappointing event. I, too, was excited to take my oldest child to the Midwest Kids Fest. My son is two years old, and since the weather has been so hot, I figured this would be a perfect event to attend.

I actually saw you walking to your car in the parking lot (recognized you from your pacifier video, which was genius), and since I follow you on Twitter, I knew you weren’t there very long (I’m not a stalker, I promise). But, you were in your car by the time I parked, so I didn’t have time to introduce myself and see how the event was.

Anyway, your comments about the event were spot on. The lady that sold us our tickets said that Buzz and Elmo where inside. My son is obsessed with Buzz, so he was pumped. Buzz was no where to be found. As we walked around, I noticed the dozens of booths, mainly adult-focused. As we strolled through the building, I found myself repeatedly saying, “No, thanks” to vendors. We were there for about 5 minutes and I was totally annoyed with the situation. I even texted my wife and told her that it was just a bunch of booths trying to get me to sign up for stuff.

Finally, we saw the Monkey Bizness play area, and my son spent about 15 minutes playing in the bouncy house and the obstacle course/slide. After he was finished, we walked around a little more. He found a couple of kid’s booths, but nothing really exciting.

After about 30 minutes of being there, we finally saw Buzz and Elmo walking around. Elmo was great. He stopped and gave my son five and a big hug. Buzz, on the other hand, barely stopped. My son walked up to him, and Buzz reached out to give him five. Being a little star struck, my son didn’t immediately respond, so Buzz walked away from him. There were other people yelling for Buzz to stop, but the person wearing the costume didn’t stop for them. I got the impression that this was not a real mascot, and that somebody dressed their son/daughter up as Buzz and told them to go walk around.

In retrospect, I should’ve just taken him to Monkey Bizness. We both would’ve had a lot more fun.

Very disappointing. It's amazing that the organizers of these events fail to understand (or care) that if you produce a great event, people will come back. Keep the booths, I mean, you need the funding, but equal it out with the stuff people are actually coming for and it's a win/win.

Some folks just don't think.

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