After-Prom Party Fizzles at Ontario Campground
A group of high school students from St. Catharines, Ontario, are trying to get their money back from a Queenston campground.
But the campground's owners say there will be no refund because the students misled them about the nature of their booking, St. Catharine's The Standard reported.
Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School graduate Jacob Bromhall said he booked the group camping area at Shalamar Lake Campground on the Niagara Parkway for his graduating class "after-prom" party.
The June 30 prom was to be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Niagara Falls and Bromhall said plans to book a group spot at another Niagara campground had fallen through. Bromhall said he contacted Shalamar Lake and booked its group tenting site, saying he assured the clerk the campers would be "on our campsite and keep the volume down."
But on the night of the prom, when "about 200" students arrived at Shalamar's gates in limousines — shortly after the 11 p.m. end of the dinner and dance — Bromhall said they were refused entry to the park.
Classmate Jessica Bortolussi, who was also part of the prom committee, helped with taking names and $10 deposits from the students who said they were coming, said Jessica's mother, Kerry Bortolussi. Jessica paid a total of $1,400 as a deposit to Shalamar and the students were expecting to pay another $5 per person the night of the event, said Kerry Bortolussi.
Victoria Coutu, a co-owner of the park, said Shalamar is a small family campground with a strict policy against after-prom parties.
"We don't take after-prom parties because we can't control them," she said, and anyone booking a site must be over the age of 21.
Coutu said the students who contacted Shalamar said they were organizing a family reunion.
Natasha LeBlanc, the receptionist and store clerk who took Bromhall's booking, said the student told her it was a family reunion and Canada Day party.
The first sign something was wrong came on the afternoon of June 30, when students began arriving to set up their tents, said Coutu.
A Shalamar staff person asked the students "where are your parents?" said Coutu. The students said "they are coming later," she said.
LeBlanc said she alerted the campground's owners about her suspicions.
"They said, 'OK, let's give them the benefit of the doubt, if they're quiet,'" said LeBlanc.
But Walt Kitchingman, another owner at Shalamar, said when the students showed up at the gate it was clear there weren't nearly enough chaperones and it wasn't going to be quiet.
Shalamar had extra security posted at the gate to prevent their entry. When the situation turned tense, police were called, said Kitchingman.
Niagara Regional Police arrived and the students were allowed into the park in groups of two in order to retrieve their tents and belongings.
Bromhall said the students are angry because Shalamar won't give them their money back.
"We paid for a service and they wouldn't give us the service, so we want a refund," he said this week.
But Coutu said it was the start of the Canada Day long weekend and the campground was full to capacity that night. She had to turn people away because of the space she had alloted to the students.
"I feel sorry for the kids" but there was a misunderstanding, said Coutu. "If we had known it was an after-prom party, we would not have taken their booking. I am sorry it ruined their night, but we just could not allow it."
She believes it was Sir Winston students who defaced the campground sign, broke glass on the campground parking lot and at least one used Facebook to threaten to cause damage to Shalamar, said Coutu.
"I want my money back so whoever is down for showing up to Shalamar and causing $1,500-$2,000 worth of damage I'm tagging along just to get my monies worth," wrote the student on the Facebook group SWC Prom 2011. "Stealing is bad so I think all is fair in some good old fashion eye for an eye type justice."
Some campgrounds host after-prom parties
Coutu said there are only a few campgrounds that will book after-prom parties because they can easily get out of hand.
Knight's Hideway in Ridgeway and N.E.T. Camping Resort in Pelham both said they accept after-prom parties because they have space to isolate a large group from other campers.
Except for the cleanup afterward, "we've never had a problem with them," said Lorna Dyson of Knight's Hideaway. Knight's charges $20 per person for an after-prom party, which gives the students access to a field and to campground washrooms.
Tony Miklavcic of N.E.T. said his park has been offering group camping to after-prom parties for seven or eight years, charging $25 to $30 per person, "and we've had very few problems."
"The kids are usually a good group of kids," said Miklavcic. "They are respectful, they listen to some music, they have a campfire. We've always had a good experience with the kids."
But he also said he "got a bit of flack" this year from police who were concerned about underage drinking. He said N.E.T. is considering cancelling the service.
"But I have had parents thank me for making sure their kids are safe," he said. "There is an absolute demand for this type of field rental deal."
Coutu said despite the irate phone calls from Sir Winston parents and students, Shalamar is sticking to its no-refunds policy.
"I can understand (the parents) are upset, but do they know the true story?" asked Coutu. "They shouldn't have booked under false pretences.
"I would never want to spoil the kids' grad party. If I had known, I would never let have let it happen here."